TATP Tutorial Training at U of T

As recommended by the report of the Joint Working Group on Undergraduate Tutorials (March 2014) and as accepted by the Provost (see PDAD&C Memo #66), the University of Toronto has adopted a definition of “tutorial” and an accompanying categorization scheme to help guide the design of tutorials and the preparation of teaching assistants for tutorial teaching. The tutorials for a course must be assigned a category from this scheme, and instructors must indicate the training their TAs should receive to best realize the objectives of their tutorials. TAs must receive appropriate training that aligns with the tutorial categories and that matches the tutorial objectives as laid out by instructors.

STEP 1: Understand the Training Process

As of September 1, 2014, all TAs who are being asked to lead tutorials are required to receive training that focuses on the particular kind(s) of tutorial(s) they have been assigned: discussion-based teaching, skills-based teaching, review sessions, and laboratory teaching or teaching in practicals. Where relevant, they are also entitled to training in how to scale their learning activities for different sizes of tutorials (as defined by the department and in line with the training “thresholds” referenced in the report of the Joint Working Group on Undergraduate Tutorials, p. 32). The purpose of this categorization is to better describe the learning that takes place in tutorials at the University of Toronto, and to create direct links between TA training and the expectations of the kinds of learning activities for which TAs will be responsible.

The TATP had developed1 hour of tutorials-focused training that aligns with these 4 categories into the mandatory training session for first-contract TAs that is normally delivered on-site in a department at the start of a term. This training will also provide strategies for adapting teaching techniques in a tutorial to suit the number of students. If a department chooses to provide additional tutorial training to its new and/or returning TAs, the TATP will offer additional workshops at the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation on the St. George campus and through Training Days on each campus at the start of the term to meet this need. Please see our TATP Workshops page and our Training Days page to view a list of upcoming workshops.

Please see below for information on identifying your tutorial category as well as information about the different ways that the TATP can support the training process. Instructors should contact the appropriate designate in their division/department to determine the process for categorizing tutorials and identifying TA training. In most cases, this will either be an Associate Chair Undergraduate or Graduate, or a faculty or staff member charged with overseeing TA contracts in the division/department.

STEP 2: Identify Your Tutorial Category

The term ‘tutorial’ at the University of Toronto is used to identify interactive and participatory sessions primarily led by TAs. During these interactive and participatory tutorial sessions, TAs are responsible for gauging student understanding and providing formative feedback, in line with assessment structures and guidelines set by the instructor. The four categories of tutorials as defined by the report of the Joint Working Group on Undergraduate Tutorials (p. 5 and pp. 29 – 30) are:

NOTE: All TATP facilitated training in the four tutorial categories below will also offer strategies for scaling learning activities appropriately for the number of students in a given tutorial.

Discussion-Based Sessions

These sessions provide opportunities for additional, or more in-depth, discussion of course content and may involve small-group activities. TAs would lead these sessions and facilitate discussion and learning activities.

Skill Development Sessions

Activities in these sessions might include opportunities to practice various skills such as language acquisition, use of computer programs, problem sets, etc. TAs would help to facilitate the activities during these sessions and would provide formative feedback to students on progress.

Laboratories/Practicals

Laboratories are also sometimes identified as “Practicals” in the student information system (not as Tutorials), and they provide opportunities to run experiments or tests in a lab setting. Problem-solving/practice sets are common to engineering, math, and science tutorials and they provide opportunities for students and TAs to practice and review.

Review and Q&A

These sessions are typically offered several times during the year prior to major course deadlines and are normally optional. TAs respond to student questions, clarify course content, and provide information on course assignments. As relevant, these sessions also provide opportunities for review of key course content in preparation for exams, tests, or quizzes. This type of tutorial might also include film screenings where films discussed in a course may be screened in a separate session. In these sessions, TAs may be assigned to respond to questions from students.

These activities are not mutually-exclusive and we acknowledge that any one tutorial may involve a range of them based on the established learning outcomes. The categories are intended to denote the primary activity (or activities) of a given tutorial
session.

If you are experiencing difficulty with classifying your tutorial, please consult with your department/unit Chair, Associate Chair, TA Coordinator or other designate in your department.

STEP 3: Select Appropriate Training

Once you have determined the appropriate category for your course tutorial, you next need to identify the appropriate training your TAs will require to lead your course tutorial.

All TATP training sessions are highly interactive and are intended to model techniques and approaches TAs can then use in their own tutorials. TATP offers tutorial training in the following categories:

DISCUSSION-BASED TUTORIALS

TATP training in this category will include…

  • guiding principles for leading effective discussions in both classroom and lab settings
  • how to prepare yourself to lead an engaging discussion
  • how to create an environment conducive to effective discussion
  • strategies to encourage students to come to tutorials prepared for meaningful discussion, and what to do when students do not
  • arrive prepared
  • techniques to initiate, facilitate and sustain effective discussion
  • how to provide formative feedback to students during and following discussion
  • how to effectively debrief a discussion

SKILL DEVELOPMENT TUTORIALS

A Skill Development tutorial involves a TA leading students through practice-based learning in order to hone a specific skill linked to the course learning objectives.

As a central training program, the TATP does not offer discipline-specific skills-based training. Rather, TATP training in this category focuses on four key areas essential to supporting undergraduate learning across a wide range of disciplines. TATP training sessions in this category are divided into four different sub-categories: Critical Reading and Reflection; Critical Thinking; Supporting Student Writing and Problem Sets. NOTE TO INSTRUCTORS: Although these sub-categories may reflect several of the skills that you would like students to learn through their tutorial experience, you should only select one of these skill development sessions if it is the primary activity in your course tutorial.

In each of these sub-categories, TATP training will include…

Critical Reading and Reflection

  • an examination of the underlying barriers to successful reading in the undergraduate classroom
  • how to motivate students to engage in critical reading
  • how to support critical reading inside and outside the classroom
  • an exploration of different methods for integrating reading strategies throughout a tutorial to promote deep learning
  • strategies and activities to foster habits of critical reading and reflection in students

Critical Thinking

  • how to articulate the importance of critical thinking to students – what is it and why do it?
  • key characteristics of critical thinking
  • strategies and activities for helping students practice critical thinking
  • characteristics of effective questioning
  • how to engage in critical reflection (and when is it useful to do so?)

Supporting Student Writing

  • the benefits of using writing to deepen students’ comprehension of key course concepts
  • how to use both in-class writing and assigned writing outside the classroom to expand students’ understanding
  • how to use written feedback to develop writing skills in students
  • short writing exercises that will promote the development of writing skills
  • a review of tools to support student writing

Problem Sets (for TAs in math-based, science and engineering disciplines)

  • how to plan an effective problem set tutorial
  • strategies for highlighting the process of solving problems
  • how to effectively model a problem for students
  • how to engage students in the problem-solving process (incorporating small group work and active learning approaches to reinforce key concepts and problem-solving approaches)

REVIEW AND Q&A TUTORIALS

Although most tutorials involve some sort of review that supports the consolidation of core course concepts, Review/Q&A training sessions are directed specifically towards TAs assigned to Review tutorials as identified in the student information system. Typically, Review/Q&A tutorials are held periodically throughout the term and vary in length from one hour to several hours in one sitting. These Review/Q&A sessions are either mandatory or elective and can involve a set number of students or an unspecified number of students. This training is therefore not intended for TAs who happen to do some review as part of their normal discussion-based or lab-based tutorial teaching.

TATP training in this category will include…

  • how to prepare to lead a review tutorial
  • tools, resources and strategies for helping students prepare for assignments, tests and exams
  • strategies to check for student understanding during the tutorial
  • practical tips to offer students to help them develop effective course review and study skills
  • activities to assist students in remembering and articulating course content, expressing key course concepts, and
  • making connections between different components of course content

LABORATORIES/PRACTICALS

TATP training in this category will include…

  • how to plan for a lab/practical tutorial
  • how to deliver an effective pre-Lab talk
  • how to effectively and efficiently demonstrate procedures and processes for students
  • time management – strategies for keeping everyone on track
  • how to effectively monitor student progress (including strategies for helping students make connections between an experimental process and theory or real-world application)
  • how to provide formative feedback to students

ADAPTING TEACHING TECHNIQUES (ATT)

The Joint Working Group on Undergraduate Tutorials determined that additional support should be provided to TAs who are assigned a tutorial that is significantly larger or smaller than tutorials they have previously taught. While not representative of a tutorial category, ATT sessions are intended to help TAs identify strategies for scaling their teaching activities and approaches to suit the number of students in their assigned tutorial.

TATP training in this area will include…

  • how to design a flexible lesson plan
  • how to build community and rapport in a class regardless of class size
  • how to scale learning activities to different class sizes
  • in-class assessments and feedback strategies that work with different sizes of classes
  • strategies for using educational technologies to facilitate interactions with students

STEP 4: Training Opportunities for TAs

August 30, 2017

Early – mid September/early – mid January

  • on-site training booked by departments
  • TATP Training Days at UTM or UTSC (as applicable)

Mid – late September/mid – late January

  • on-site training booked by departments
  • central tutorial training workshops offered at CTSI (1-hour sessions that can accommodate up to 50 students each; 2 sessions per category, including Adapting Teaching Techniques)

Early October/late January

  • TATP Training Days at UTSG, UTM, UTSC (2 hours of general training plus1-hour concurrent sessions on a range of tutorial categories and Adapting Teaching Techniques)

Fall/Winter

  • Regular TATP Workshop Series – range of sessions on a variety of teaching topics; sessions that can count as tutorial training will be indicated on the TATP website with one of the 4 tutorial icons