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Teaching Assistant

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Teaching Assistant

  To become a TA, please fill out this brief volunteer application or email with any questions.

Ada Teaching Assistant are available for questions and support during “open project time,” when students get to work independently on the project of the week. TAs usually sign up for a weekly shift of about two hours, although this is flexible to any individual TA’s needs. Some weeks the questions are light, and TAs can get some of their own work done in between assisting students. Other weeks, they’re working with Adies for the whole shift.

Ada TAs become a crucial part of students’ academic experience and their Ada community. TAs get to see the student journey from the time they walk in the door with little coding experience, to the time they’re accepting their first position as a junior dev.

Your role will be to:

  • know your audience is a group of women and gender diverse folks who are new to coding--students began their cohort with very little to no experience coding; Ada provides them with 7 months of intensive classroom experience in Ruby, Rails, HTML/CSS, and JS followed by a 5 month industry internship; please define terms, do not assume that they know something already, and do not refer to concepts as something that "programmers should already know", as something that "you can't get a job if you don't understand", or as “easy”. Things that are easy to you may be difficult to someone else, and trivializing them trivializes a person who struggles with them.
  • provide expertise knowledge to students on why/when/how coding structures are used
  • help students get "unstuck" by asking them probing questions, providing suggestions, and scaffolding the process of solving a problem
  • provide specific feedback to students about their code and problem solving approach
  • encourage and support students on their journey to being professional developers

Your knowledge and expertise as a seasoned programmer is invaluable to our students. We ask that you model your thinking to students by not just giving them the answers, but by asking them leading questions that help them find the solution with your guidance. Remember that our students are completely new to coding and that your support and guidance will help them achieve quicker and with more success!

What to expect

  • TA during class project time
  • Help students on a 1:1 or 1:few basis on project work, doing: code review, talking through approaches, or answering specific questions.

If there is down time while volunteering at Ada, you are more than welcome to work on projects of your own, but please ensure that students know that you are still available and that they are not "bugging you" when they ask for help. You could also code review during down time which would be very helpful to us!

Tips for being an Effective TA

Treat everyone fairly

  • We all form bonds with people at different levels. Do not allow this to influence who you help or how you answer questions. Be available to all students and make it a priority to spread out your help.

Cultivate independence

  • Demonstrate HOW to do something, and then ask the student to re-teach you.
  • Make sure the student is the one actually doing the work (i.e. Don't just take over! Let the student “drive” the keyboard.)
  • Offer additional examples/questions to “quiz” the student
  • Aim for improvement and long-term growth—not perfection!
  • Help them do the best work THEY can do (not the best YOU can do)

Be a good listener

  • Listen to what the student is asking for help with. Make sure you know the student’s current learning goals and current questions.
  • Ask for explanations of answers—particularly incorrect ones. Try to lead students to identifying their own misconceptions when possible.
  • Observe nonverbal cues (they might verbally say they get it, but do their body cues say the same?)
  • If you hear the same question numerous times, feel free to do an impromptu lesson or let an instructor know so they can do an impromptu lesson
  • Know when to answer student questions regarding social, academic, or personal issues, and when to direct the student to another resource.**

♦♦Please inform Ada staff should you have concerns about a student emotionally or academically.♦♦

Offer praise and encouragement, but without being phony

  • Acknowledge progress, even if there are still struggles/errors
  • Never ridicule incorrect answers
  • Share your own struggles and strategies

Provide constructive feedback

  • Demonstrate Positive Intention: Give comments with care and kindness.
  • Describe, Don’t Evaluate: Feedback should describe, rather than judge, a student’s work. For example, “You’ve broken this problem down into really good functions that eliminate redundancy of code and allows for specific code functionality testing” rather than “This code looks good” (which is a judgment and doesn’t describe what makes the code “good”.)
  • Be Specific, Not General: Give specific comments rather than general ones. For example, “In this section of code we could eliminate some of the loops if we…” rather than “This algorithm could be more efficient.”
  • Balance Feedback, Use the “sandwich” approach:
      1. Say something that worked well, 
      2. Offer a constructive suggestion for improvement, and 
      3. Mention another aspect that worked well. 
      For example, “I really like the UI for your form, but perhaps the controller could store the data using a…. Overall, the breakdown 
      of the problem is good, though!” 
      This approach will build a student’s confidence levels while they are developing their skills. 
  • Check Understanding: Check that the student understood your feedback. Ask the student to paraphrase what you’ve explained. Sometimes if the student verbalizes it, it can either affirm understanding or lead to additional questions.
  • Answer the Question: Your experience will enable you to see potential complications and inefficiencies in a student’s approach or architecture before the student does. Don’t deflect the conversation toward those unearthed issues. Work with the student to address their immediate concerns.
  • Pace Feedback: Only provide feedback to students at a rate they can integrate. For example, work on perhaps one main issue per session and suggest one way to strengthen the code.
  • Cultivate Two-Way Feedback: While part of your job as a TA is to provide helpful suggestions to students, you can also solicit their input on your feedback. For example, “What’s working for you in my explanations? How might I improve my delivery to better assist you?”

Be OK with not knowing all the answers

  • If a student asks a question you cannot answer, don’t be afraid to tell them you don’t know the answer and either will follow-up later or take the time to find the answer right then.
  • Show students how you find answers when you’re stuck, what resources are valuable to you, and how to evaluate the quality of potential solutions or explanations.

Near the end

  • Review main learning points of the session