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Undergraduate Teaching Assistant Pedagogy Training Workshop, Part 1


IU School of Medicine in Bloomington

By Charity F. Upson-Taboas, M.S., M.A. 1,2

Amberly Reynolds, M.S. 1

Theodore C. Smith, M.S. 1

Melissa Taylor, M.S. 1

1 Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, IU School of Medicine – Bloomington

2 Department of Anthropology, Indiana University – Bloomington



We are Assistant Instructors (AIs) teaching laboratory sections of our school’s undergraduate level anatomy course, A215: Basic Human Anatomy.  AIs are graduate students in Anatomy or related programs.  Our duties encompass short introductions, guiding students as they work with models, and demonstrations on a prosected donor.  Each laboratory section also has an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant (UTA).  UTAs are upper-level undergraduate students that have met specific requirements, and their role is to assist with the teaching mission of the Anatomy program. They are expected to develop insight into how people learn, and communication and leadership skills.  However, discussion between AIs and faculty revealed a need for training the UTAs to facilitate student learning.  A small group of us AIs put together a UTA Pedagogy Training Workshop all UTAs had to attend before classes started.  The goal of the workshop was multi-fold and the workshop had three main parts: “practices”, presentations”, and “preparation”.  

The Workshop:

The “practices” portion used a think-pair-share interaction with the UTAs, asking a variety of questions about what to do in class.  These questions included ways to increase discussion among students and how to be professional in the classroom.  The UTAs wrote responses on post-it notes which  everyone then reviewed after each question.  The “presentation” portion also used a think-pair-share approach.  We presented the UTAs with a variety of good, bad, and ugly presentation slides.  Everyone discussed which slides were which and why to help the UTAs identify what kinds of slides make good and effective presentations.  We then discussed the logistics of giving a presentation, such as tempo and vocal quality.  For the “preparation” portion, we broke the UTAs into small groups of three to four people.  We gave each group a specific scenario that they may encounter during lab.  These scenarios included a model, a histology slide, or a lecture-related question.  These situations showed the UTAs how much preparation is needed to be well equipped to guide student learning.

To Come:

We began the workshop with a pre-survey with likert-scale questions and open/qualitative questions to get at previous UTA experiences.  UTA experiences include interactions with their AIs when they took the class and what they thought their role is or will be.  We also asked how they felt about the workshop, what they expected from the training, and what their future goals and career plans were.  We gave the same survey again at the end of the workshop.  Further training will include update videos throughout the semester.  These videos will address how to proctor lecture exams, how to receive feedback, and how to deal with student-related issues.  The UTAs will complete an end-of-semester survey to rate their experience and examine how their perception of their role changed over the semester.  

The next blog post will address the preliminary results from the first pre-/post-workshop surveys and what went well with the training and where the training can improve.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.

Charity Upson-Taboas

Assistant Instructor

I am a graduate student at Indiana University Bloomington. I studied the effects of animations on learning cardiovascular embryology for my Masters in Anatomy Education. I am currently pursuing my PhD in Anthropology, studying the effects of diabetes on the skeleton and what diabetes looks like in archaeological context.