Expectations for Faculty, Course Associates, and Teaching Assistants who hold discussion sections

The Program in Human Biology is a degree granting undergraduate major that integrates the natural and behavioral sciences as they relate to the study of human beings. It has three main goals:

• To provide a broad and rigorous understanding to the biological and behavioral sciences and their inter-relationships; 
• To relate these sciences to the problems that exist in the relationship of human beings to one another and to their environment; 
• To help each student achieve a high level of understanding in one particular area of biological and behavioral sciences and its application.

The faculty expect the TAs to provide the pedagogical backup for the courses and to act responsibly towards the students. TAs should be familiar with all the Stanford policies governing professional behavior. The most important faculty expectation is that the TAs prepare themselves to teach the material. This means understanding fully what is being taught and why it is important.  Also, the faculty expect the TAs to inform them immediately if there are any sensitive issues either regarding students (e.g. honor code violation etc.) or among the TAs (e.g. perception of differential contribution to the job). This allows the faculty member to immediately attend to these issues before they become more difficult.

The role of a teaching assistant is to be the bridge between the faculty and the students. While the faculty provide the material of the course, in their lectures and readings, the TAs manage the administration of the course. This can range from the minute details of bringing overhead pens to lecture to deciding what to emphasize in section, to making the microphone work, to presenting review sessions. The TAs are expected to ensure that lecture runs smoothly everyday, arriving early with handouts, arranging the room and making certain that the lecturer, guest or coordinator, is there. They may also manage some of the behind the scenes work, writing and preparing examinations under faculty guidance, arranging rooms for DRC students, preparing section handouts.

The weekly sections taught by TAs often constitute the period where the bulk of student learning occurs. The more intimate sections allow students to ask questions and really interact with the material. Students’ interaction with TAs is usually their most direct contact with the Human Biology Program. Some students are demanding, and although TAs may not be able to accommodate their needs all the time, TAs should try their best to help students succeed at learning. 

The TAs expect the faculty to support the job of teaching sections, grading, holding office hours and all the other duties of the TAs by offering insight and information when needed. It is particularly important for the faculty to help the TAs understand the material and the rationale for teaching it in the course. The faculty establish the style of the course and set the pace; they determine what sections should be like and what course policies should be.