CS150 TA Duties: Spring 2000

Thanks for agreeing to be a TA for CS150! This course has a reputation among the students as being alot of hard work, but very rewarding. It is clearly one of the defining experiences for many of the students here at Berkeley.

As a TA, your primary responsibility is to the students. You will help them with the lab work and with the material presented in class and the book. You will probably spend most of your time helping them in the lab. The theoretical topics are fairly easy to understand from the lectures and readings, however, the practical skills used in the lab are more difficult to learn and require one-on-one assistance. Our effectiveness will be based on personal attention.

The key to successful teaching is preparation. It is very easy to underestimate the time and effort involved in preparing to teach a new idea. If you have ever lectured or tutored before you will understand that it is very easy to fool yourself into thinking that you easily understand a topic until you try to explain it to someone else. Therefore alot of your time will be spent getting yourself up to speed on the course material and preparing for lab sessions. Of course, the benefit of this for you is that you will really get to know the material well!

This semester we have limited the enrollment to 180 students (and we will not budge on this number). We have 6 TAs and one head TA. You will have primary responsibility for 30 students, these will be the ones assigned to your lab session. We would like for you to get to know these 30 students very well. You will be responsible for tracking their progress through the semester and giving them personal assistance when they need it. You will be the point of first contact for these 30 students when they have questions about course material or procedure. If you can't handle the question then you should pass them onto the head TA (Eylon Caspi) or the instructor (John Wawrzynek).

The following paragraphs provide a detailed description of duties. Refer to the on-line weekly schedule for information on the lab and discussion sections.

Attend Lectures and Lab Lecture:
So that we are all on the same page with regard to what was said in lecture and what topics are important and should be stressed, it is important that you attend the regular lectures. These are held Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:00-3:30.



Please also attend the lab lecture. This lecture is held each Friday at 2pm. Most weeks it will be held by Wawrzynek. He will go over the procedure for the following weeks lab exercise or project checkpoint.

Hold office hours:
You need to post times for and hold 2 office hours per week. One of these 2 hours should be held in the lab during a time when there is not a regularly scheduled lab session. The other should be held in a private office space. We will arrange some office space in Soda or Cory Hall. Anything goes during office hours, but we suspect that this time will be spent answering questions about homework assignments, lab exercises, or project checkpoints.
Do lab exercise the week before:
The week before each lab assignment goes out you must do the lab exercise yourself. This preparation is critical to you being able to assist the students the following week. It will refresh your skill with the equipment and CAD tools and put you in a position to steer them away from obstacles. We will reserve the lab for one or two sessions per week for TA use.
Assist in a lab session:
Earlier in the week, before you lead your own lab session, you will join another lab session and assist the lead TA. This will give you a graceful introduction to the problems students have with the lab and relive some of the pressure on the lead TA.
Lead a lab session:
Meet with your 30 students in the lab. Hold a brief discussion at the beginning of the 3 hours session. Get students started on the exercise. Move through the lab offering help and looking for problems. Inspect completed lab exercises and project check-points. Check-off and record results. Tidy up the lab. Record student results in the database.
Prepare section discussion:
Look over lecture material, reading assignments, weekly homework assignment and review lab exercise in preparation to teach a discussion session. You should try to anticipate questions based on office hour questions and from the experience of other TAs. Think about how to stimulate discussion.
Teach discussion section:
The primarily goal here is to make sure everyone understands the material presented in class. The most effective way to stimulate discussion is to reiterate the material presented in class through more examples.
Grade quizzes:
We will be having weekly quizzes in class based on the homework assignments. You will be responsible for grading some subset of the quizzes for your students. This way, you can better track their understanding of the material. If available course readers will grade the remainder of the papers. You will be responsible for recording the grades and then returning the papers during your lab section.
Attend staff meeting:
We will have a meeting with all the TAs every Friday from 11:30 to 1:00. Lunch will be provided.

TA responsibilities Summary:

Duty hours
Attend regular and lab lectures 4
Hold office hours 2
Do lab exercise week before 3
Assist in a lab section 3
Head a lab section 3
Prepare section discussion 1.5
Teach discussion section 1
Grade quizzes 1
Attend staff meeting 1.5

What you must do now:

Take a look at the weekly schedule. Pick out first second and third choices for 1) a lab section for you to lead, 2) an earlier lab section for you to assist in, 3) a discussion section, and 4) 2 office hours (these need not be continuous). Please send your preferences to me as soon as possible. Also, remember to reserve Tuesday and Thursday 2:00-3:30 and Friday 2-3 for lectures and Friday 11:30-1:00 for the staff meeting.

The first staff meeting will be held the Monday before classes start, 1/17, at 11am in 631 Soda Hall. Please mark your calender.

Head TA responsibility summary:

The head TA will maintain the class web pages, work with the instructor to devise weekly homework and quizzes, debug the lab exercises and do the handout, lead the TA lab sections (this is the time each week when the TAs actually do next weeks lab exercise, or project checkpoint), do spot checks in the lab during non section times, and fill in for the instructor for regular and lab lectures.

J. Wawrzynek 12/30/99 (johnw@cs.berkeley.edu)