TA-PD mini-modules week 2: May I have your attention, please?

This semester, we’ve carved out time from the Teaching Assistants’ normal duties—a half-hour per week—to use for professional development activities. This post series tracks our weekly goals and activities.


Over my years as a TA and instructor, I’ve developed strategies to gain and keep the attention of the students when needed. One of my key strengths for this is my ability to speak loudly and clearly. But, with great power comes great responsibility. Along the way, I’ve startled more than one student by starting an announcement too loud, too quick, and too close to them. (Pro tip: Starting with a quieter noise or word—like clearing your throat, or saying “okay”—to indicate that you’re about to speak, does well to warn those in close proximity.)

This week, we want our TAs to develop their own strengths in capturing student attention and creating a presence in the classroom. The goals are for TAs to reflect on what creates and keeps student attention, to see some examples of different strategies, and to practice some of these before using them in their own tutorials. Dr. Pavan cameos as this module’s facilitator.

Mini-module outline:

  1. (1 min) Brief intro to activity. Describe goals.
  2. (5 min) Have some volunteers show how they capture the attention of their class; Dr. Pavan follows up with his own example.
  3. (15 min) Group discussion about how to capture and manage student attention, when needed.
  4. (10 min) Get some people practicing, in front of the group. Provide feedback.

Post-meeting update:

  • This ended up being more of a lecture, than an activity. It was a good demonstration of effective classroom management and presentation skills.
  • Key points included: Know your audience, have empathy for them, make sure you have their attention.

Next time: I like involving more people from the course in the training, to help build the community throughout the course. I would try to incorporate some practice of specific pieces for the TAs.

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