In this “Tricks of the Trade” paper, I describe my experiences as a teaching assistant facilitating a peer-led team learning workshop class for the first time. Peer-led team learning has expanded as an alternate form of instruction for engineering students in recent years. Research studies repeatedly document many learning benefits for students in this method compared to traditional lecturing, particularly for underrepresented students. However, for a new teaching assistant, facilitating team learning sessions can be difficult. Many graduate students (or advanced undergraduate TA’s) may never have experienced team learning environments themselves, and institutions just starting peer learning may have no institutional knowledge of how they are run. Even veteran teachers may find the experience alien, leading team learning sessions is different in surprising ways from lecturing and tutoring.
I have kept a detailed journal following each class session. In this paper, I share some of my successes and failures leading team learning sessions. I use auto-ethnography to qualitatively examine my experiences and provide advice to facilitators. I examine the opportunities, pitfalls, and triumphs of the team learning experience from the perspective of a TA.
Keeping the journal itself was found to be a valuable tool, expanding my capabilities for reflecting on my own teaching as a TA. A well written journal can be used as a tool by the faculty instructors to monitor what is going on in the discussion workshops without frequent direct observation.
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