Note: Being a Teaching Assistant

This semester was my second semester being a teaching assistant and the experience varied greatly from last year. I also included the course I taught during the summer and a snippet on including homework in computation of grades.

Fall 2008:
Calculus I (110.108)
2 of 4 sections.
No quizzes required. I did not give quizzes.
HW: Choose problems randomly, independent amongst TAs (my students were from one lecture, the other TA's students were from the other lecture).
Need to grade 5 problems. My choice for point system. 5 points each.

I put a lot of emphasis on the learning process.
A lot of energy also went into the courses.
I spent a deal of time grading homework and exams problems.
5 points each is a terrible system. Too much guesswork when assigning points.
I was late in returning homework.

Summer 2009:
Calculus III
Online quizzes. Written by the other instructor. Conceptual.
HW: Chosen by the other instructor.
If I remember correctly, we graded 5 problems 5 points each. 5 points for completion.

The other instructor and I alternated, each doing a lecture and discussion.
Teaching a course online was interesting. We used, Wacoms, and microphone headsets.
The course I took as an undergrad used this book, so the material was easy to teach.
Homework was graded fairly late, but that's because we were hoping for a grader, which we didn't get.

Fall 2009:
Linear Algebra (110.201.03)
1 of 5 sections.
Quizzes required. I gave quizzes.
HW: Rotate choosing problems to grade amongst 3 TAs.
Instructor choose point system. Grade 5 problems 2 points each. 5 points for completion.

Didn't have as much chance to emphasize learning process.
Not as much energy went into the course.
I learned to grade efficiently on homework and exam problems.
5 points for completion is really freebie points. For the first assignment I tried to consider actual completion, but it isn't worth the time. See below.
I was generally on task returning homework.

Honors Linear Algebra (110.212.01)

1 of 1 section.
Quizzes not required. I did not give quizzes.
HW: Choose problems to grade and run by professor.
My choice for point system. Graded 7 problems 3 points each.

Lots of emphasis on learning process.
Class restricted by length of discussion.
I learned to grade efficiently on homework and exam problems.
It can't say that I enjoyed having to run my selection of problems by the professor, but it wasn't terrible.
I returned all the homework to the students on time.

Remark on Homework:
I never realized before, but it was brought to my attention that in terms of numbers, homework (and quizzes) don't help pad your grade. I would say if a homework is worth 20 points then students will average 17, that's 85% on homework. So if your grade was x% just on test scores, and now under homework counting for 20% of your grade, you instead have y%=[17+x*.80]%. The difference is 17%-.2*x%. If x=80, then you gained 1%, y=81. If x=70, then you gained 3%, y=73. If x=60, then you gained 5%, y=65. Thus, one could argue that if it weren't there, student wouldn't do homework and thus test scores would drop. While with homework, this would boost test grades. Let's say homework increased one's test scores by 5%. So the new difference is (17+1.05*x*.80)-x=17-.16x. Then we get the pairs (80,84.2), (70,75.8), (60,67.4). In any case, while homework should be assigned, it should only be a tool to reinforce concepts, not as an actual indication of performance.

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