5 Professionalization

Through your teaching assistantship at the University of Florida, you help students learn, assist professors in teaching and administering courses, and hopefully enrich your own experience at UF. Your teaching activities can provide lasting benefits to you in the form of increased confidence, new skills, and important work experience on your resume or curriculum vitae (CV). You will also have numerous opportunities to participate in workshops and seminars on the teaching process. As you perform each TA task, consider what you can carry away from the experience and how you can document it for future growth and for future reference.

Development Opportunities at UF

The Graduate School sponsors a teaching assistant orientation program for new TAs prior to each fall semester. This program traditionally is scheduled one week prior to the beginning of classes, and attendance at these sessions is required for all new TAs. Experienced TAs are welcome but not required to attend unless mandated by their department or graduate supervisor.

The Graduate School also sponsors a series of teaching workshops during fall and spring semesters for any teaching assistants who want to improve their skills. Participation is voluntary and without charge. You may attend as many sessions as interest you. Two certificates of completion are presented at the end of the semester to those TAs who have completed the series of workshops on teaching methods and/or the effective use of technology in teaching. TAs who are interested in participating in one or more of the workshops may read descriptions of the workshops/seminars and register

The Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE), located in 201 Bryant Space Science Center, provides a wealth of instructional resources. In collaboration with the Graduate School and other campus units, CTE offers the Passport to Great Teaching create-your-own badge and certificate program for TAs. Workshops include teaching foundations and your choice of additional topics to earn a certificate of completion. TA-specific resources are located in the CTE resource library. For information about the passport and other CTE resources, visit CTE’s website.

Academic Technology’s UFIT Training program, located in 132 HUB (main office), and the Center for Instructional Technology and Training (CITT), located in HUB, can also help in your professional development at UF. Their mission is to support the university faculty and staff in the implementation of technology to enhance and improve instruction. These offices offer workshops and tutorials on a variety of topics related to computers and pedagogy, such as graphics and multimedia, web tools and design, online courseware, and digital presentations. For more information and workshop schedules, go to the UFIT Training website or call (352) 273-1594 and the CITT’s website or call (352) 273-4902.

The Provost’s Office website provides resources and information helpful to faculty and TAs at the University of Florida There you may find links to many academic resources and information for UF faculty including the Faculty Handbook, course syllabus policy, course evaluations, and textbook adoption.

The Online Teaching and Learning Certificate Program is designed for teachers interested in taking courses for professional development. Upon successful completion of the four courses (3 credits each) that specialize in the effective implementation of technology in both the physical classroom and online classroom, students will receive a Certificate from the University of Florida’s School of Teaching & Learning. Each course is designed to be completed in eight weeks.

The Online Teaching and Learning Certificate Program trains and certifies teachers for distance-learning instruction. The courses include Instructional Design, Distance Teaching and Learning, Blended Learning Environments, and Designing Integrated Media Environments. For more information, visit the educational technology program on the College of Teaching & Learning website, or call the program coordinator at (352) 273-4177.

Excellence in Teaching Awards

The University of Florida recognizes and applauds the important contributions of teaching assistants to the educational goals of the University. The award-winning work of TAs across the disciplines is characterized by an enthusiasm for teaching combined with organization, innovation, and knowledge in the subject area. Each year, the Graduate School presents several TAs who have achieved excellence in enhancing undergraduate education with Graduate Student Teaching Awards. To win this award TAs 1) are nominated by their departments, 2) present portfolios to the Graduate School Committee, and 3) are observed by the committee. TA Award winners are recognized by the Provost and the Dean of the Graduate School at a spring reception where they are presented with a framed certificate and a monetary award. The most outstanding TA receives the Calvin A. VanderWerf Award, established in memory of the dean of UF’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences from 1971 to 1978. Winners are recognized on the Teaching Center website.

The Teaching Portfolio

Potential employers may ask you for documented evidence of your qualifications as a teacher. A “teaching portfolio” can provide an employer with much more information than just a list of courses on a resume can provide. Teaching portfolios can be used as developmental documents to track the growth of a TA as an instructor, and they can be used as an evaluation tool, a way for graduate students to present their teaching skills and experience to potential employers. (Adapted from University of Washington, 2002)

You should begin compiling a teaching portfolio early in your career, building on it as you take on new courses and new responsibilities. Documentation of outstanding work, letters of praise, and positive student evaluations of your teaching will help you to build a comprehensive dossier, which will give you an edge in teaching-award nominations and employment opportunities. It can also provide you with encouragement during tough times and a sense of accomplishment at the end of a semester. (Adapted from Dalhousie University, 1995)

The Center for Teaching Excellence in partnership with the Career Connections Center offer a Teaching Portfolio Workshop Series.

The Step-by-Step Creation of a Teaching Portfolio

Adapted from Dalhousie University, 1995

Though the compilation of documentation is an on-going activity, sooner or later you are faced with the preparation of an up-to-date portfolio for presentation and review. This material adapted from a guide published by the Canadian Association of University Teachers simplifies the task by proposing a step-by-step approach to creating the teaching portfolio.

Clarify your teaching experience and responsibilities. The first step in creating a portfolio is to summarize teaching responsibilities and criteria for judging teaching success. Points covered in this section might include specific duties, how students are to be evaluated, and the nature of progress expected of students.

Reflect on your teaching goals, philosophy, and style. In this section, prepare a brief statement (1-2 pages) of your approach to teaching. This statement provides an explanatory framework for the information on your teaching accomplishments. This is your opportunity to explain your teaching goals and philosophy and how they relate to your work with students.

Organize material to support your teaching methods and strategies. Choose items that are evidence of your accomplishments. They should be applicable to your assigned teaching responsibilities and reflective of your personal preferences and teaching style. Items might include copies of assignments, original student work (with the student’s permission), copies of articles and presentations related to teaching, and examples of teaching with instructional technology.

Order the items. Depending upon the purpose of the portfolio, you may want to provide statements for each item of evidence. Does it highlight improvement? An emphasis on collaborative learning? An effective problem-solving method?

Append your best evidence. When applying for a teaching job, some evidence should always be included. Such supporting evidence may include: an exemplary course syllabus, a list of teaching workshops you have attended, faculty evaluations of your teaching, and unsolicited letters of praise from students.

Show your draft to a colleague or instructional developer. Use your faculty advisor or teaching supervisor for feedback on your statements and portfolio.

Resources on the Teaching Portfolio

Hutchings, P. (1998). Teaching portfolios as a tool for TA development. In M. Marincovitch, J. Prostko, & F. Stout (Eds.), The professional development of graduate teaching assistants. Bolton, MA: Anker.

“Preparing a teaching portfolio: A guidebook,” The Center for Teaching Effectiveness at the University of Texas at Austin. http://ctl.utexas.edu/

Seldin, P. & Miller, J. E. (2010). The teaching portfolio: a practical guide to improved performance and promotion/tenure decisions (4th ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Shore, B., et al. (1980). The teaching dossier: A guide to its preparation and use. Montreal, Quebec: Canadian Association of University Teachers.

The TLC’s teaching portfolio site. (2002). Gwenna Moss Teaching & Learning Centre, University of Saskatchewan. https://teaching.usask.ca/

Using Portfolios in Educational Development. The Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence at Penn State University. http://www.schreyerinstitute.psu.edu/pdf/Portfoliosv2.pdf

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UF TA Handbook by John Jordi; Genavie Cueman; and Jennifer K. Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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