TA Day: Graduate Student Conference on Teaching


TA Day has welcomed new graduate students to Western for over 30 years, introducing graduate students to teaching at Western and helping prepare them for their roles as teaching assistants. In addition to 3 hours of synchronous online sessions on the morning of September 7, a number of TA Fundamentals eLearning modules will be available to all registrants:

  • Inclusive Pedagogy: What TAs Need to Know
  • Making the Most of Your Office Hours
  • Mental Health 101: Supporting Student Wellness
  • Preparing to Grade
  • Teaching Your Students to Write Better
  • 10 Techniques to Explain Difficult Concepts in Science
  • Time Management for TAs

This year's conference will be hosted online in an OWL site, which will contain Zoom links for synchronous sessions, TA resources, and TA Fundamentals eLearning asynchronous modules.

Please note: This is an optional professional development event that does not count towards the Western Certificate in University Teaching and Learning.

TA Day: Online Synchronous Conference Schedule
Wednesday September 7th, 2022 9:00am-12:00pm

Welcoming Remarks - 9:00am to 9:10am

Dr. Melanie-Anne Atkins, Associate Director, TA Programs, CTL

Keynote Presentation - 9:10am to 10:00am

shaunaburkeiBelong@Western: The Teaching Assistant’s Role in Facilitating Social Connectedness among University Students

Dr. Shauna Burke, Associate Professor, School of Health Studies

Keynote Description

Teaching Assistants play a significant role in facilitating students’ perceptions of belonging and social connectedness in a university setting. As a long-time Instructor of a large first-year class of more than 500 students (and several TAs), Dr. Shauna Burke will share some personal experiences and insights about supporting and enhancing undergraduate students’ experiences in both online and in-person teaching environments. Dr. Burke will also provide a brief overview of her team’s “iBelong” program of research focused on young people’s perceptions of social connectedness throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as their ongoing “iBelong@Western” social media campaign and research study. Lastly, on the basis of this research, and in line with her background in group dynamics, Dr. Burke will discuss several evidence-based strategies TAs can use in their interactions with students to help them feel welcomed, valued, and an integral part of the Western community.  

About Dr. Shauna Burke

Dr. Shauna Burke, Ph.D.,'s research area is child and adolescent health, with a specific focus on health behaviours, childhood obesity, and group dynamics/social connectedness. In addition to over 100 presentations, workshops, and invited lectures at national and international scientific conferences, Professor Burke has published numerous book chapters and peer-reviewed research articles in the areas of physical activity, group dynamics, and public health. Dr. Burke is also co-author of a widely used Canadian health textbook entitled “Core Concepts in Health”, now in its third edition. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, Professor Burke is the Principal Investigator of the “iBelong” program of research, investigating young people’s adherence to public health guidelines, health behaviours, social media use, and perceptions of social connectedness and psychological wellbeing throughout the pandemic. Professor Burke has also received numerous prestigious awards in recognition of her excellence in mentorship and teaching.

Break - 10:00 am to 10:10 am

Concurrent Sessions A - 10:10am to 11:00am

A-1: Preparing for Your First Lab

What should I be doing before my first lab? How will I know what to say to my students? What is my job, anyway? This introductory session will prepare new TAs to facilitate their first lab sessions.

A-2: Preparing for Your First Tutorial

Should I be prepping material for my first tutorial? What is the difference between tutorial and lecture? How will I get students to participate? This introductory session will prepare new TAs to facilitate their first tutorials.

Break - 11:00 am to 11:10 am

Concurrent Sessions B - 11:10am to 12:00pm

B-1: How TAs Can Foster Student Belonging

As a TA, you play an important role in ensuring our undergraduate students are seen and heard. This session will cover simple strategies to build "student-centered" classrooms that welcome student voice and humanize the learning experience.

B-2: Helping International and New Resident Students Feel Seen and Understood

What does it take to practice cultural humility in your classroom? How do you explain and respond to troubling behaviours that don’t seem to align with your cultural norms? In this session, you will explore TA-based scenarios to help you and your students build an inclusive classroom culture that values trust and understanding.

Conference Information

Upcoming Online Conference

September 7th, 2022 from 9:00am-12:00pm - Registration is closed


Registration Instructions

  1. Login to Western Connect using your Western username and password.
  2. Go to the Centre for Teaching and Learning section and select Event Calendar.
  3. Search for and select the event you wish to register in. Details and a description of the program will appear.
  4. Select the Register for this Event button.
  5. You will receive an automated confirmation email to your Western email account. 

If you have any questions or problems registering for this event, please consult our help guide or contact ctl@uwo.ca.


TA Day is held every year after Labour Day.


All incoming graduate students. You do not have to be a Teaching Assistant.


By the end of the day, each student will be able to:

  • apply strategies for engaging undergraduate students and teaching effectively in their own disciplinary context
  • describe the roles and responsibilities of Teaching Assistants and identify the principles and policies that guide their work with students
  • find and recommend teaching and learning resources to students, such as writing and learning skills services, library resources, and wellness support
  • identify future teaching development opportunities that they can pursue throughout your graduate career at Western.

What to expect

  • You do not have to be a Teaching Assistant to attend TA Day. All incoming graduate students are welcome.
  • Sessions are interdisciplinary and led by experienced instructors.
  • Register to receive access to our OWL site where both synchronous sessions and asynchronous modules will be hosted.

Asynchronous Sessions

Registering for TA Day also gives participants access to the following seven TA Fundamentals eLearning modules:

Inclusive Pedagogy: What TAs Need to Know

As TAs, how we interact and engage with our students influences the quality of the experiences undergraduate students have in our courses. Being well informed and taking actions that make our classrooms more diverse, anti-racist, equitable, and accessible will allow all students, especially those who are racialized or marginalized, better opportunities to succeed and thrive. Explore this module for an introduction to inclusive pedagogy – an approach to course design, assessment, student engagement and teaching that incorporates the principles of diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion to encourage and enrich student learning.

Making the Most of Your Office Hours

Holding office hours is one of the most common TA duties, but it can also be one of the most vague in terms of what is expected of you. This brief module offers tips and resources for TAs who will be holding office hours.

Mental Health 101: Supporting Student Wellness

What is mental health and how can you support it? Take this module to learn the basics about mental health, including the resources available to you and your students. Then, learn a simple framework you can use to support wellness in the classroom, during your office hours with students, and in your own life.

Preparing to Grade

Grading can feel like a big responsibility and, in a lot of ways, it is! This module will guide you through some of the "need to know" basics to get you prepared to grade assignments as a Western TA, including an introduction to the standards that should guide your grading, practical tips to manage your time, and clear strategies for ensuring you are as fair and effective as possible.

Teaching Your Students to Write Better

This session is brought to you by the Writing Support Centre. “Students can’t write” has been a popular lament amongst professors for centuries. Writing is difficult, but with proper instruction, your students will be able to negotiate the complex world of academic prose. If becoming a better teacher by learning strategies that will help your students write better is not enough incentive to view this asynchronous module, then consider that a well-written paper is much less time-consuming to grade than a poorly-written one.

10 Techniques to Explain Difficult Concepts in Science

Every discipline in Science has a number of difficult and complex concepts that are not always intuitive. The good news is that as a TA, you can you help students learn by the way you explain these concepts in class, in the lab, or during your office hours. This module gives you 10 key strategies to help prepare you for this task. After all, when you can explain it, you truly understand it!

Time Management for TAs

This session is brought to you by Learning Development & Success. To be successful in the dual roles of student and TA requires a carefully planned balancing act. The two videos and accompanying workbook in this module will explore a variety of time and self-management strategies that can help you be an effective and efficient student and TA.

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Testimonials from TA Day Participants

“It was great to have such diverse and informative sessions. The keynote speaker was the highlight of the day.”

“The presenters connected well with us in the audience and spoke about topics that I felt were of importance to everyone. Their speeches were humorous as well as educating and they touched on difficult subjects without oversimplifying them. I felt like a colleague getting advice rather than an unknowledgeable student in those moments, which reflects the position I am supposed to be in as a graduate student.”

“The sessions were very interesting because they provided new information (that would be difficult to find elsewhere) that was directly applicable our lives as TAs. The presenters were friendly, explained things clearly, and took the time to answer questions. Their advice was relevant and easy to follow.”