TA/TM Day: The Teaching Orientation Program

TA/TM Day is SFU’s most comprehensive orientation event for both new and veteran teaching assistants and tutor-markers. Meet your peers and get information and advice from experienced TAs and other members of SFU’s academic community. You will gain knowledge, skills and confidence for your teaching support roles.

Presented by the Centre for Educational Excellence in cooperation with the Teaching Support Staff Union at SFU.

“TA/TM Day was a one-stop shop that provided me with the skills and knowledge to excel in my instructional roles at SFU.” – Jessica, BPK 

Fall 2022 TA/TM Day: The Teaching Orientation Program

Workshops for the Fall 2022 TA/TM Day will take place on Zoom.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the sessions.

Follow us on Twitter for CEE event and activity reminders!


Schedule | Friday, September 10, 2021 | 9:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

9:00–9:50 a.m. | Opening Plenary Session | Welcoming Remarks | CEE and TSSU

9:50–10:00 a.m. | Break

10:00–11:00 a.m. | Session 1.1

Inclusive Teaching in TAs’/TMs’ Practices

Bee Brigidi and Fiona Shaw, Centre for Educational Excellence

This session will hold space for participants to gather and draw from each other’s teaching and lived experiences about empowering pedagogies that support:

  • Self-care and self-compassion practices amid pandemic and impacts in remote teaching
  • Creating braver and safer space for critical inquiry and respectful relationship building with students
  • Openness and support to students while planning and leading tutorials, leading discussions, holding office hours, and during other professional interactions with students
  • Cultural humility and deep connections to the geographical location, including subjugated histories, cultures, and languages of the Coast Salish traditional lands on which SFU sits.

10:00–11:00 a.m. | Session 1.2

So You’re Going to Be a TA

Michelle La and Megan Robertson, Centre for Educational Excellence

TAing in person for the first time (ever or in-person)? Wondering how to start off the semester strong by identifying the type of awesome TA that you’d like to be? Want to create engaging and interesting tutorials? Bring your questions and concerns and learn from folks who have survived the dreaded silence in the classroom. Participants will try out easy activities they can incorporate in tutorials to foster community in the classroom, facilitate discussions, and help students connect with course materials. You’ll leave this session with practical active learning strategies and tips on how to prepare and structure tutorials.

10:00–11:00 a.m. | Session 1.3

Survival Strategies for TAs and TMs

Rahil Adeli, Mona Mehdizadeh, Seamus Bright Grayer, TSSU

What is expected of me as a TA/TM? What role does the course supervisor play? What is a TUG? What is a Base Unit? What’s the difference between a lab and tutorial? Do TAs/TMs have any benefits? What are my rights as a union member? Workshop participants will learn about the mechanics of their job as TAs and TMs, discover the resources and benefits available to them, their rights and responsibilities, teaching tips for the classroom, and more.

Topics will include:

  • How to read your contract: Base units, rates of pay, work hours required
  • The Collective Agreement and members’ rights
  • Roles and responsibilities of a TA/TM and what counts as work
  • Deciphering TUGs, logbooks and workload reviews
  • TA/TM safety
  • Essential Health & Safety Rights
  • Problem solving and conflict resolution

10:00–11:00 a.m. | Session 1.4

Sparking Creativity: Tips and Tools for Developing Creative and Engaging Tutorial Activities

Lauren Knight, School of Communication

This session will introduce TAs to new tools and creative ideas to engage students in tutorial activities. The workshop will begin by outlining some tools that have worked for me as a TA. These include: SlidesGo, which has free graphic slides for Google Slides; Canvas’ free graphic design software; the Kahoot quiz and poll platform; and the power of an engaging case study! The session will combine a demonstration of some of these tools with tips for developing a case study based on tutorial objectives of the week. Simultaneously, attendees will be encouraged to participate in the breakout rooms and case study brainstorming in which they will have time to try to develop a creative tutorial activity based on sample tutorial objectives and learning goals. As this session hopes to demonstrate the importance of creativity in designing tutorial activities, the session itself will be accompanied by visually appealing slides, a sample Kahoot poll, and plenty of time for collaboration and discussion. Let’s get creative!

11:00–11:15 a.m. | Break

11:15 a.m.–12:15 p.m. | Session 2.1

“Teamwork Makes the Dream Work”: Getting Students to Work Successfully in Groups and in Teams

Hannah Celinski, Faculty of Education

Why do students hate working in groups? Why do instructors assign group work at all? This session will help TAs foster community to prepare, manage, and assess successful group and team assignments. Come join the team!

11:15 a.m.–12:15 p.m. | Session 2.2

Teaching Writing 10 Minutes at a Time

Jennifer Chutter, Interdisciplinary Studies

Teaching can feel overwhelming because there is little time to cover the course material in tutorial as well as to teach writing. Planning out the semester ahead of time will ensure that you can cover both the content and writing instruction. Using 10-minute writing strategies, spread out over the course of 12 weeks, will help to improve the quality of the writing, reduce the likelihood for plagiarism, and increase engagement with the course material.

11:15 a.m.–12:15 p.m. | Session 2.3

Innovative Strategies for Engagement in Remote Labs and In-person Classes

Niloofar Kazemi, Zohreh Champiri and Vahid Zahednejad, School of Interactive Arts and Technology

This workshop is useful for beginning TAs and TMs who may be expected to teach remotely or in person this fall. Participants will explore effective and innovative strategies to increase students’ engagement in both remote labs and class activities. TAs/TMs will learn how to encourage students to participate during discussions, using proven strategies that can be applied across different disciplines. Upon completion of the workshop, participants should feel more confident with inviting students to take on active roles in the lab, class activities and discussions. Using multiple scenarios drawn from our past TA experience, participants will brainstorm solutions to address problems around student engagement. This will help future TAs/TMs to get creative when faced with a disengaged, sleepy or shy classroom.

12:15–1:15 p.m. | TSSU Lunch Event

1:15–2:15 p.m. | Session 3.1

Representation Matters: An Evidence-based Teaching Strategy to Make Tutorials More Inclusive 

Elana Varner, Biological Sciences

The stories and contributions of under-represented groups exist in every academic field and, to empower under-represented students, teaching assistants need to highlight them. In this workshop, TAs will learn to (1) find and share stories highlighting under-represented groups in their field, (2) provide course-related resources specific to students of under-represented groups, and (3) share the impact of shortcomings in their field on under-represented communities. By using these strategies during the workshop to find and share their own sources, TAs will leave empowered to relate their course to students of under-represented groups and broaden the perspective of all students.

1:15–2:15 p.m. | Session 3.2

Coaching Not Correcting: How to Work with Student Writing 

Julia Lane, Student Learning Commons 

This interactive workshop will introduce you to the coaching method for working with students on their writing. This coaching method is used in the Student Learning Commons (SLC). It is helpful for you as a TA or TM to understand this method both because you can adapt it for providing writing feedback to your students and because it can support you to give more effective referrals to the SLC as a writing-support service.

The focus of the coaching method is on how you can empower students to take ownership of their own writing by providing effective developmental feedback, rather than falling into the trap of line-by-line editing. You will be introduced to the concepts of higher- and lower-order concerns in writing, and to practical strategies for giving writing feedback that is actually helpful for students.

This workshop should make a great difference if you are uncertain about how to give students substantial, meaningful formative feedback without simply telling them what to do or marking up their papers.

2:15–2:30 p.m. | Break

1:15–2:15 p.m. | Session 3.3

Scenarios and Solutions: Scheduling, Safety, and Everything In-Between!

Katie Gravestock, Lea Hogan, TSSU

For many, working as a TA or TM is the first experience teaching or working with students, and it is common for TAs and TMs not to know how to respond to new workplace scenarios. This session aims to show new and veteran TAs and TMs how the Collective Agreement informs responses to such situations, and how it protects TSSU members. This interactive workshop will increase participants’ awareness of their roles and responsibilities as a TA or TM, identify various unsafe working conditions, and learn strategies and solutions for responding to common scenarios in their job.

Topics will include:

  • Responding to common situations encountered by TAs and TMs (e.g., too much marking, the process for taking sick leave)
  • TSSU member rights
  • Working and communicating with course supervisors
  • TA/TM workplace safety (e.g. COVID-19, bullying & harassment)
  • Problem solving and conflict resolution

2:30–3:30 p.m. | Session 4.1

Active Learning Online: Tools, Tips and Tricks for Engaging Students

Dasha Berezhnova, Political Science

This session is for teaching assistants who are new to online instruction and want some actionable strategies for keeping students engaged, or for experienced TAs who want new ideas for their toolkit. Keeping students motivated during an online tutorial can be challenging. This session covers four simple and fun active learning strategies, which are appropriate for a variety of purposes, and demonstrates free online tools that can be used to support active learning.

2:30–3:30 p.m. | Session 4.2

Effective and Efficient Feedback on Written Assignments

Eilidh Singh and Amanda Wallace, Centre for Educational Excellence

Being a TA is a challenging job, with broad and time-consuming responsibilities. Many of your allotted hours are, however, likely devoted to grading written assignments. Assignments such as essays, lab reports, and response papers require you to closely read and assess not only the content but also the organization, intelligibility, and mechanics of the piece. Although this is time-consuming, effective feedback is essential because it informs students about how they are doing and provides them with suggestions for improvement. It is necessary, therefore, to learn how to balance the necessity of giving effective feedback with the simultaneous need to do so efficiently. TAs for W courses will find this 60-minute workshop especially valuable as easy-to-implement strategies to facilitate the grading of written assignments will be highlighted. Specifically, the facilitators will introduce systematic marking processes, time management techniques, and alternative and constructive forms of feedback. Participants will also learn about the various supports and resources available to TAs at SFU.

2:30–3:30 p.m. | Session 4.3

Place-based Learning While Sheltering in Place? Engaging Students Using Virtual Field Trips

Leah Wiener, Department of History

Remote learning presents surprising opportunities for place-based learning. Virtual tours and museum exhibits enable students to explore locations close to and far from home. In this workshop, we will examine the many online resources that enable TAs to plan engaging tutorial sessions that visit libraries, museums, heritage sites, and unique landscapes around the world. We will also use the SFU Library’s databases and digital collections to learn how to plan a virtual scavenger hunt.

3:30–3:45 p.m. | Break

3:45–4:30 p.m. | Information Session 

Medical Benefits Information Session 

Odin Hall and Cindy Lee, Amy Crook, SFU Human Resources | Hanna Lee, International Services for Students | Bahareh Jokar and Ali Versi, Studentcare 

Representatives from Studentcare, International Services for Students, and Human Resources will provide an overview and answer questions related to the various medical benefit plans available to TAs/TMs/ITAs. 

Other resources

In addition to these online workshops, self-directed, asynchronous learning will be available to TAs throughout the week via the TA Hub Canvas site. The online modules on the site provide teaching and facilitation strategies that TAs and TMs can use to create engaging learning experiences for undergraduates. Learn about: 

  • Facilitating Online Tutorials in Zoom
  • Marking Assignments, Discussions and Exams
  • Facilitating Active Learning in Tutorials and Labs
  • Communicating with Your Course Supervisor
  • Holding Office Hours Online
  • Supporting Student Success


E: ceeevent@sfu.ca
T: 778 782 7115

Six reasons you should go to TA/TM Day

#1 Improved tutorial skills

#2 Awareness of my role

#3 Empathy for students

#4 Tips that come from experience

#5 Support for multilingual students

#6 Increased confidence