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Develop a Multi-Year TA Development Curriculum

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While most departments already have systems in place to prepare their graduate students to teach, additional training benefits new instructors and their students. Graduate students whose training continues during and beyond their initial teaching experiences report higher levels of confidence and feelings of empowerment in the classroom (Hirsto et al., 2013).

A multi-level TA training curriculum can take many shapes, but research supports a model that builds from foundational to more focused, strategic sessions (Hardre 2012) with an emphasis on skills-based programming (Blaj-Ward 2011).

The most successful TA training curricula are built on collaboration, allow young instructors to help shape their own learning, and emphasize concrete classroom strategies (Hirsto et al. 2013; Blaj-Ward 2011). This could take the form of one or more upper-level graduate TA training courses in addition to a foundational course, a series of workshops led by experienced instructors, or even a pedagogy reading group for graduate students.

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Steps to consider

  • Get feedback from current and recent graduate TAs on your program’s existing pedagogical training. Research shows that instructor training is more effective when graduate students are allowed to participate in building the curriculum (Hirsto et al. 2013) (Module 2: Integrating peer-to-peer learning).
  • Get feedback from current lecturers, staff and faculty as to the skills they find necessary for graduate students in their roles as TAs. Including all voices in the development of the pedagogical training can lead to better outcomes.
  • Find out what other departments are doing: check with current and recent IDEAL teams, as well as participants in similar programs, such as the Leadership in Inclusive Teaching Fellowship, to find out what strategies have been most successful for their graduate instructors.
  • Make use of existing CTL resources (many of which are listed below). Programs like the GradCDI, the IDEAL Pedagogy Canvas course, and the CIRTL teaching certificate can serve as starting points for higher-level graduate instructor training. Ensure that Graduate TAs in your department are aware of these resources.
  • Determine the best timing for upper level pedagogical development. Most departments provide training before a graduate student’s first teaching assignment, but research supports additional, more focused training once they already have some classroom experience (Hirsto et al., 2013).
    Examples include training specific to being an advanced TA (TA for a small upper level course) and a Head TA (the manager of first time TAs for a large enrollment course)
  • Model inclusive course design by following IDEAL practices in your pedagogy course design. TAs who learn how to teach through a diverse and inclusive curriculum will be able to emulate that in their own classrooms.
    (Module 1: Including Diverse Representation)
  • Document pedagogy training sessions and make relevant resources (readings, past curricula, lessons on teaching strategies, etc.) available to all TAs.
    Module 4: Making Success Accessible)
  • Highlight pedagogical practices that are being taught to TAs in both the general TA training course and advanced TA training to faculty and lecturers (for example, at their yearly faculty retreat) and provide content and ideas to discuss with their TAs during meetings or asynchronously. (CTL Resource for faculty and lecturers working with TAs)

Go to the IDEAL Pedagogy Canvas course to explore the learning modules referenced above.

Stanford examples and resources


Blaj-Ward, L. (2011). “Skills versus pedagogy? Doctoral research training in the UK Arts and Humanities.” Higher Education Research & Development 30.6.

Hardre, P. (2012). “What contributes to teaching assistant development: differential responses to key design features.” Instructional Science 40, 93-118. 

Hirsto, L. et al. (2013). “Learning Outcomes of University Lecturers from a Process-Oriented University Pedagogical Course.” Trames 17.4, 347-365.