Teaching Assistantships: A Student Perspective

In honor of our all-registration issue, we’re including a bonus third installment about individualized learning experiences – a more recent interview with student Tonya Filz, who served as a teaching assistant for Introduction to Psychology.

1. Who did you work with for your teaching assistantship (TA)?

Dr. Gurung

2. How did you find out about the TA and go about getting it?

I had multiple TAs in other classes, but never really thought about applying for one. That is, until I was meeting with my advisor, Dr. Gurung. He was seeking TAs for a large lecture hall section of Introduction to Psychology with 250 students. At the time I was facing great uncertainty regarding future plans, and whether it would include graduate school or not. He suggested I apply for his final open TA position, which I ended up applying and subsequently being chosen to fill.

3. What kinds of things do you get to do for your TA?

The types of things you get to do for a TA vary with each faculty member that hosts TAs. In my teaching assistantship with Dr. Gurung, each TA was assigned a “pod” of 50 students to host review sessions for, and be the first contact point for questions and concerns about the course. Between the 5 TAs we reviewed in-class assignments, and took part in weekly meetings to discuss pedagogical issues in teaching such as making large lecture classes feel less like a large class, and more like a small class. Perhaps my favorite part of my TA came in the final week when each TA gave a lecture on a portion of the abnormal psychology section. I was terrified of speaking in front of so many students, and never considered myself a strong public speaker. However, I ended up receiving positive reviews and really enjoying lecturing. It was during the final week of class that I considered for the first time becoming a professor.

4. How do you think the TA relates to what you have learned in your classes?

I took Introduction to Psychology the first semester of my freshmen year, and completed my TA in the second semester of my junior year. By the time I completed my teaching assistantship, I had forgotten large amounts of what I learned in my own Introduction to Psychology course. It was extremely helpful for me not only to review the material, but also acquire a deep understanding of it to make sure I was able to explain it to my pod during review sessions. The depth of understanding I gained has helped me strengthen my foundation of psychology, which has led to greater ease of understanding more complex concepts that are presented in upper-level classes, as well as preparation for the GRE Psychology Subject Test.

5. How important has this TA been to your educational experience at UWGB, and why?

My TA shaped not only my educational experience at UWGB, but also my entire career goal. For my research project as a TA I was assigned to look at literature regarding specifically Undergraduate TAs. I became so fascinated by this material that I wanted to research this for my honor’s project; which over the next year I completed. The passion I first had for teaching quickly grew into a passion for researching a variety of topics. Since my TA I have had a 4.0 each semester, and am presently applying to Ph.D. programs in Clinical Psychology, in hopes of one day becoming a professor and being able to mentor undergraduates. In summary my TA experience made me a more confident, determined, and overall stronger student, and a more competitive applicant for graduate school. In fact, I have always said my TA was the first time I felt like a true psychology major, and not just a student.

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