Classroom with students taking notes on laptops and instructor talking while sitting

Pillars of Teaching Assistantship


Instructional Development’s “Pillars of Teaching Assistantship” workshop series and certificate is designed to provide TAs with a comprehensive, research-based foundation for teaching in the role of a TA. Any UCSB TA can participate in one or more of the “Pillars” workshops; those who wish to receive the “Pillars” certificate must complete all 4 modules within one year. Each “Pillars” module consists of one or two workshops with brief pre-workshop assignments and post-workshop reflections on learning (for a total of 6 workshops). For those who intend to complete the "Pillars" certificate program and are actively attending workshops, participation may qualify you for CalFresh benefits

Pillars of Teaching Assistantship Overview Video

Workshop 1: Fostering Belonging and Community in the Classroom

Being part of an academic community is a hallmark of the UCSB educational experience. This workshop introduces TAs to the values, perspectives, and strategies we use at UCSB to foster a sense of belonging and community in our classes.

Attendees will:

  1. Use diversity statistics and other information about UCSB’s student population to reflect on approaches to learning and definitions of inclusive teaching.
  2. Reflect on the implications of their own life experience and biases about teaching and learning as related to their role as a TA.
  3. Explore a variety of inclusive teaching, communication, and classroom management strategies that help students feel a sense of belonging and safety. 
  4. Examine common learning situations that TAs encounter, and determine how to address them in appropriate ways.

Workshop 2A: Active Learning: What, Why, How?

Students learn better when they are actively participating in the learning process rather than passively listening. In this workshop, you will differentiate between active learning and passive listening, identify elements that foster active learning, and apply a variety of instructional methods.

Attendees will:

  1. Explain the difference between active learning and passive listening, in terms of students’ cognitive processes and learning gains.
  2. Deconstruct simple active learning strategies to identify instructional elements that should be planned, such as giving directions, timing, small group management, furniture, etc.
  3. Identify the basic elements of establishing a class atmosphere that supports active learning.

Workshop 2B: Developing Engaging Sections

Creating lessons is essential, but how can we ensure those lessons are engaging for our students? In this workshop, you will use learning objective taxonomies and a lesson planning framework to design active, student-centered classes.

Attendees will:

  1. Compose learning objectives for a discussion section or lab.
  2. Describe learning activities that engage students during section
  3. Plan meaningful activities for section, as well as pre-/post- section activities.

Workshop 3A: Effective questioning and classroom assessment techniques

Much of a TA’s role during section is to formulate generative questions, structure activities that check student understanding, and give effective feedback. In this workshop, you will explore several classroom-based assessment and questioning techniques that are based on the principles of giving effective feedback.

Attendees will:

  1. Explain the fundamentals of designing activities that scaffold learning in sections.
  2. Describe the difference between feedback and feed-forward in summative and formative assessments.
  3. Experience and plan to implement a variety of questioning techniques and no/low-stakes classroom assessment techniques.

Workshop 3B: Designing and Grading Assessments

TAs are responsible for creating, implementing, and evaluating assessments. But what makes a good assessment? How can we use assessment to support learning? And what are some reasonable ways to grade student work? In this workshop, you will use principles from evidence-based design to make assessments more focused and impactful, and help you with practical grading strategies.

Attendees will:

Explore a variety of ways to grade student work efficiently based on its role as a summative or formative assessment.

  1. Consider how students use feedback and feed-forward in their studies to inform the TA’s use of grading/feedback strategies.
  2. Practice designing questions and tasks for assessment.
  3. Recognize what information about student learning is provided by an assessment.

Workshop 4: Improving Teaching Through Feedback and Reflection

Good teachers never stop learning how to improve their classes. This workshop helps TAs develop a sustainable plan for continuous improvement and professional development as teachers.

Attendees will:

  1. Explore approaches to professional growth as a teacher that see it as a long-term process of continual experimentation, humility, and improvement through regular and purposeful reflection.
  2. Plan to implement a method for obtaining real-time feedback from students about your teaching during the quarter.

Integrating Pillars into TA Training

The workshop series is designed to be flexible and can be utilized by departments, and individual TAs, as follows:


For departments or individual TAs that do not have a required TA training course:

  1. TAs may complete one or more of the Pillars workshop series to enhance their effectiveness and efficiency as a TA.
  2. TAs who register for and complete the entire Pillars workshop series (consisting of 6 workshops and brief pre- and post- workshop activities), within a one-year period will receive a certificate of completion, enhancing their ability to secure TAships across campus.
Pillars of teaching assistantship
students walking

Departments with existing TA training courses may:

  • Request that Instructional Development host one or more of the Pillars workshops for their TAs, during the normal TA course meeting time, to complement their existing TA training program. Contact to schedule a workshop.
  • Encourage or require their TAs to attend one or more of the TA pillars workshops during the times they are offered at ID each quarter.
  • Download and adapt lesson plans and supporting materials for each of the Pillars workshops.

Many thanks to UCLAs to UCLA's Center for the Advancement of Teaching for sharing their "Foundations" TA training curriculum for the development of this program.


Instructional Consultation
1130 Kerr Hall

TA Development Program
1130 Kerr Hall