Feb 192012
Authors: Moonier Said

For most professors, teaching a 340-student class with only one assistant may seem like a nightmare. But, according to oceanography professor Ursula Quillmann, her work still goes smoothly with the help of her graduate teaching assistant (GTA) Alyssa Borrelli.

Borrelli, a graduate student studying watershed science, helps Quillmann with most of the grading and homework and also makes sure students don’t encounter problems with their iClickers or assignment submissions.

“Alyssa runs the scene while I run the stage,” Quillmann said, adding that since she recently took over the oceanography class, she has implemented more video chats and movies to get students involved.

“We are really special because we are the best team,” Borrelli said.

And while GTAs like Borrelli make up more of the teaching assistant (TA) positions than undergraduates, TAs can be undergraduate students who apply to work directly for a professor.

Many undergrad TAs have positions in the psychology department because of the large class sizes but, as demonstrated by Molly Boyer, a senior TA in the College of Business, each department has its own opportunities.

“I am a TA because I thought it would be a great opportunity to network within the College of Business, gain knowledge from professionals within the accounting profession and to improve my teaching skills,” Boyer said.

Undergrad TAs deal mainly with in-class assignments such as proctoring and grading exams, as well as having office hours where they help students and answer questions central to the material being taught in class.

Their GTA counterparts incorporate all of what the undergrads must do but, because they have degrees, they can create test questions and, with the professor’s discretion, grade papers.

“The GTAs prepare a portion of the quiz and then the professor finalizes it and sends it to us,” said Khaled Al-Dhefiri, a GTA for an Islamic history class. “We then review it and prepare for our office hours.”

To be a TA as a grad or undergrad it is required to hold office hours and have a clear understanding of the class lectures –– something that goes beyond the role of most students.

Collegian writer Moonier Said can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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