This will be a list of frequently asked questions about teaching that we have received from graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. If you want to submit another question for a response (we will be adding to the FAQ list periodically), please email email@example.com with the subject line: FAQ REQUEST. Thank you!
- A student is challenging me on a grade I gave him/her, how to I respond?
- My students’ writing is terrible! What do I do?
- What is the best way to work with students for whom English is a second language?
- What if a student reveals to me, in my role as TA, that they were a victim of child abuse in the past?
- How do I handle students who are disrespectful to either myself or other students?
- What do I do if I suspect a student of plagiarism or cheating?
1. A student is challenging me on a grade I gave him/her, how to I respond?
All TAs should familiarize themselves with MSU Grades/Appeal Policies. Also, make sure that your grading policy is clearly outlined in your syllabus. If a student does challenge a grade, you might sit down with them and have a conversation about the grade they received - and consult with the Instructor of Record if need be. The majority of cases will be re- solved at this level. There is a terrific article about MSU Grade/Appeal policies on the website of the Office of the Ombudsman.
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2. My students’ writing is terrible! What do I do?
Undergraduate students will be coming to campus with varying writing abilities. Always talk to your instructor of record about how to consider writing quality in course assessments. Fortunately, there are a range of resources both on- and off-campus that can assist your students in improving their writing ability.
MSU Writing Center. Both in-person and on-line resources are available. The MSU Writing Center has several locations across campus, including satellite offices in neighborhood engagement centers. Some students may find the "Quick Guides" on the MSU Writing Center web site particularly useful.
Purdue On-line Writing Lab (OWL). A particularly useful resource for students needing assistance with grammar, citations and subject-specific writing.
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3. What is the best way to work with students for whom English is a second language?
Using excellent communication skills is the best way to work with all of your students. You might ask yourself the following questions to promote self-reflection that may lead you to use more optimal communication strategies that will benefit all students:
- Are my speech habits conducive to good communication and maximum student learning?
- Do I make every effort to speak in an orderly, direct manner?
- Do I avoid the attitudes of prejudice and emotional bias in my classroom planning and speaking?
- Do I speak at a rate that makes for effective comprehension?
- Do I speak with the appropriate volume for the size of the room and the number of students?
- Do I use variety in vocal expression—pitch, rate, loudness, and quality?
- As part of my regular presentations, do I include examples and explanations suitable to the levels of language and experience of my students?
- When a student addresses me, do I listen fully and courteously to both thought and feeling?
- When misunderstandings occur, do I explore them further and check out both my and my students’ assumptions?
- Do I respond fully to the student, with clear comments, using words, voice, gestures, and the like?
- Could some of the failures in the listening of my students be due to weaknesses in my speaking and/or listening habits?
Always feel comfortable referring students to the MSU English Language Center if you believe they need further assistance.
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4. What if a student reveals to me, in my role as TA, that they were a victim of child abuse in the past?
If an adult student (18+ years) tells you they were a victim of child abuse, you (as an employee of MSU) must consult with the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education & Dean of Undergraduate Studies (“Associate Provost”) when they receive a report of prior child abuse. The Associate Provost will confer with campus experts to determine whether, based on the information available, there is reasonable suspicion a child is currently being neglected or abused. The Associate Provost will then make any necessary reports to CPS and the MSU Police Department. The Associate Provost will also advise the employee regarding information to share with the disclosing student, including campus resources. Dr. Doug Estry is the current Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean of Undergraduate studies. He can be reached at 517-353-5380517-353-5380.
If you, in your role as TA, suspect, witness, hear about abuse of a child (under 18), you must call the MSU police at 517-355-2221517-355-2221.
Please refer to the comprehensive University Reporting Protocol.
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5. How do I handle students who are disrespectful to either myself or other students?
According to Article 2, Section 10 of the Academic Freedom Report, “The student and the faculty
share the responsibility for maintaining professional relationships based on mutual trust and civility.” Acts of incivility performed by a student can be handled in several different ways. Be sure to keep
open communication in the classroom. Early on in the class, be sure to set a supportive tone and set expectations. Using a syllabi as a guideline for outlining classroom behavior is also useful. See the “Civility/Incivility in the College Classroom” Page on the Faculty and Organizational Development website for details on how to handle disrespectful students. Always consult your instructor of record or course TA coordinator for advice.
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6. What do I do if I suspect a student of plagiarism or cheating?
If a teaching assistant suspects a student of plagiarism or any other type of academic dishonesty, he or she should consult with the instructor of record for the course. MSU has an Integrity of Scholarship and Grades Policy and the Protection of Scholarship and Grades Policy. The Office of the Ombudsman at MSU has a nice summary of MSU’s definition of “cheating”.
A growing problem at MSU is the use of electronic devices to facilitate cheating. TAs, in consultation with their instructor of record, should consider delivering this message to their students: “Please turn off, not place on silent, any electronic devices including cell phones, PDAs, iPads, etc. If it has a power button it needs to be turned off. Also please remove any watches, Bluetooth earpieces, or any other electronic devices you might be wearing.” If you and your Instructor of Record utilize TurnitIn in your course, MSU recommends language to put in your syllabus.
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