P691G – Graduate Student Professional Development Seminar

Orientation – Being ready for day 1! Review of UMass students, GTA assignments, responsibilities, roles, and some practice facilitating groups

90-minutes on the last day of orientation.


  • Acquaint new GTAs with the common courses for which they will TA.
  • Acquaint new GTAs with the Team-Based-Learning format (a common assignment)
  • Clarify the roles for GTAs: What is the main job? What can you do / not do?
  • Acquaint new GTAs with the UMass-Amherst undergraduate population (particularly critical for the large number of international graduate students).
  • A first introduction to facilitating teams of students solving problems.


  • Familiarize themselves with the solution to a problem that most incoming GTAs will have trouble solving.


  • Some activities similar in structure to what is done in the classroom on the principles of active learning: clicker questions etc.
  • Collectively construct a definition activity: What is the primary role of a GTA in physics?
  • A quiz to show the strengths of non-physicists followed by clicker questions on demographic properties of UMass students (prior physics experience etc.).
  • Role play – teams of three: one student helps the other two solve the problem.