Meet the 2023 -24 TA Fellows:
Elliott: I am a fourth year graduate student in Mathematical Physics. The small size of Caltech and its amazingly motivated students make it possible to be very ambitious in our teaching goals. It is very easy to join forces within a department, a division, or even the whole institution, to innovate and improve the learning experience in our classrooms. As a TA fellow, I hope to be a valuable point of contact between TAs and the other members of the community, and to help them thrive in their teaching endeavors.
Maria Derda: I am a fourth year graduate student in Theoretical Physics. Throughout my studies I was fortunate to meet many people passionate about teaching and willing to make the extra effort to get to know and answer the needs of their students. Now as a TA Fellow I would like to work with other TAs to create engaging and effective learning environment in the classroom.
In the Teaching Assistant (TA) Fellows Program, experienced graduate TAs serve as TA Fellows for their options, dedicating time and discipline-specific effort to supporting, enhancing training, and mentoring TAs in their option. The TA Fellows are like TAs for TAs, about teaching in the option and discipline.
The TA Fellows Program represents a collaboration between CTLO and participating departments.
- TA Fellow goal-setting and orientation: As they begin their appointments, the CTLO works with TA Fellows to offer training as needed as well as coaching toward how to set goals for their work for the academic year.
- Ongoing mentoring, including regular individual check-ins and discussions with other TA Fellows. This includes feedback on plans, suggestions for programming, help with troubleshooting, and other emergent topics.
- Program evaluation and coordination: supporting teaching fellows on option-specific assessment.
- Event funding: CTLO may be able to supplement teaching fellow budgets if they would like to plan larger events.
- Selects and appoints TA fellow: Option selects level of commitment suitable to their goals, with input by the Executive Office, Option Rep, and /or administrative staff (suggested: 5-10 hours per week, ongoing throughout the academic year).
- Meets periodically to provide input: Selected option-level contacts (EO and/or Option Rep, along with a main administrative contact) meet at least quarterly with the TA fellow, including providing input on initial plans and feedback on activities throughout the year. An administrative contact is available to assist the teaching fellow with reserving space, ordering supplies/food for events, contacting TAs, and other logistics.
- Provides modest funding for small-scale events and meetings: While not necessary in all cases, a modest budget that the TA fellow can draw upon for refreshments or supplies for TA events can be very helpful and contribute to their success.
TA Fellow Goals and Logistics
TA Fellows can contribute to a wide range of option-level goals and activities, such as:
- Augmenting and improving discipline-specific TA training.
- Providing ongoing support and feedback to TAs in the option.
- Providing focused work on option-wide teaching initiatives, curriculum changes, and/or course-level innovations.
- Enhancing educational equity and inclusion in the department and division.
Options appointing a teaching fellow for the first time, or for a specific innovation-related project (curriculum, course, etc.) may consider seeking funding from the Provost's Innovation in Education Fund. The deadline for proposals for is typically in June or July for the following academic year.
Options should inform the CTLO director about their intent to participate in the spring or early summer and are encouraged to express interest as soon as possible. CTLO can assist with options with selecting potential teaching fellows, discussing option-level goals for their work, and customizing the program to the specific context. CTLO is also available to discuss ways the teaching fellows could be combined effectively with other TA and Research duties.
If options wish to select their own teaching fellows independently, here are some important qualities to keep in mind:
- Successful prior experience as a TA at Caltech.
- Ability to articulate their approach to/philosophy of teaching in their field.
- Interest in learning new, evidence-based approaches to teaching in their field.
- Interest in learning to coach and advise TAs on teaching in ways that help develop their strengths, philosophy, and evidence-based approaches to teaching.
- Commitment to plan and carry out a suite of offerings in the department in a timely way, with clear communication to both the option and to CTLO.
- Willingness to receive feedback on their work as a teaching fellow and to continually improve their methods and ideas.