Often the pressure put on undergraduate students to navigate academia can be influenced by the interactions between the student and the teacher — and student evaluations, which fill students' inboxes at the end of the semester, can help.
Many students at UNC encounter course sections taught by a teaching assistant instead of a professor. Teaching assistants sometimes supplement professors' work in larger classes or teach their own sections, depending on the way the course is structured. Often classes led by a teaching assistant are meant to facilitate student discussion in a closer, recitation setting.
Molly Sutphen, associate director and teaching and learning coordinator for the Center for Faculty Excellence, works to ensure teaching assistants have the proper preparation and assistance to ease any possible concern. She said she has worked closely with professors and teaching assistants to learn what works and what doesn’t when it comes to teaching, and student evaluations provide important feedback.
“They’re prepared, and they are always undergoing that formation to be an excellent teacher,” Sutphen said. “They have the professor, they have students that give them feedback all the time, and we do offer lots of resources; we have workshops, books, individual consultations, the fellowship program and they have each other.”
Training for teaching assistants varies between departments but typically includes a mandatory workshop. The training can include an optional course that gives instruction on teaching the subject.