The job description for any mathematician, whether in academia or elsewhere, generally includes teaching in some form: teaching students in a mathematics classroom, telling others about the results of one's research, or communicating with co-workers about one's work. Since most mathematics graduate students are supported as Teaching Assistants throughout their graduate careers, the Mathematics Department and the University of Washington have an extensive training program for TAs, one that has often been cited as a model for other departments and other universities. This page gives a brief overview of the structure of that training.
Fall TA Orientation
Just before classes begin in September, all new Math Department TAs participate in an intensive week-long training program, involving familiarization with UW's precalculus and calculus course offerings, discussion groups, observation of video tapes, and practice teaching.
International TA Training
In addition to the standard training for new TAs, new international TAs (ITAs) undergo a special ITA Training Program, conducted by the CTL (the Center for Teaching and Learning). This program includes
- a pre-Autumn workshop, part of the CTL TA/RA conference which takes place before the beginning of Autumn Quarter, at which ITAs take part in discussions, practice sessions, and workshops to familiarize them with the role of a graduate TA at the University of Washington; and
- ongoing individual consultations with members of the CIDR staff to work on improving teaching and spoken English.
- courses in English as a Second Language for ITAs who need to improve their English skills.
Ongoing TA Mentoring
During their first quarter in the classroom, each new TA is paired with an experienced "TA mentor," usually assisting with the same course, who will observe, give advice, and be available for regular discussions about teaching issues. In addition, a veteran TA is designated as Lead TA to help oversee the mentors and the department's entire TA program.
Graduate School Course Offerings
- Teaching Mentorship is an individual project based experience for students working under the direction of a faculty member. The experience focuses on teaching and learning at the college level and is designed to enhance the student's ability to make innovative contributions in teaching.
- Teaching Mentorship Seminar builds on the previous work by encouraging students to reflect on their experiences in order to add breadth to what they have already learned from their mentors.
- Special Topics in College/University Teaching addresses particular problems and issues of interest to graduate students preparing for roles as faculty. The course is structured to allow discipline-specific sections, as Sociology and Engineering have done, and includes opportunities for faculty from partner institutions to participate.