Teaching as a T.A.

CUNY graduate students are often assigned to work as teaching assistants or lab instructors in support of large lecture classes. These assignments come with both opportunities and challenges for both the instructor and students. This workshop is designed to support teaching assistants and lab instructors in navigating their roles, and to aid in the development of approaches that maximize student learning. Our focus will be on instructor/T.A. relations and on linking lab/section syllabi and class activities.

This workshop was developed by John Zayac for the Teach@CUNY 2020 Summer Institute.

Learning Goals

    • Identify the potential opportunities and challenges that accompany a teaching assistantship – including thinking critically about teaching
    • Discuss potential approaches to maximize student learning across.
    • Prepare teaching assistants to work with one another and the lead instructor.


The role of a teaching assistant at CUNY varies widely across CUNY, with differences existing at the campus, departmental, course, and even instructor level. While there is typically less flexibility with being a T.A. rather than an instructor of record, there are many opportunities for a T.A. to support student learning and to professionally develop as a teacher.

Teaching as a TA at CUNY

Teaching as a T.A. Workshop Slides

Please start/join a conversation or post any questions or comments on this workshop’s slack channel: #taworkshop.

Prior to the workshop, participants should obtain the syllabus of the course they will be TAing. If this is not possible, some sample syllabi are available below:

Syllabi Links:

Biology II (BIO1201) – City Tech

Hydraulic Engineering (CE365) – CCNY

General Chemistry 2 (CHEM 10401) – (CCNY)

General Biochemistry 1 (CHEM376LC) – Hunter

Statistical Methods in Psychological Research (PSYC 3400) – Brooklyn

Sociology (SOCY101) – QCC

Introduction to Sociology (SOC101) – Hunter


Participants will be asked to develop sections of their own syllabus for their laboratory/recitation section with an eye towards creating structures and an atmosphere that promote student learning.

    • Look at the main or lecture syllabus for the class you are preparing to T.A.
      • Consider that every structure of the syllabus is a construction – and should serve a purpose.
      • Reflect on what you would keep/alter/discard in the course syllabus.
    • How can your syllabus reinforce/alter/mitigate the main syllabus with an eye towards student learning?
    • Start drafting your syllabus.

Helpful Links:

Tips for New Teaching Assistants Julie E. Dodd – Inside Higher Ed

10 Tips for First Time Teaching Assistants – academicpositions.com

Teaching Discussion Sections – UC Berkeley Teaching and Resource Center

Facilitating Laboratory Sections – UC Berkeley Teaching and Resource Center


Participants will exit the seminar with:

    • A broader, institutional sense of the role of TAs across CUNY.
    • Ideas of how TAs can positively impact student learning.
    • A framework for developing their own syllabi (if appropriate) or crafting student-centered policies to complete their TA responsibilities.