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New TA Programming

Welcome to McMaster University!   

Teaching assistants (TAs) are essential to undergraduate education at McMaster. Working as a TA also offers you unique opportunities and experiences that will contribute to your personal and professional development.  

 This page is intended to provide you with valuable information about the McMaster teaching and learning context, which will help you in your role as a TA at this university. Click on each of the accordions below to learn more.   

Expandable List

As a TA at McMaster, you are a member of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Local 3906, Unit 1. The CUPE 3906 Unit 1 website has a wealth of resources that will be of value to you in your role as a TA, including the current collective agreement.

As a CUPE Local 3906, Unit 1 employee, you are required to complete 5 hours of mandatory paid training that will include instruction on topics in pedagogy and anti-oppression. The training program includes online asynchronous workshops on Anti-Oppression (2-hours) and TA Professionalism, Rights, and Responsibilities (1-hour). The additional 2 hours of training will be selected from a menu of centrally offered elective online workshops outlined in Avenue to Learn, McMaster’s primary learning management system. The paid training is to be completed once during your employment as a Unit 1 member at McMaster, not once per appointment. 

Self-registration for the training is available through the regulatory training tile in Mosaic. Once registered, the training online asynchronous workshops will be available in Avenue to Learn approximately 15 minutes after registration (between 7am and 9pm). This document outlines how to register for the training. When registering for the training in Mosaic, ensure you select the appropriate training based on your Faculty/Department assignment (e.g., Engineering Paid TA Training). 

For additional information please review the frequently asked questions document.

This guide offers an introduction to being a TA at McMaster, providing information to help you fulfill your responsibilities and offering suggestions and ideas for you to test out and refine in ways that respond to your students and satisfy your goals as a teacher.  

It covers: 

  • An overview of Hours of Work contracts, training, and important policies 
  • Possible duties you may have in your role as a TA and considerations for working with other members of a teaching team 
  • Tips on how to prepare for and run a terrific first tutorial or lab 
  • Considerations for being a TA in an online classroom 
  • Strategies and resources for creating and maintaining an accessible and inclusive classroom 
  • Advice for managing office hours and communicating with students 
  • Guidance on assessing student learning and providing feedback 
  • Common questions and challenges you may experience and how to address them 
  • Ideas about how to get feedback from your students about your teaching style and technique 
  • Guidance on creating a teaching portfolio.

Find the guide here.

Watch experienced TAs at McMaster share their advice, insights, and experiences. Several questions have been posed to a panel of graduate students, with representation across the Faculties.  

Teaching and Learning Supports and Services

  • Teaching & Learning Certificates of Completion Program – The MacPherson Institute offers two Certificates of Completion: (1) Theory and Inquiry and (2) Practice and Application. Participating in the Certificates of Completion courses will provide a strong foundation in different pedagogical approaches, as well as the opportunity to practice your instructional skills, prepare common teaching documents (e.g., teaching portfolio, teaching philosophy, course outlines, and lesson plans), and access supportive networks of peers and educational development staff. 
  • Teaching Observation – With this service, you will receive feedback on your teaching from a staff member at the MacPherson Institute. Following a consultation to identify areas of focus (e.g., you might be interested in feedback on your engagement strategies, presentation style, content organization, or integration of educational technologies), a MacPherson Institute staff member will observe one of your classes of your choosing. Thereafter, they will consult with you a second time to discuss their observations and support you in identifying next steps to enhance your teaching and the course. To request an observation, please use the MacPherson Institute Request Form. 
  • Teaching and Learning Consultations – The MacPherson Institute offers one-on-one and teaching team consultations on a range of topics, including consultation and resources on specific teaching methods and course design; and guidance or feedback on teaching portfolio development, including teaching philosophy statement and evidence of teaching effectiveness. To request a consultation, you can use the MacPherson Institute Request Form or reach out directly to your Faculty Liaison Contact. 

Teaching and Learning Resources

In addition to the Teaching Assistant Guide, you may find it helpful to consult the following resources: 

  • Learning Catalogue – The Learning Catalogue is a collection of asynchronous online modules that cover a wide range of teaching and learning topics related to instructional skills; educational technology; equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility; and professional development. 
  • Avenue to Learn Knowledge Base – The Avenue to Learn Knowledge Base provides tutorials, FAQs, update notifications, and other helpful tools pertaining to Avenue to Learn. 

Subscribe to the MacPherson Memo, our weekly teaching and learning newsletter that includes timely information about events and conferences, professional development opportunities and other teaching and learning updates and information.