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UIC TA Handbook - Planning a Class Session

By Julia Fish

Professor Emerita and UIC Distinguished Professor Emerita of Art
School of Art and Design
UIC College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts


Your method of preparation for a class session will, of course, depend entirely on the course you are teaching, whether your role is that of a discussion section leader who supports a large lecture course, a lecturer for a small or large lecture course, an instructor in a hands-on lab or studio, or a teacher completely responsible for your own course. Even if you have not taught before, keep in mind that your department's faculty have confidence in your ability to do so, and they expect to assist you in a variety of ways.

How to proceed?

A good first step is to speak to faculty in your department, or other graduate students who have taught the course or similar courses before. But don't overlook your own experience: think back to some of the best teachers you have had, and consider how their approach made the course especially productive or engaging. Ask yourself: what were the best methods for my learning? Will these methods work for my students? Then speculate on what you missed--what did you really wish had happened in a particular course?

As a TA, you are now in a position to build on the strengths of your best experiences in the classroom, and to intro­ duce aspects of the course which you have identified as important. You may find that current developments in the field are useful additions to fundamental course work. Or, you may find it helpful to incorporate or adapt exercises or methods from a classroom model not generally utilized in the course you are about to teach. If in doubt, consult with your departmental advisor or another faculty member familiar with the material you have been asked to teach.

The following are some suggestions for planning a class session:

  • Identify the task(s), concept(s), or idea(s) that are to be the subject of each session.
  • Briefly re-cap the previous session to lay the ground work for each day's work -- this will help you and the students to establish a continuum, or identify linkages or distinctions in course material as the weekly sessions progress.
  • Prepare for class by reading and re-reading any material you are asking the class to discuss.
  • Plan for discussion points by making your own notes.
  • Be prepared to discuss or present more material than you think you will cover.
  • Do not rush through difficult material.
  • If appropriate, use a chalkboard or other visual supports to track your lecture/discussion.

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