Service-Learning teaching assistants
The Service-Learning Teaching Assistant Program offers faculty critical support for coordinating student service experiences and ensuring quality service and reflection. It gives students a unique opportunity to develop professionally, engage more deeply with the community and collaborate closely with a faculty member. Service-learning teaching assistants work an average of five hours each week throughout an academic semester.
Service-Learning teaching assistants fill a number of critical support roles, including:
- Leading class discussions
- Monitoring student service hours and participation
- Liaising with community partners
- Providing feedback on written reflections
- Planning projects or events related to the course
- Mentoring students about community engagement skills and best practices
Get a teaching assistant
If you are teaching a designated service-learning course in an upcoming semester, consider how an SLTA/SLGTA might help in your service-learning class. Then, talk to an outstanding student about serving as your teaching assistant during the upcoming semester, preferably a student you know and have taught previously.
Once the invited student agrees to work as your SLTA, nominate the prospective service-learning teaching assistant by filling out the online SLTA nomination form. Nominated students must then submit an online SLTA/SLGTA Application.
Working with your SLTA or SLGTA
A teaching assistant can help you manage your teaching load in many different ways, and how you choose to incorporate them into your class is up to you. However your SLTA/SLGTA fits into your class, we ask that all instructors consider the following guidelines for cultivating a constructive relationship with your teaching assistant(s):
- Establish clear job responsibilities for your teaching assistant before the beginning of the semester. This includes expectations for class attendance, grading journals, site visits, regular contact with service sites, monitoring student service hours and facilitating reflection activities.
- Hold weekly meetings with your teaching assistant.
- Introduce your teaching assistant to the class and explain the TA’s role at the first class meeting.
- Act as a mentor to your teaching assistant.
- Empower the position of teaching assistant.
Evaluating your SLTA or SLGTA
Instructors working with a SLTA will be asked to complete a written evaluation of their teaching assistant twice a semester and to share these evaluations with them in constructive, face-to-face meetings. These evaluations function both as grades for your SLTA/SLGTA and as important opportunities to develop professionally.
Become a Service-Learning teaching assistant
SLTAs have opportunities to work closely with faculty mentors and to learn alongside other highly engaged students. SLTAs will:
- Gain real-world experience working as an educator and community liaison.
- Enhance leadership skills and professional identities.
- Gain self-knowledge such as awareness of personal strengths and leadership styles.
- Develop interpersonal skills such as resourcefulness, giving and receiving feedback, working with diverse populations and listening without judgment.
- Improve problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.
- Deepen understanding of civic and social structures and their impact on everyday life.
- Collaborate with a faculty member and mentor.
- Gain networking opportunities and build résumé credentials for future education or employment.
Students who are interested in becoming SLTAs must be nominated by a VCU service-learning instructor. All STLAs take academic courses and receive academic credit for their coursework as service-learning teaching assistants.
To become an SLTA:
- Service-learning instructors must nominate the prospective service-learning teaching assistant by filling out the online SLTA nomination form.
- The nominated student then completes and submits the online SLTA/SLGTA Application.
- Specific information and courses:
The undergraduate SLTA Program serves as a crucial element in VCU’s service-learning program. SLTAs enhance the learning experiences of students who are enrolled in service-learning classes and help faculty members manage the logistical details of their service-learning class and service placements. Students may serve as SLTAs for multiple instructors and continue collaborating with their faculty mentors.
- First-time SLTAs: Undergraduate students who are accepted into the SLTA Program must enroll in CMST391syllabus (PDF). This 3-credit seminar course provides SLTAs with support, instruction and professional development for their role as STLAs.
- Returning SLTAs: Undergraduate students who continue serving as SLTAs for a second semester enroll in CMST 411 (PDF). This 1-credit seminar course offers advanced learning and opportunities for experienced SLTAs to serve as peer leaders in the CMST 410 seminar. SLTAs who continue for more than two semesters take CMST 492, an independent study, designed collaboratively with their mentor faculty member and the service-learning office staff.
SLTAs receive academic credit for these courses and pay tuition for them.
The Service-Learning Graduate Teaching Assistant (SLgTA) Program apprentices graduate students to outstanding, community-engaged faculty members in the student's academic discipline. SLgTAs enroll in CMST 691 (PDF) and collaborate with their mentor faculty member and the service-learning program director to individually tailor their course requirements and SLgTA roles.
SLgTA roles often include teaching, research and service responsibilities, thereby preparing graduate students for future faculty positions. New SLgTAs are strongly encouraged to attend the Community Engagement Institute prior to the semester in which they serve as an SLgTA.
SLgTAs must be nominated by a service-learning class instructor. If you are a graduate student and are interested in becoming an SLgTA, please contact a service-learning instructor within your academic program.