TA/TM Week: Orientation to Remote Teaching

TA/TM Week (formerly 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 Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and 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 

Spring 2021 TA/TM Week: Orientation to Remote Teaching

For Spring 2021, TA/TM orientation workshops will be offered virtually between January 6 and 8. See below for the full schedule and registration information. Note that times are subject to change.

Register in advance for Zoom access to all sessions.

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

Wed, January 6 | 9:30–10:30 a.m.

Welcome Session/Introduction to Remote Teaching
Presenters: Sarah Ford, Fiona Shaw and Dorothy Christian, Centre for Educational Excellence


In this session, we will explore the role of TAs in remote teaching and discuss ethical principles in university teaching. You will learn about synchronous and asynchronous teaching approaches, become aware of campus resources for supporting student success, and have a chance to learn about the asynchronous learning opportunities for TAs through the Remote Teaching for TAs and TMs Canvas site.

Wed, January 6 | 10:45–11:45 a.m.

Introduction to Teaching with Zoom
Presenter: Olga Belikov, Centre for Educational Excellence


This virtual workshop will focus on how to use Zoom as a tool for effective online instruction. We will demonstrate features in Zoom that can be leveraged for teaching and learning, as well as highlight best practices for online synchronous instruction. We will demonstrate how to use breakout rooms, whiteboards and the chat feature, and how to facilitate conversations. We will also address how you can improve the security of your sessions in light of issues some instructors have had while using Zoom.

Wed, January 6 | 12:30–2:00 p.m.

A Day in the Life of a TA/TM: Case Studies in Classroom Management and Ethics
Presenters: Sarah Ford, Fiona Shaw, Eilidh Singh, Amanda Wallace and Bee Brigidi, Centre for Educational Excellence


In this interactive session, you will collaborate with a small group of TAs to develop effective solutions to challenging classroom management situations related to academic integrity, accommodation, and class disruption. You will become familiar with campus policies and resources that will enable you and your students to respond to these challenges and seek additional support if needed.

Thu, January 7 | 9:30–11:00 a.m.

Coaching Not Correcting: How to Work with Students’ Writing
Presenter: 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.

Thu, January 7 | 11:15 a.m.–12:15 p.m.

Intercultural Communication: Strategies for Teaching
Presenters: Eilidh Singh and Amanda Wallace, Centre for Educational Excellence


We know that you already have varying degrees of knowledge about intercultural communication, and in today’s session we want to discuss how you can increase your knowledge of and deepen your appreciation for our local cultural diversity in your capacity as TAs. You will reflect on your own values and assumptions as you explore the visible and hidden features of cultures in the context of how this manifests in myriad ways in the classroom. This workshop will help you further develop skills and strategies for your intercultural teaching toolbox as you engage as TAs with SFU’s diverse student body.

Thu, January 7 | 1:00–2:00 p.m.

Introduction to Teaching with Canvas
Presenters: Kar-on Lee and Christina Drabik, Centre for Educational Excellence


This workshop will address basic functionality in Canvas: you will learn about the integration of course materials and assignments, how to grade assignments in Gradebook, and how to set up discussion groups and communicate with your students effectively in Canvas.

Thu, January 7 | 2:15–3:15 p.m.

Introduction to Teaching with Blackboard Collaborate Ultra
Presenters: Christina Drabik and John Born, Centre for Educational Excellence


The Blackboard Collaborate Ultra workshop will provide information on how this tool can be used to facilitate tutorials and record and share mini-lectures with your students. We will provide an overview of some of the features such as using breakout groups, delivering student presentations, sharing a presentation or document from your desktop, and engaging students with polls. CEE’s Blackboard experts will answer your questions during the session.

Fri, January 8 | 9:00–9:30 a.m.

Welcome from TSSU
Presenters: Lea Hogan and Ed Graham, TSSU

Fri, January 8 | 10:00–11:00 a.m.

Survival Strategies for TAs and TMs
: Lea Hogan, Seamus Grayer and Rahil Adeli, 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 members’ rights? 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
  • The roles and responsibilities of a TA/TM, and differentiating them from those of a graduate student
  • Deciphering TUGs, logbooks and workload reviews
  • Union benefits and deciphering them
  • TA/TM safety
  • Problem solving and conflict resolution
  • Working and communicating with course supervisors
Fri, January 8 | 11:15 a.m.–12:15 p.m.

Power at Play: Understanding Relationships Around Us
 Chantelle Spicer, TSSU 


This session will explore where power dynamics exist within a variety of univerisity structures, with special attention paid toward supervisory relationships, both as a student and a worker. Sessional content will/may include: understandings of power, the many forms it can take, who holds it in institutions, boundaries (how to be respectful of someone’s limits and how you can feel empowered to set the same), and warning signs that these boundaries are being breached, resulting in abuse of power. 

The session’s approach will be one that recognizes intersectionality, affective labour, and marginalisation in the institution and connections to larger social issues. Participants will be encouraged to engage with these ideas by working together as a group to break down power structures and relationships at university and learning how to address this within SFU specifically both as a union and as individuals. 

Outcomes of this session will include not only recognizing power, but also practical tools for understanding what your SFU/TSSU resources and supports are when you feel such an abuse of power has occurred. Let’s join a conversation and learn more about how we can build stronger, healthier communities and relationships together. 

Fri, January 8 | 12:30–1:30 p.m.

Scenarios and Solutions for TAs and TMs
Presenters: Katie Gravestock and Ed Graham, TSSU


Working as a TA or TM is, for many, 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 workshop will increase participants’ awareness of their roles and responsibilities as a TA or TM, so they come away with strategies and solutions for responding to common scenarios.

Topics will include:

  • Responding to common situations encountered by TAs and TMs (e.g., too much marking, or the process for taking sick leave)
  • TSSU member rights
  • Working and communicating with course supervisors
  • TA/TM safety
  • Problem solving and conflict resolution
Fri, January 8 | 1:45–2:45 p.m.

Anti-Oppressive and Culturally Responsive Classroom Practices
: Yi Chien Jade Ho and Raaj Chatterjee, TSSU


It is easy to observe now, more than ever, that our classrooms are made up of students with diverse backgrounds. It is essential for instructors, and for teaching assistants, to develop teaching skills to navigate this changing pedagogical landscape as well as their own positions within the university. As educators, we need to shift our focus towards transforming oppressive institutional structures. Since privilege and oppression are often rendered invisible in everyday practice, many educators are likely unaware of the ways in which privilege and oppression enter into the assumptions and decisions we make carrying out the day-to-day activities of teaching and knowledge dissemination.

This workshop invites participants to consider how their teaching—through class policies, learning objectives and evaluation criteria, assignments and exams, as well as content and delivery—can enable marginalized students to be successful, or can perpetuate structural oppression. This workshop focuses on participatory learning to tackle how we as TAs and TMs can structure our tutorials, labs and online messages and build up our classroom cultures in ways that produce not just equal opportunities to succeed, but equal outcomes of success (justice) for marginalized students, such as EAL learners, students with disabilities, racialized students, and folks with limited financial resources.

In this workshop, we will …

  • Review what oppression/anti-oppression and cultural responsiveness mean, and how they are maintained through institutions (not merely at the level of individuals)
  • Identify what groups face marginalization, in our own regional context and also on a broader scale
  • Cultivate an awareness of how the university is structured to benefit students with privilege at the expense of marginalized students
  • Critically assess sample course outlines and lesson plans to identify how they reproduce privilege and oppression in the university
  • Develop and implement anti-oppressive course-design and lesson-plan strategies

This workshop is intended for either beginning TAs and TMs or experienced educators from any discipline to begin the work of re-orienting their own teaching practices beyond the traditional understanding of higher education.

Fri, January 8 | 3:00–4:00 p.m.

Medical Benefits Information Session
Presenters: SFU Human Resources, International Services for Students, GSS/StudentCare


Representatives from SFU Human Resources, International Services for Students, and StudentCare will lead an information session on the various medical benefit plans available to teaching assistants and tutor-markers. There will also be an opportunity for you to ask questions related to your benefit plans of choice.

Other resources

In addition to these online workshops, self-directed, asynchronous learning will be available to TAs throughout the week via the Remote Teaching for TAs and TMs 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/Blackboard
  • Marking Assignments, Discussions and Exams
  • Facilitating Active Learning in Tutorials and Labs
  • Communicating with Your Course Supervisor
  • Holding Office Hours Online
  • Supporting Student Success

Enroll at: canvas.sfu.ca/enroll/GW3C6K


E: ceeevent@sfu.ca
T: 778 782 3910

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