The End Is Here…Dang It

By applying for the TA position for the Intro to Psych class, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into since I didn’t know any of the other girls or really know Dr. G that well. I just thought it would be beneficial to me in some shape or form. Looking back, I am so glad I was able to have the opportunity to get the behind the scenes look at what really goes on into the preparation for the lectures and the presentation of the lectures. There is more to it than the average student knows. I know as a student myself, I thought the whole teaching gig didn’t look that intricate but was I ever wrong.

The planning classes has a lot of detail worked into them, especially the very first day from setting the stage to introducing the subject and conveying to students why it matters and is relevant. From the very first class I felt like it was going to be a fun experience TA’ing for this class with Dr. G. Like I posted in my first blog about the first day: It was a fun atmosphere to walk into with music playing in the background as everyone found their seats. Having a professor that is upbeat really grabbed the attention of all the students in the large class and set the stage for an enjoyable introduction/learning experience. Having the students write their names visibly on paper for name tags and asking them to raise their hands or stand up for polled questions breaks the ice and makes them feel like they are included throughout the discussions.

The name tags came in handy when some students were goofing around and Dr. G would casually send a question out and call on them to keep them engaged. I do have to say that the class was never boring and something relevant was always brought up with some added comical measure. As a TA taking on some responsibilities for the class was more time consuming than it sounded, I am thankful there were six of us to split it up between. Emailing students with questions and reminders along with grading papers for such a large class is a ridiculous amount of work for one person and makes me give more appreciation towards the faculty that do it single handedly.

By viewing the class from up top at a bird’s eye view or on the bottom as a professor sees the class, there are so many different aspects and things going on that are brought to your attention that aren’t usually noticed. I found myself getting annoyed when there would be students constantly getting up or playing with their cells phones, talking etc. I can only imagine how frustrated a professor gets. It made me reflect on my own student edicate because I too fall into those annoying habits sometimes.

I have learned so much through this experience from listening to some familiar music before presenting to calm the nerves, making eye contact with the whole class, being mobile while teaching to engage students, and running study sessions. The best part of the experience I have to say was being able to work with such a great group of girls. We all worked together cohesively and some really great friendships evolved from it.

“Final Thoughts”

As I reflect back on this semester as a TA for Intro to Psych, there are many things that come to mind. When it comes to teaching, there are many important aspects to teaching that I have learned. I learned that students have different learning styles and you have to be willing to work with them to help develop and implement a plan that will meet their specific learning needs. For instance, I worked with a student this semester who was struggling with course content. Initially we went over her exam going question by question, pulling from the book and from class material where the answers came from. Although, this helped her it wasn’t enough for her to get her feet on the ground in the course. Our second meeting, was much more specific and tailored to her individual needs. She had emailed me prior to our last meeting and I really tried to incorporate some of her suggestions. This was all done in the high hopes that this would help improve her performance in the class. At our third meeting she was still struggling, so not only did I incorporate her suggestions but I also worked in Dr. Gurung’s suggestions for improving course performance by helping her sort out her notes. This was the most successful  meeting because we had finally managed to create a plan for her that was not only tailored to her individual educational needs but that also managed to incorporate what Dr. Gurung believed to be one of the most important elements to being a good student in his classroom, that of good note taking skills.

I also learned that when it comes to a topic that, you as a TA, are really genuinely interested in, it makes it all the more easy for students to become interested in that topic as well. For example, our TA presentations on Abnormal Disorders, specifically my topic of Dissociative Disorders. This is a topic that I find particularly interesting and due to the fact that I found it very fascinating it made my presentation all the more fun and easy to do. I also was able to generate a discussion about the topic based off of the information that I included during my presentation. This was probably one of the most rewarding aspects of the entire semester because it was just so exciting, thrilling, and amazing, to see the students so interested in learning, especially in a topic that I have always been particularly found of. And getting to see them interested in Dissociative Disorders with the same tenacity as I once did was such a fulfilling experience!

I also learned this semester that sometimes there are things you don’t necessarily want to do or necessarily look forward to doing when it comes to certain TA responsibilities, but you do them anyway because that is part of your role/job as a TA. Also, even though it may not seem like study sessions and review sessions are necessary or that they should even be required,  the fact of the matter is that many of the students get a lot out of these sessions and that without them they might not do as well in the class had they not been offered in the first place. And,  overall, my main reason for wanting to be a TA in the first place is to help students, so that they can ultimately do better and succeed in the classroom. If we didn’t offer these additional opportunities for them to review material in and outside of the classroom, perhaps they wouldn’t have done as well in Intro to Psychology as they could have. So, the study sessions and the review sessions are really there as additional opportunities to help students to succeed and to maximize their utmost potential for the course. I would definitely say that all and all my main reason for choosing to be a TA was fulfilled this semester because I learned more than I initially set out to do and I successfully managed to help students to do well and to succeed in the course.

Final Reflections

It feels as though we blinked and it is now the end of the semester, it is amazing how fast time has gone by. It has been a wonderful few months having the opportunity to work closely with Dr. Gurung and my fellow TAs. Before this semester I had not thought about pursuing the idea of becoming a TA, I honestly thought that it was geared more towards those who are looking to go into the teaching profession. It wasn’t until looking at the Psych Wanted ads, that the idea started to become plausible for me.

Over the course of our time working together I have learned quite a bit when it comes to teaching at the college level. With Dr. Gurung’s bi-weekly meetings, I was able to see the time and effort that professors put into their lectures. Originally I thought that they didn’t put a lot of time into creating a power point and that they were handed it from the publisher of the text. I was very wrong in this thought, it turns out that some professors do work hard on deciding what information to deliver to the class and how to go about doing so that it coincides with the learning outcomes of the Psychology Department. Ensuring that the students leave the class with having completed some developmental level and being better prepared for what lies ahead. I also learned more about how to present information to a class. Learning that the tone of voice, speed and movement of the professor is a conscious facet was something that was oblivious to me and I was surprised to find out that the small things such as this are taken into consideration when presenting information so the class is receptive towards it.

I also learned the ways of effectively using media sources in order to engage students, such as D2L and Facebook. This was something new to me and I really enjoyed how some students took it upon themselves to post information about current studies or ones that relate to class that week. Email was something else that I began to learn much more about, Dr. Gurung advised us to email our pods about once a week with small updates and reminders, and I feel that this helped the students to be better prepared for the upcoming week and to stay up to date with the syllabus and not fall behind. It was also a way for us to stay in close contact with our pods and to be that source for them to reach out to if anything were needed. Along with how to go about writing a proper exam question, I had no idea that there were proper guidelines that one should follow when creating an exam. During our process of writing questions, when taking into consideration the Teaching Tips advice, I made sure to think more deeply about the way I was forming my question and the answers. I discovered that all of the above and none of the above are answers that should never appear on an exam, which was something I did not previously know.

When looking back on my experience as a TA, the one thing I can say is how thankful I am for having had this opportunity. It was an amazing opportunity to not only learn about teaching, but to dive deeper into Psychology and to have the change to be an active part of a class.

Going into the semester, I was very apprehensive about what our expectations would be and what was going to be expected of us. In the beginning I thought that we would be doing more paperwork filing and doing secretarial work on the professor’s behalf, this was certainly not the case with Dr. Gurung.  In the beginning it was mainly grading papers, which was something that was different from the role of student that I have grown so used to that in some strange way, ended up enjoying. Throughout my time as a TA, I enjoyed the ability of playing a more active role in the class setting. It was nice to be seen as a knowledgeable resource that the students could easily approach. I found students being more open to the idea of relaying information to us that they wished for Dr. Gurung to know, but were to afraid to do so. It was nice knowing that they could confide in us and reach out. Being a TA was a great learning experience for me, being “in control” of 40 or so students was a scary idea to me in the beginning of this. As the semester grew, I also learned to grow to appreciate my pod. The pod allowed us as a TA to be the single go-to for our students and not have to try and jump through many hoops to be heard and responded to. Along with holding review sessions for our pods allowed me the opportunity to grow closer to the students and start putting names to faces.

As the semester came to a close, we had the scary opportunity to give an Abnormal Psych lecture to the entire class. This to me was rather terrifying, seeing as how most presentations are for about 40 students or less, nowhere near the 250 of this intro course. However, I am glad that I was required to give the lecture in that it helped me learn more about how to communicate to such a large amount of people effectively. This also goes for the entire TA process, I learned so much about how to communicate with certain people and how to calm a storm. I will definitely take these learning’s with me as I advance my education to become a school counselor.

 

Final Thoughts

Before this semester, I had absolutely no interest in being a TA.  I viewed the experience as something beneficial only to those interested in pursuing a teaching profession and as I have no interest in teaching (coupled with my avoidance of anything related to being in front of big crowds), I did not see a TA position as something that would be advantageous.   As it turns out, I was able to learn a lot through this experience and I am grateful I took a chance on it.  Not only did I learn valuable techniques for teaching, but many of the concepts were applicable to other areas of life, both professionally and personally.

In regard to teaching, it was intriguing to be able to experience the classroom dynamics from the perspective of the professor rather than the student.  I was surprised by the elaborate and extensive preparation that went into planning, creating, and carrying out a lecture—though it is obvious that not all professors put in equal amounts of time and effort.  I was initially doubtful, then later amazed, by how purposeful every action in class was and the evident impact it had on the class in general.  From Dr. G, the various articles assigned, and especially through Teaching Tips, I was better able to understand the supporting evidence behind why professors do what they do when leading classes.  Teaching Tips was particularly helpful for me personally, in considering how to increase participation in large groups, how to keep students engaged, the importance of letting students know that you can and value their individuality and opinions, and how to deal with certain situations.  In addition, I learned more about the value of testing students in certain ways in order to ensure they get the most out of the class, rather than simply making the class easy or well liked.  I have a greater appreciation for course learning outcomes and the intentions behind them and I value the perspective of professors wanting students to actually learn and apply the information from class versus memorizing it for an exam.

Through this experience, I was faced with several situations and circumstances that, though uncomfortable at the time, will ultimately benefit me in future endeavors.  In addition, I was able to enhance a skill set that will be useful in various settings; I feel like I got an opportunity to work on further developing my communication skills as well as the skills needed to work well with others.  Specifically, speaking in front of others—something that is extremely hard for me—exposed me to circumstances which I will inevitably face again in the future.  In addition, being in the role of a TA, and being “in charge” of 40 students allowed me to improve upon my leadership skills.  Being a TA was a rewarding experience that has helped me to evolve into a more well rounded student.  In terms of better understanding processes in the classroom, honing skills useful in everyday life, and preparing me for future experiences, the TA position was definitely one worth taking.

Final Thoughts

End of the semester already..say what?!

Looking back over the semester I have learned so many things about teaching that I did not know before including:

-The thought process on how to go about teaching to a large lecture hall of students and to make them all feel engaged. I learned many tips in regards to this before we gave our TA lectures from Dr. G. Some of them included to look around the whole room, move, change the tone and speed in your voice, and ask questions to get students engaged and paying attention. I also learned in “Teaching Tips” how to start a discussion/lecture by sharing a common experience, staring with questions, or starting with a problem or case. I noticed that Dr. G used a lot of these tips in the beginning of his lectures and got students interested.  I also noticed how many of my teachers in other classes do not use any of these tips (resulting in a boring lecture). 

-I learned a lot about the decisions process on what to do when students ask about things like extra credit, make-up assignments, missed classes, and more. A lot of times Dr. Gurung asked the TA’s what he thought about some student’s situations and if they should be excused. I leaned how to look at things from different perspectives from listening to everyone’s thoughts and the decisions made in result of our discussions. We did this a lot after class or during our biweekly meetings.  I noticed that Dr. G used a lot of the tips in the section “dealing with student problems” in the McKeachie book such as: keeping his cool and not having to respond immediately, talk to colleagues (TA’s) and ask what we would do, and he always kept in mind that students are human beings and are seeking his help at times.

-I learned a lot in regards to how to write multiple choice questions. I used Dr. G’s tips on how to write multiple choice questions when writing them. I never thought about a lot of those tips, and noticed many of my professors don’t abide to those tips, but rather do what you’re not supposed do when writing multiple choice questions.

-I also learned the importance of communicating effectively to students (e-mail, Facebook, d2l).  I learned that in order to build rapport with students, communicating with them about reminders mean a lot to them. I know that as a student (especially being an anal student), I love reminders or clarification via e-mail from professors.  I’ve learned to send weekly or biweekly e-mail reminders or updates to students. I also learned how using Facebook can provide new opportunities for enhancing student learning (as discussed by McKeachie).  Having a Facebook page really opened my eyes and made me realize how students are truly interesting in psychology-related things outside of class and are willing to share to the class via Facebook. 

My overall reflection of my TA experience was that it was a great learning experience. I was able to go behind the scenes of a class and learn how it was constructed and help in the decision making for some circumstances.  I really enjoyed feeling like a leader to the students and feel responsible for communicating with my “pod”.  This also helped to give me a different perspective because instead of taking a class, taking notes, and taking exams, I was able to see it from a teacher’s point of view.  I was able to take on some teacher’s roles such as writing exam questions, facilitating taking attendance, walking around the class to help during in-class assignment time, grade assignments, enter grades, give a lecture, answer student questions, and much more. I thought it was a great learning experience and I hope I can take what I’ve learned and use it in my last year at UWGB as well as graduate school (hopefully!). I will also look at all of my classes differently and compare it to what we have learned about teaching in the TA experience. I will also give teachers more credit for the amount of time and thought they put into their class based on what we have seen Dr. Gurung do with his Intro to Psychology class.

Final Thoughts

First off, I cannot believe how fast this semester has flown by. Even more so, I cannot believe how fast my career at UWGB has gone. I have really enjoyed my time as a TA and definitely learned more about the teaching profession than I would have thought.

In my past experience of working closely with professors, what goes into their lesson was never shared with me.  I think I just took for granted the work that is put into their curriculum. To be completely honest, I did not think that professors spent much time critically thinking about each minute of their lecture and whether the learning outcomes are being reached. From conditioning the class with music, to using a different tone or speed of your voice to keep students’ attention, Dr. Gurung puts a large amount of time and effort into each of his lectures. I also did not ever consider how distracting it is to have people leave or talk to a neighbor during a lecture . I now view the use of a cellphone during a lectur as completely rude and a waste of the education that I am paying for. We have all had professors who we know do not put as much effort into their lectures, but I have gained a new respect for those professors who do.

I was unsure what would be expected of me as a TA. In the past I was a peer mentor and thought this would have been a similar role. However, from the start, I realized the two were very different. As a TA, I played a more ‘official’ role than a peer mentor. The students knew that we were their peers, but for the most part treated us with the same respect that I treat my professors. This was new for me. I enjoyed having the students look up to me and come to me with questions. This made me feel useful. I really like how we were assigned to our own pods. This gave the students one TA as their ‘go-to’ and also allowed us to get closer with the students in our pod. There was one student who needed some direction when it came to deciding her major and minors. She was so grateful for the few minutes I spent with her and for the advice that I gave her.

As a TA, I expected to be doing more clerical work than we did. This was a nice surprise. Grading the in-class exercises was not too taxing at all, especially since we were given access to the grade book on D2L.

One of my only critiques on the experience would be to begin the research project earlier. In the beginning of the semester, I felt that as a TA our workload was very light. Towards the end, we had the TA lecture and paper due dates relatively close together. This was also when all of my other classes began to pick up in the required workload.  I think it would feel more relaxed if the TA’s were split up into the two groups at the beginning of the semester and started brainstorming paper ideas after the first month. During that time the TA’s would get a feel for the class and what topics they would be interested in researching.

On the most basic level, being a TA helped improve my communication skills. From needing to effectively communicate to about 40 students on a regular basis, to delivering part of a lecture, I feel I have grown in this aspect. Again, I am very happy I was given the opportunity to be a TA and believe this experience will prove to be useful in my future.

TA Lecture

The TA class presentation was an extremely anxiety-provoking experience, although it was a tremendous help that I did not have to be up in front by myself.  Though my anxiety continued to remain at a very high level throughout the class, I was able to avoid situations that would have caused it to further increase.  One of my biggest fears was asking the students questions and getting no response back, so thankfully that did not happen.  I was also afraid that I would get in front of the class and forget everything I was supposed to say or have to read directly off of my paper—I found that through extensive rehearsal of the material (and the added benefit that I was previously familiar with both topics) I was able to deliver most of the information despite my anxiety.  I do feel as if I may have skimmed over certain aspects too briefly and I regret not asking for questions following my topics.  Overall I think the class went pretty well, though, personally, certain parts are still fuzzy and hard to remember.  Everyone else did a fantastic job of speaking coherently, engaging the students, and successfully teaching the subjects, making for a great class.

As much as I hate speaking in front of people, I know that experiences such as this one will ultimately help me to feel more comfortable.  I won’t be anxiety-free for my next presentation but continued exposure to these situations will hopefully help me in the long run.

“TA Lecture”

On Thursday, all of the TA’s including myself had to prepare, speak, and present on a segment of Abnormal Psychology for the class lecture. I chose to speak on Dissociative Disorders because it has always been a topic that I have found to be particularly interesting. When I was a freshmen sitting in Dr. Gurung’s Intro to Psych. class I remember all of the TA’s having to get up in front of the entire class and talk about specific aspects related to Abnormal Psychology. At the time I remember really being intrigued with this aspect of the class. It was probably one of the greatest aspects of Intro Psych. which motivated me to want to be a TA. I also chose Dissociative Disorders to speak and discuss with the class because when I took Dr. Martin’s Abnormal Psychology class several years ago I was incredibly fascinated and just outright mind blown by these disorders. I couldn’t believe how someone could have upwards as many as 90 different personalities!!! When you are growing up as a kid in Elementary, Middle, and High Schools you learn that people have a personality and that there are often specific traits and temperament styles that accompany these personality types, but one never even considers the possibility that an individual could have more than one personality! So, that is my main reason and justification behind why I chose to teach the class about Dissociative Disorders.

While I was up in front of the class explaining and talking to the students about the different types of Dissociative Disorders, something truly remarkable happened! After talking briefly about the disorders and showing a few video clips  many students began asking questions regarding Dissociative Disorders. From here it was like the domino effect, other students began asking more and more questions, and before we knew it, I had managed to generate an entire discussion about Dissociative Disorders! I was so happy and pleased by the students responses’ and involvement with these disorders! They were just as interested and intrigued with learning about the disorders as I once was as a Freshmen! I left class that day feeling so triumphant and on top of the world because I had managed to make students not only interested in Dissociative Disorders, which has always been an interest of mine, but I had also made them excited to learn and they weren’t afraid to explore and ask questions… which is always something as a TA you hope and long for! :) Overall, I think it is safe to say that my TA lecture went well and was quite the success amongst the students! :)))

TA Lecture

I can finally breathe now and there were thankfully no tears. I thought that everybody did great for their part of the lecture and it went very smoothly.  It was not as bad as I imagined because the students all seemed attentive and respectful.  I thought that we all spoke loudly, clearly, and slowly.  It was fun to see how the students all responded to our questions that we had for them by either raising their hands or answering out loud a question.  I tried my best to walk around, vary my tone and speed of talking, look around the room, and elaborate on words or concepts that I was talking about.

Overall, I felt that it was a great experience and will hopefully help me when I give presentations in front of smaller classrooms since I was able to survive the lecture in front of a lecture hall. I thought everyone did great and I loved the music and singing in the beginning where it helped to get rid of a few nerves.  Music really does help!

TA lecture

I can breath a sigh of relief knowing that our presentation is now complete! Leading up to today, I must say I was rather anxious. I spent time picking out a nice outfit and reading through my notes multiple times, I even had my mom quiz me and ask me questions just in case the class had any. It was really nice to listen to some 90s music at the start of class to calm the nerves and increase the mood of the classroom, it was intersting to see how it shifted by playing the music we did. As I sat and watched the girls give thier portion of the presentation, my nerves were building. When it finally came my turn to take to the front of the room, it was nice knowing that Anna was there and that the some of the students were really encouraging and sending smiles my way. I know I fumbled in a spot or two and there is much room for improvement, but I was happy with the way in which it played out; althought saying hours instead of minutes was a bit embarrassing I must say, at least the group got a laugh out of it :) Having this expereince was helpful in that it will better prepare me for the future in the instance that I am to speak to a large group, and be the one answering questions instead of being on the other side. I look forward to viewing the notes that Dr. Gurung has for how I did, but I know that I will be able to take it and make improvements on my level of public speaking.