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04/13/92

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Centennial program boosts support, training for teaching assistants

In German studies, a group of teaching assistants has collected and classified songs, cartoons and literary pieces, to supplement and amplify their basic language textbook.

In chemistry, recently purchased equipment for a microteaching workshop enables 20 new teaching assistants to practice their presentation skills and receive feedback on them from experienced peers.

In political science, a series of workshops encourages TAs to share ideas on the challenges of good teaching, such as effective discussion leading, and gender and race in the classroom.

Though the fields are different, all three departments have something in common: a renewed commitment to training teaching assistants, thanks to Stanford's Centennial Teaching Assistant Program.

The program now is seeking nominations of outstanding teaching assistants for the 1992-93 academic year. Nominations should be submitted through department chairs.

In addition, all departments in Humanities and Sciences are invited to submit proposals, not to exceed 1,000 words in length, requesting funds to establish a new program of TA training or to enhance an existing program.

Conceived in 1989 by Dean of Humanities and Sciences Ewart Thomas, the Centennial TA program provides cash prizes of $500 to a dozen or more outstanding teaching assistants selected by their departments each year.

Last June, 19 teaching assistants were honored in the School of Humanities and Sciences, four in the School of Earth Sciences, and five in the School of Engineering.

The program also provides up to $2,500 to departments in the School of Humanities and Sciences that are willing to undertake new or improved TA training initiatives. Thus far, 18 departments have successfully applied for funds.

"Without a doubt, these resources have significantly affected the preparation and support of TAs in Humanities and Sciences," Thomas said.

Michele Marincovich, director of Stanford's Center for Teaching and Learning, agrees.

"The grants are really starting to make a difference in the amount and kind of preparation TAs are receiving," she said. "Those who are chosen for the Centennial TA prizes also feel recognized in a symbolically and practically important way."

Asian languages used its Centennial funds to introduce a workshop in language teaching and to develop a handbook for new teaching assistants, covering both administrative and pedagogical questions.

History introduced a training orientation for first-time teaching assistants, and philosophy has formalized its TA meetings into a course that includes videotaping and feedback.

More information is available from Stanford's Center for Teaching and Learning, 723-3257.

The Centennial Teaching Assistant Program was started by a gift from the late John A. Ditz and his wife, Ann Goodwin Ditz. John Ditz earned his bachelor's degree in general engineering at Stanford in 1942 and was a retired president of Foremost-McKesson Property Co. before his death in 1991. Ann Ditz received her bachelor's degree in psychology from Stanford in 1945.

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