Tutorial Training Workshop Descriptions

Teaching in tutorials often involves a range of activities. These activities are not mutually-exclusive and we acknowledge that any one tutorial may involve a range of instructional approaches and learning activities based on the established learning objectives of a given course. A tutorial category is intended to denote the one primary activity of a course tutorial.

Discussion-Based Sessions 

In this training session, we will review strategies for leading effective discussion-based tutorials in both classroom and lab settings.  We will explore how to prepare yourself to lead an engaging discussion, how you can encourage students to come to tutorial prepared for meaningful discussion, and what to do when students do not arrive prepared. TAs will experience a selection of interactive activities that will highlight techniques for facilitating discussion once it’s underway and model strategies for helping students engage with course materials and core course concepts. We will also review how to provide students with formative feedback that helps them to build on skills and work towards improvement. You will also learn how to support your students in developing their interpersonal skills through discussion, both in-class and online.

Skill Development Sessions 

A Skill Development tutorial involves a TA leading students through practice-based learning in order to hone a specific skill linked to the course learning objectives.

As a central training program, the TATP does not offer discipline-specific skills-based training.  Rather, TATP training in this category focuses on four key areas essential to supporting undergraduate learning across a wide range of disciplines. TATP training sessions in this category are divided into four different sub-categories: Critical Reading and Reflection; Supporting Student Writing and Problem Sets.  NOTE TO INSTRUCTORS: Although these sub-categories may reflect several of the skills that you would like students to learn through their tutorial experience, you should only select one of these skill development sessions if it is the primary activity in your course tutorial.

Critical Reading and Reflection  

In this training session, we will discuss strategies to encourage students to engage in both critical reading and reflection. We will address the challenge of unprepared students through examining underlying barriers to successful reading in the undergraduate classroom. TAs in this session will explore concrete strategies for supporting reading both inside and outside the classroom, and discuss methods for integrating reading strategies that promote deep learning and comprehension throughout tutorials.

Supporting Student Writing 

This training session will focus on how to support students in the process of developing writing skills. Over the course of the session, we will discuss various approaches to engaging your students through writing, both through in-class writing activities and assigned writing outside the classroom. TAs in this workshop will review key principles of effective grading that serve to support the development of writing skills in students. Participants will also have the opportunity to practice a variety of short writing exercises that can be incorporated into their tutorials, and will leave with a range of tools and strategies to support undergraduate writing.

Problem Sets 

Learning how to effectively and efficiently solve problems is the key to success in many math, science and engineering disciplines. This training session will expose TAs to proven approaches to working with students who are learning the process for solving problems in their discipline. Participants in this session will learn how to plan effective problem set tutorials, designed to best support student learning and promote long-term understanding.  We will also look at different ways to organize problem set tutorials incorporating small group work and other active learning approaches that are designed to reinforce key concepts and problem-solving processes.

Labs and Practicals

Facilitating laboratory sessions is a complex task that even the most experienced teaching assistants are constantly aiming to refine. On the one hand, labs usually follow a well-constrained step-by-step methodology. On the other hand, it is not always clear how this methodology supports a theoretical concept, or how a specific experiment fits into the course as a whole, or how a concept or experimental process may be translated to a real-life scenario.  These complexities can make it challenging to effectively present material in a clear and efficient way, to effectively demonstrate procedures and processes for students, and then to ensure students understand the concepts investigated in the experimental process. This training session will address the most common challenges associated with leading effective laboratory tutorials, and will offer strategies around how to effectively monitor student progress and give formative feedback to students in the context of the lab.

Review/Q&A Sessions

Although most tutorials involve some sort of review that supports the consolidation of core course concepts, Review/Q&A training sessions are directed specifically towards TAs assigned to Review tutorials as identified in ROSI. Typically, Review/Q&A tutorials are held periodically throughout the term and vary in length from one hour to several hours in one sitting. These Review/Q&A sessions are either mandatory or elective and can involve a set number of students or an unspecified number of students. This training is therefore not intended for TAs who happen to do some review as part of their normal discussion-based or lab-based tutorial teaching. 

In this training session, we will discuss strategies that support the planning and delivery of effective Review/Q&A sessions.  We will identify strategies to check for student understanding and to support students in their preparation for assignments, tests and exams. TAs will learn  practical advice and tips to offer students who are struggling to develop effective course review and study  skills. TAs will also learn some activities that can assist students in remembering and articulating course content, expressing key course concepts, making connections between different components of course content, and analysing specific cases or text passages in the context of the theoretical framework of a course.

Adapting Teaching Techniques

Tutorials at the University of Toronto come in all shapes and sizes.  As a TA, you need to be prepared to adapt your lesson planning, your learning activities and even your overall teaching approach to different types of tutorials.  In this training session, you will learn howto adapt different teaching techniques to accommodate the different teaching contexts that you may encounter.  You will have the opportunity to develop a ‘toolkit’ of resources that will support your tutorial planning, give you strategies to build community between students in different class sizes and class environments, assist you in scaling activities to different class sizes, help you to innovate assessment techniques and suggest some ways to use educational technologies to help facilitate interactions with students. Effective learning environments are not dependent on the type of classroom they occur in or on the number of students in the class; they are instead shaped by the facilitator, together with the students.  Our goal is that you will leave this training session confident that you can support the creation of effective learning environments in the different teaching contexts that you will encounter at the University of Toronto and beyond.