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Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) in Recitation and Laboratory Sections

Many graduate students' first teaching experiences at the college level take place in recitation or laboratory sections. The characteristics of these settings often vary: you may have different responsibilities (e.g., grading, attending lecture, lesson planning) than your peers; you may be supervised by a course coordinator, work one-on-one with a faculty member, and/or interact with several other GTAs associated with a single course; you might find that the course content is unfamiliar or lies outside your current areas of expertise; and your students may have differing capabilities, experiences, and motivations within your discipline. Fortunately, there is a wealth of research on the roles that GTAs play in supporting student learning, and this workshop focuses on translating those findings into practical strategies and techniques for use with your section(s) at VCU.


Participants will leave this this workshop being able to:

  • Develop a plan for establishing regular and open communication about their teaching roles/responsibilities with supervisors and colleagues, including methods for getting feedback on their teaching
  • Manage and adapt their teaching strategies to the recitation/laboratory environment, particularly with regard to the first day of class
  • Recognize and remedy common challenges which are often present in recitation and laboratory sections as they occur throughout the semester
  • Reflect upon their personal and professional development path--from "senior learner" to "colleague-in-training" to "junior colleague" (Nyquist & Wulff, 1996)--as a graduate student at VCU.


  • Brinkley, A., Dessants, B., Flamm, M., Fleming, C., Forcey, C., & Rothschild, E. (1999). Teaching as a graduate student. In The Chicago Handbook for Teachers: A Practical Guide to the College Classroom, pp. 117-131. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
  • Coppola, B. (2002). Laboratory instruction: Ensuring an active learning experience. In W. J. McKeachie (Ed.), McKeachie's Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers (11th ed.), pp. 235-244. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  • Huston, T. (2009). Teaching What You Don't Know. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Nyquist, J. D., & Wulff, D. H. (1996). Working Effectively with Graduate Assistants. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Poe, M., Lerner, N., & Craig, J. (2010). Learning to Communicate in Science and Engineering: Case Studies from MIT. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Seymour, E. (with Melton, G., Wiese, D. J., & Pedersen-Gallegos, L.). (2005). Partners in Innovation: Teaching Assistants in College Science Courses. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
  • "Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) in REC/LAB Sections" list on WorldCat, with links to VCU Libraries' holdings

For more information, contact Phil Edwards (804-827-0533 or pmedwards@vcu.edu).

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Last modified: June 20, 2013
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