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Campus Initiatives - STEM TA Workshops

Workshops for STEM Graduate Student Teaching Assistants

We offer an annual two-day orientation and periodic 2-hour workshops for graduate students about a variety of teaching- and learning-related issues, especially pertaining to the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). These sessions address topics such as assessing student learning, incorporating active learning strategies into your classes, and handling a range of issues you may encounter while being a TA.

Save the Date!  Upcoming Workshops…

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014, 2-4pm (106 Murray Hall); Why should I care about meta-cognition? Sometimes students know all the necessary facts and procedures needed to solve a problem but still are unable to generate a solution. Researchers have found that students who can “think about their thinking” are better able to use their knowledge to solve problems. This skill is part of “metacognition” and in this workshop we will talk  about techniques you can use to help students develop their metacognitive skills and strengthen their problem solving abilities.

Previous 2013-2014 Workshops

Strategies for productive whole-class discussions - Generating good discussion and interaction in a class of 20 or more students can be challenging.  In this workshop, we looked at the use of questions during whole-class discussions. We watched video recordings of classes where the teacher was using questioning (and other techniques) to facilitate discussions among students and between students and the teacher. We talked about characteristics of productive whole-class discussions and we examined some specific techniques that can be used in discussions in TA-led classes. Natasha Speer and Mackenzie Stetzer; Tuesday, March 25th, 2014, 2-4pm (106 Murray Hall)

What Does the Answer to That Question Tell You? - In this workshop, we looked at the different kinds of questions instructors might pose and what information instructors can get about their students from answers to these questions. We did some activities where generating questions and considered how choices about questions can impact large and small group discussions. MacKenzie Stetzer and Natasha Speer; Monday, February 17th, 2014, 3-5pm (Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium [165 Barrows Hall])

Making Things “Click” in the Classroom: Uses of Personal Response Systems (Clickers) in the College Classroom - In this workshop we talked about how to write clicker-style questions, ask them in a way to encourage peer discussion, and learn from the student voting results.  We also presented data to show the effectiveness of such questioning and demonstrated some clicker mini-lessons so TAs could experience how this technology works.  Michelle Smith and Frank Dudish; Tuesday, November 19th, 2013, 2-4pm, Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium (165 Barrows Hall)

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Laboratory Learning (but were afraid to ask) - This workshop explored ways of thinking about laboratory inquiry, the implications of this for student construction of knowledge, and the interplay that curriculum and the role the teacher has on student activities in lab. Although tailored for laboratory learning, especially in chemistry, the topics have applicability to other sorts of small group activities and to the non-science classroom as well. There were several small group activities conducted during the workshop and some chemical demonstrations.  Mitchell Bruce; November 7th, 2013, 3:30-5:30pm, Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium (165 Barrows Hall)

Using Free-response Questions to Probe Student Thinking - Instructors at all levels can gain valuable insight into student ideas by carefully examining written student work. While most of us have experience grading student responses to written questions, the use of the same written responses for formative assessment poses its own unique challenges. In this workshop, we used actual student responses to an optics question in order to explore a variety of issues related to the role of free-response questions in formative assessment.  MacKenzie Stetzer; October 2nd, 2013, 4 – 6pm, 100 Jenness Hall

Orientation for 2013-2014 STEM TAs - Video, case studies, small group activities and discussions helped new UMaine teaching assistants think about and prepare for issues related to being a graduate student TA in a STEM course.  Natasha Speer, Frank Dudish;  August 27 and 30, 2013, 9am – 4pm; 117 D.P. Corbett

2012-2013 Workshops

Facilitating Collaborative Groupwork - Many of us have experience working on problems in groups. Although findings from research show that collaborative work can improve student performance, retention, and attitudes, facilitating groups provides a whole set of challenges for any teacher. In this workshop, you will analyze how different interventions and/or instructions can have different consequences for the direction or progress of small group discussions in science or mathematics classes.  Natasha Speer, John Thompson; Thursday, April 25th, 2013, 3 – 5 p.m., Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium

What Can We Learn From Student Feedback? - As instructors, we receive feedback from our students in a variety of ways. In this workshop, we discussed the kinds of feedback that is possible to get from students’ written surveys (e.g., end-of-semester evaluation forms). Participants had opportunities to become familiar with the ways undergraduates may respond to requests for feedback, and learned about reading and responding to student feedback.  We considered the circumstances when students’ criticisms might prompt instructors to change their teaching. We will also discuss what distinguishes an instructional approach that is ineffective from one that is unfamiliar or challenging for students.  Natasha Speer, John Thompson; March 27th, 2013, 3 – 5pm, Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium (165 Barrows Hall).

Helping Students Learn in Small Groups - In this workshop, we talked about goals for collaborative group work, examined a case study from a class taught using groups, and discussed strategies for addressing common difficulties that arise as well as ways to maximize the benefits of this approach for all students.  Natasha Speer, John Thompson; February 14, 2013, 3 – 5pm, Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium (165 Barrows Hall)

 Issues Related to Grades and Grading - Video, case studies and discussion examined what grades mean, and what issues should be considered when assigning grades and when generating final course grades.  Natasha Speer, John Thompson;  December 6, 2012, 2 – 4pm; Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium (165 Barrows Hall)

Orientation for 2012-2013 STEM TAs - Video, case studies, small group activities and discussions helped new UMaine teaching assistants think about and prepare for issues related to being a graduate student TA in a STEM course.  Natasha Speer, John Thompson;  August 28 and 31, 2012, 9am – 4pm; 428 Aubert Hall

 2011-2012 Workshops

Using free-response questions to probe student thinking - Instructors at all levels can gain valuable insight into student ideas by carefully examining written student work. While most of us have experience grading student responses to written questions, the use of the same written responses for formative assessment poses its own unique challenges. In this workshop, we will use actual student responses to an optics question in order to explore a variety of issues related to the role of free-response questions in formative assessment. MacKenzie Stetzer and John Thompson, Wednesday, March 14th, 2012, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m., 310 Boardman Hall

Inquiry-based labs: Allowing students to be scientists, even in large courses on tight budgets - As shown by numerous studies, inquiry-based learning is the best way to teach science. But how do we create and teach inquiry-based labs effectively, and how do we do this even in large courses, especially when hampered by shrinking budgets? In this workshop, we will examine specific low-cost labs designed for our introductory biology courses here at UMaine where enrollment is up to 800 students. We will do some inquiry-based exercises and look at methods of assessing student performance that minimize grading-time without compromising the writing and thinking done by students. Mary Tyler, Professor of Zoology, School of Biology and Ecology, Thursday, February 2nd, 2012, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m., Vincent Hartgen Lecture Hall (100 Lord Hall)

Scaffolding Undergraduate Peer Facilitation: The Maine Learning Assistant Program - Over the next few years, many of you may find yourselves teaching alongside undergraduate peer instructors who are participating in the Maine Learning Assistant Program. In this workshop, we will provide a brief overview of our campus programs and give you some firsthand experiences with the unique kinds of professional development opportunities that the program offers. Mitchell Bruce, MacKenzie Stetzer, and François Amar, November 30, 2011, 3:10 – 5:00 Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium (165 Barrows Hall)

 Making Things “Click” in the Classroom - Uses of Personal Response Systems (Clickers) in the College Classroom. Michelle Smith and Frank Dudish, Thursday, November 10, 2011, 2:30 – 4:30 p.m. Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium (165 Barrows Hall)

 What learning happens outside the classroom? - Students’ Study Skills and the Role of Homework in Learning. Mitchell Bruce, John Thompson, Natasha Speer, Thursday, October 27, 2011, 2:30 – 4:30 p.m. Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium (165 Barrows Hall)


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