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Negotiating between the Constant and the Changing: Balancing Acts in the Training of Writing Teachers

Authors
  • Zhao, Heping
Type
Published Article
Journal
European Journal of Language and Literature Studies
Publisher
Sciendo
Publication Date
Oct 01, 2023
Volume
9
Issue
2
Pages
1–10
Identifiers
DOI: 10.2478/ejls-2023-0011
Source
De Gruyter
Keywords
License
Green

Abstract

TA training is an important component of any rhetoric/composition program in American universities. As a faculty member in the Department of English, Comparative Literature, and Linguistics with a specialty in classical oratory and comparative rhetoric, I have been training TAs for over a decade as a significant portion of my teaching assignment. In my presentation, I would like to discuss the major factors that affect the quality of the TA training program and ways to balance these factors to maximize the learning experience for the TAs. TAs, short for “teaching assistants” or “teaching associates,” are graduate students in English who are assigned to teach a writing class or two, usually of beginning college level. It is essential that these graduate students be provided with detailed hands-on training both in theory and in practice every step of the way in order for them to feel confident and comfortable in the classroom. My role as their teacher and supervising instructor is to provide them with fundamental training, laying a solid foundation for them to grow professionally. As I see it, four major factors interact in the TA training process: the available theory, the institutional and academic expectations, the class of student writers they each teach, and the TAs themselves as a team. Some of these factors are relatively constant; others are fluid and always changing. They often present fresh challenges when they interact in the writing classroom. I would like to explore how these factors act upon each other and complement each other as I try to create an environment in which the TAs feel encouraged to learn and experiment on their own with a minimal amount of guidance. I will argue that, based on my years of experience and on the reflections by the TAs themselves, it is of critical importance that the focus be placed on the balancing of the four factors in an individualized approach for TA training.

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