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Engineering Learning Center



Policy on Selection, Training and Evaluation of Teaching Assistants

Appointment and Training

The College of Engineering has established criteria for use in making teaching assistant appointments that include, but are not limited to consideration of academic record, letters of recommendation, previous relevant experience, and factors relating to the academic mission of the department. The establishment of criteria is delegated to the departments that post their criteria and submit them to the Dean for review.

The College of Engineering offers professional development programs for teaching assistants. Participation is mandatory and part of the College of Engineering conditions of employment for TAs. It consists of a half day session each semester with a general session on teaching techniques and four or more workshops of which each TA attends two each semester. Topics range from presentation techniques to laboratory safety and change somewhat from semester to semester so that experienced TAs find new material each time. An Initial Appointment Orientation workshop is designed for beginning TAs; attendance at this workshop is required. Additional teaching improvement programs for new and experienced TAs with required attendance are provided as resources permit.

All TAs are required to attend the Teaching Improvement Program each semester. When appointments are made after the program has been presented, or TAs miss the program for other valid reasons, they must arrange to view video recordings of some of the program.

Engineering departments are required to conduct program-specific TA training programs.

Video facilities are always available for TAs to use in refining their teaching techniques.

Workshops on educational and cultural expectations are a regular part of the College of Engineering TA teaching improvement programs. College of Engineering TAs are required to attend UW-Madison campus programs on harassment issues.

Engineering departments demonstrate competency in English of applicants whose native language is not English by: 1) using the SPEAK test per campus policy, 2) using a departmental panel consisting of at least a departmental administrator (usually the department chair) a member of the professorial faculty, and a member of the undergraduate student body. Departments report the assessment technique(s) used, and its efficacy, to the Dean who summarizes the information for the campus. Candidates not certified as competent in spoken English will not be appointed to TA positions in the College of Engineering.

Departments employing TAs report their appointment and training program to the Dean of the College of Engineering who approves those which meet the standards of the campus and College policies.


Teaching Excellence Through Continuous Improvement

All new TAs in the College of Engineering are observed by the professor in charge of the course and/or the chair or the chair-designee before the seventh week each of the first two semesters that appointments are held. Observers meet with the TA and summarize problems and means of improvement. If issues of concern develop, they are brought to the department chair.

All TAs in the College of Engineering are evaluated each semester via: 1) student evaluations and 2) the professor(s) in charge of the course(s) to which the TA is assigned. These evaluations are mutually reviewed by the professor and TA and summarized on a standard College of Engineering form for the chair of the department.

All departments in the College of Engineering that employ TAs use the valuation materials collected under 1. And 2. Above in making re-appointments and assignments.

The Dean of the College of Engineering assists departments in a continuing effort to improve teaching effectiveness and approves programs that meet the standards of the campus policy. Department chairs report annually to the dean:
their track record of appointments, re-appointments, and assignments,
their continuing efforts to improve teaching effectiveness and,
their proposed appointment criteria, plans, and policies for the next year with changes specifically noted.


Special Concerns

The College of Engineering has one process for receiving and addressing student concerns about teaching assistants and professors, and a program for aiding professors who need assistance. Mechanisms for assisting TAs are delegated to departments who report activities to the Dean for approval. These mechanisms are made known to graduate as well as undergraduate students.

The attached flowcharts show the continuous improvement process that the College of Engineering follows to improve teaching and learning.

Approved by the College of Engineering Academic Planning Council on January 13, 1993. Reviewed on August 17, 1998.

Instructions for Department TA Coordinators

Situations may occur that prevent a TA from attending either the New TA Program or the Continuing TA Teaching Improvement Program. Such situations include: late hire, weather problems preventing arrival, death in the family, or getting married that week. Department TA coordinators should evaluate circumstances to determine if TA reasons for not being able to attend seem valid and make appropriate decisions. If a TA has missed the program due to a late hire or prior approval is given for the TA to miss either of the workshops, then the TA is required to follow the procedures listed below.

Instructions for TAs Unable to Attend COE Workshops
Because you were a late hire or because you were given prior approval to miss either the New TA Orientation or the Continuing TA Teaching Improvement program, you are required to do the following preferrably during the first two weeks of the semester.

New TAs should watch the following four videos:
AV1000B - Successful Presentations
AV1000U - Designing and Grading Exams
AV1000HH - Issues of Diversity in Teaching and Learning
AV1000KK - Assessment of Student Learning
AV1000J - Discussion Skills that Work or AV1000W - Office Hours as a Tool for Understanding
AV1000P or AV1000M - Transition from Student to TA

Continuing TAs can choose any two videos from the attached list.

View the videotaped workshops from the Teaching Improvement Program (TIP). Videotapes can be picked up from the video checkout desk on the first floor of Wendt Library and reviewed at the library.

Write a one-page summary of each videotape. The summary should contain the following information:
Title of Presentation and Speakers
Two to three key points
How you would apply this information to your teaching and learning
Suggestions for improving the workshop or suggestions for other workshop topics

Arrange to discuss these summaries with one of the following people:
Faculty Supervisor
Department Chair
Department Administrator or TA Coordinator
Sandra Shaw Courter (608/265-9767 or

Obtain the signature of the person with whom you discussed the video.

Return the signed copy of the summary to your department administrator.
Note: If you would like a copy of the handout materials, please contact the Engineering Learning Center (608/263-3248 or, or your department TA Coordinator.


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