P691G – Graduate Student Professional Development Seminar

Week 7 – Thinking about how to evaluate teaching and begin a project of both observing and being observed by experienced TAs


  • Try to list some characteristics of effective teaching and recognize that this is HARD
  • Try to develop some techniques to measure effective teaching and compare and contrast them: do these techniques actually measure what you aim to measure? What potential biases are there in the measurement technique?
  • List some of the problems with using student evaluations as a measure of effective teaching
  • Reflect on one’s own teaching and compose a series of questions for an experienced GTA to look for in observations



Several-week out-of-class project – Observations

Each participant is both observed by an experienced TA and observes an experienced TA who has a similar type of assignment (lab, TBL, etc.). This assignment is divided into several stages with students having a week for each. Students who do not currently have a TA assignment, instead, observe two different experienced TAs.

  • Weeks 1 and 2 – Two sets of three questions:
    • What are you going to look for when you watch an experienced TA?
    • What would you like an experienced TA to look for when they observe you?

These questions are then added to four questions from Weiman and Gilbert to form an observation protocol.

  • Week 3 – Observe and be observed
  • Week 4 –  Write a paragraph or so reflecting on what you learned from being observed. What surprised you? What might you do differently as a teacher going forward? What was confirming?

Wieman, Carl, and Sarah Gilbert. “The Teaching Practices Inventory: A New Tool for Characterizing College and University Teaching in Mathematics and Science.” CBE Life Sciences Education 13, no. 3 (2014): 552–69. https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.14-02-0023