TFs & Teaching Teams

As we all adjust to teaching remotely, faculty and graduate student TFs are learning how to use new tools and teach in new ways, just as undergraduates are also learning to navigate this new terrain. As instructors learn new tools they are also sharing them with students; never before have we all been so clearly teaching and learning together. We have compiled some key tips for teaching teams as they make this transition:

  • Meet regularly to maintain pedagogical coherence across the course. We recommend that the teaching team for a class meet regularly via Zoom (or similar platform) to discuss course activities, plans for sections, and challenges that arise.

  • Revisit roles and responsibilities. Decide on the different roles of the team, given the new remote environment, for lecture, section, and other components of the course. Given the additional logistics that may be required to teach larger courses online, it is more important than ever that you maintain clear communication within your teaching staff. You could use this pre-term planner for use given this transition to remote teaching; who will be responsible for these features of the course?

    • Lecture. As faculty modify their lectures for an online format, TFs can play a helpful role in managing aspects of the course's online environment during lecture, by monitoring the Zoom chat, dividing students into Zoom breakout rooms, administering online polls, and/or connecting students with the helpdesk if they encounter a technological problem.

    • Section. Faculty and TFs together can decide the best format for remote sections given their goals and objectives. Does it make sense to run sections via Zoom, or to plan asynchronous work via Canvas or other online tools?

    • Office Hours / Individual support. Both faculty and TFs can consider ways to sustain community with the class, making sure there are clear communication channels, and venues for feedback (by email, in virtual office hours, etc.)

  • Decide on communication protocols. How will you work together in the new environment? Will you edit assignment prompts or problem sets together in Google Docs? How should TFs ask questions of each other and of the course head? (By email? Slack?). The following tools can help facilitate good communication within a team:

    • Zoom. As everyone gets used to using Zoom for classes and meetings, consider doing a Zoom orientation with your teaching team (as well as your students) to cover key functions and how you will be using them.

    • Slack. Some units / courses / departments are using Slack, a remote work platform.

    • Google Hangouts / Google Docs / Google Drive. This suite of google tools is available to everyone via g.harvard.

  • Practice together. Your team can run simulated class sessions through Zoom to experiment with how instructors and students will experience the interface. A coursehead could make a TF a student in the class and try sharing a screen, for example, to see what students see. Taking turns trying out the tools for specific course material and experiencing how students will interact with it would be a great activity for a course staff meeting.