All-University TA Orientation Program

August 14-18, 2023 International teaching assistants (International TA Tentative Schedule)
August 16-18, 2023 All new teaching assistants (All TA Tentative Schedule)

The All-University TA Orientation is designed to provide first-time TAs with an introduction to the role, practical tips for succeeding in it, and resources to aid their growth as teachers. These are a few of the topics we will consider:

  • Appropriate responsibilities and expectations for faculty instructors, TAs, and students
  • Providing effective instruction
  • Grading, other assessments, and providing feedback
  • Engaging students one-on-one, in small groups, in large groups, and online
  • Student diversity and creating an inclusive learning environment
  • Teaching platforms/technologies you will need to know
  • Understanding University policies as they relate to TAs
  • Challenging situations you may encounter
  • Time management and work-life balance

All first-time TAs with an offer letter for Fall 2023 must register for the TA Orientation by July 14, 2023. As in any year, a certain number of participants will have competing obligations related to their course of study during the official Orientation dates. If you are aware of any such conflicts, please note them on the registration form. The Graduate School will work with TAs and their departments to mitigate conflicts.

A team of experienced Teaching Assistants, selected on the basis of their outstanding performance in the classroom, have been designated Teaching Mentors and will serve as the program’s core instructional staff. Each new TA will be assigned to a small discussion group led by a Teaching Mentor.

All TA Orientation participants will be expected to plan and perform a brief (5-7 minute) teaching demonstration. These live Microteaching presentations will be recorded, reviewed, and discussed in small group. Participants should keep the following in mind when planning for the microteaching exercise:

  • Pick a topic that would normally be discussed in an introductory course in your discipline. Assume that you will have a general audience with only very basic knowledge of your subject.
  • Make sure your topic can be covered meaningfully in 5-7 minutes. You might explain a basic concept, illustrate the application of a concept, define a problem, or juxtapose two competing theories or approaches to a problem. Do not choose something that would take weeks to cover in an actual course.
  • Countless examples of microteaching are available on YouTube and elsewhere online. You may also consult a short overview of microteaching featuring Syracuse University Teaching Mentors.

Some portions of the TA Orientation are specific to international TAs (ITAs). For instance, the Graduate School is responsible for assessing the English language proficiency of ITAs. This assessment takes the form of an interview (~20 minutes) with a panel consisting of a Graduate School representative, an English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) instructor, a faculty member from the ITA’s program, and an undergraduate student. Please note that ITAs’ assistantship is not contingent on “passing” the assessment.

The TA Orientation also includes programming that is intended to introduce ITAs to aspects of the American classroom, and higher education in general, that may differ from what they have experienced previously. The August 2023  ITA portion will consist of synchronous, online programming and small group sessions.

Since not all ITAs will benefit from these components of the Orientation, the Graduate School has implemented an exemption process whereby qualified ITAs can be excused from one or both of these required portions.

  • ITAs with excellent spoken English skills (approaching native fluency) may qualify for exemption from language assessment. This determination will be made via a brief (<5 minutes) video chat or phone call with a language specialist. To apply for an exemption, ITAs must complete the Language Assessment / ITA Orientation Exemption Request Form by July 14, 2023.
  • If you have already lived and studied in the U.S. for at least one year (including at Syracuse University), you may apply for exemption from TA Orientation programming for international students. To apply, complete the same Language Assessment / ITA Orientation Exemption Request Form by July 14, 2023.

ITAs may apply for the language exemption, the ITA programming exemption, or both. They will receive notification of their exemption status by email.

TAs who have not previously held an assistantship at Syracuse University may need to verify their eligibility for employment, provide health records, and enroll in or waive benefits.

Center for International Services – a resource for international students.

Barnes Center at the Arch– information on health and wellness, health insurance and health forms.

Stay Safe– The official source of public health information for Syracuse University.