Teaching Assistants’ (TAs) Role in Hybrid Teaching

Alice CHRISTUDASON, Grace WONG, Siok Kuan TAMBYAH
NUS Business School

The authors share their experience of engaging Teaching Assistants (TAs) to support hybrid lessons, covering the expectations and responsibilities of TAs during such sessions, as well as the ways in which the instructors can facilitate such TA engagement.

NUS Biz
Photo courtesy of NUS Business School
Christudason, A., Wong, G. K. M., & Tambyah, S. K. (2021, Nov 29). Engaging Teaching Assistants (TAs) for Hybrid Teaching. Teaching Connections. https://blog.nus.edu.sg/teachingconnections/2021/11/29/teaching-assistants-tas-role-in-hybrid-teaching/

 

The Covid-19 pandemic has presented various challenges to NUS educators as we try to maintain the quality of the learning experience for students in the face of safe distancing measures. Due to restrictions on class sizes and the limitations of physical capacity, some classes have to be taught in a hybrid format, where some students are attending class face-to-face (F2F) while others are online “Zooming” in. Even if the pandemic is under control, hybrid classes may continue for some graduate programmes which generally have more international participants who are unable to be physically in Singapore.

Hybrid teaching during the pandemic has increased the number of tasks and the multi-tasking required of instructors in the classroom. For example, there are classroom protocols that instructors have to attend to, such as the Classroom Attendance System (CAS). Instructors are also attending to two “audiences”- one on-site and the other on Zoom. In these scenarios, the help of teaching assistants (TAs) for the more technical tasks enables the instructor to concentrate on teaching and interacting with the students who are physically present in class.

 

Expectations and Responsibilities of the TAs to Support Hybrid Lessons

The expectations from TAs engaged for hybrid teaching in the NUS Business School are different from the usual duties of TAs. TAs for hybrid teaching are primarily tasked to assist in operational issues and classroom protocols. They are not involved in teaching or grading.

TAs responsibilities

When there is full F2F attendance in class, the TA may be left with little or nothing to do in terms of monitoring students on Zoom. However, they can still help the instructor with class protocols and keep track of class participation.

 

The Facilitating Role of the Instructor

The extent to which a TA can help with the tasks related to operational issues and classroom protocols depends on the instructor’s requirements and to some extent, the class size. It is the instructor’s prerogative to establish clear and distinct expectations and responsibilities for the TAs. The TAs should also be informed and given guidance on the need for impartiality with regard to interactions with the students in the class. There should be no conflicts with PDPA guidelines1, and the confidentiality of student data must be preserved at all times. For instance, TAs should not have access to students’ marks or grades in the university’s learning management system LumiNUS.

Briefing and training sessions for TAs on IT-related issues should be conducted prior to the start of the semester. It would be useful for instructors to attend the sessions as well. These sessions can focus on helping TAs to:

  • operate the audio-visual equipment in the classrooms.
  • be familiar with using Zoom and LumiNUS.
  • be updated about the CAS and Safe Management Measures at NUS, including information about the Green Pass etc.

Another important aspect of ensuring the TA engagement works well for all parties involved is to recruit and work with suitable TAs. Apart from the acquisition of skills during the briefing and training sessions, TAs with a good command of English and are comfortable handling interpersonal interactions would be ideal.

As suggested by some colleagues, instructors could also reach out to past students to be TAs. They are familiar with the content, classroom protocols, and the instructor’s teaching style. This will also mitigate the issue of engaging students who may decide to take the module later and have an unfair advantage .

 

Alice CHRISTUDASON

Alice CHRISTUDASON is an Associate Professor at the Department of Real Estate in the NUS Business School. She teaches a wide range of Law subjects at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and on various Executive programmes. She has won several NUS Annual Teaching Excellence Awards as well as been on the Honour Roll. She served previously as Vice-Chair at the NUS Teaching Academy and was involved in the Professional Development Programme at CDTL. She is also involved with Teaching Mentorship in the Department. Her research in areas related to Real Estate Law and educational pedagogy have been published in books, international journals and presented at international and local conferences.

Alice can be reached at bizalchr@nus.edu.sg.

Grace WONG is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Real Estate, NUS Business School. She has taught a wide range of core, elective and GEM modules, and was inducted into the NUS Annual Teaching Excellence Award: Honour Roll (2020-2024). She is also a Vice-Chair of the NUS Teaching Academy Executive Council, Fellow of the NUS Teaching Academy as well as Member of the Teaching Excellence Council at the NUS Business School. Her teaching research publications, which focus on her pedagogical initiatives, are featured in Ideas on Teaching, CDTL Brief, CDTLink, Teaching Connections as well as in conferences for teaching and learning in higher education.

Grace can be reached at rstgwong@nus.edu.sg.

Siok Tambyah

Siok Kuan TAMBYAH is an Associate Professor in Marketing and the current Chair of the Teaching Excellence Council at the NUS Business School. She is also a Fellow at the College of Alice & Peter Tan. Her research and teaching interests include consumption and identity, consumer culture, happiness, and cross-cultural consumer behaviour. In addition to disciplinary research, she is involved in pedagogical research on learning outcomes related to residential colleges.

Siok can be reached at biztsk@nus.edu.sg.

 

Acknowledgements

Alice, Grace, and Siok are members of the Teaching Excellence Council at the NUS Business School. This write-up is based on our experiences and those of our colleagues who have engaged TAs to help with hybrid teaching needs. Some of these reflections were shared at a recent teaching workshop. In particular, we would like to acknowledge the contributions of Andrew Delios, Winston Kwok, Vivien Lim, Usa Skulkerewathana, Wu Pei Chuan and Yu Shi Ming.

 

Endnotes

  1. This refers to the Personal Data and Data in Singapore (PDPA). Full details of how these guidelines are applied in NUS can be found here.