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0i; 'U u U lyjUUUUUgJ The Daily Tar HeelTuesday, February21, 19895
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play dual role
By JACKI GREENBERG
They are all over campus,
but they rarely receive as
much attention as they
deserve. Teaching assistants
known to most as TAs play an
indispensable role at this
A TA's responsibilities depend
on the needs of the department.
Some grade exams or lead dis
cussion sections while others
teach independent sections of a
"People call us TAs, but we're
really the T" said Andrew Ade,
French TA. "In the foreign lan
guage department, we don't assist
Hannelore Jarausch, director
of the French language program,
said language teaching assistants
were generally very good. "Since
teaching is a new experience for
them, they may be more enthusi
astic than someone who has
taught for 20 years."
Dr. Joel Schwartz, director of
the Center for Teaching and
Learning, said there was tre
mendous variability in the types
of training, preparation and sup
port programs the different
departments provide for TAs. .
"Often TAs train themselves by
seeking out more experienced
TAs who have taught that course
before," Schwartz said. Also,
TAs are observed by faculty and
videotaped to help evaluate their
Math TAs have a very short
period of training before entering
the classroom, said Sue Good
man, director of graduate studies
for mathematics. "Ideally, we
would not put TAs in class until
they have had a full semester of
training, but budget restrictions
do not allow that."
Foreign TAs may have more
trouble teaching if they have
trouble expressing themselves
clearly. One foreign TA said, "I
know I pronounce some words
differently and sometimes I speak
too fast, but I tell my students to
ask me to stop if they can't
Cameron Cooke, a junior from
Greensboro, said, "Many foreign
TAs are very good teachers, but
students refuse to give them a
chance because of their accent.
There are situations, though,
where TAs aren't equipped with
the language skills to teach."
The math department is careful
to choose foreign TAs who speak
English well, according to Good
man. "I think TAs often get an
unfair deal," she said.
The Center for Teaching and
Learning is now conducting a
survey to determine what the 30
departments in Arts & Sciences
are doing to train TAs and what
their needs are. "We suggest
some things they might consider,
and the center is prepared to help
implement these suggestions, if
(the department chairmen)
choose to act on them," Schwartz
The math and political science
departments need the most help
because both use large numbers
of TAs, Schwartz said, and
neither department has any syste
matic training program. But the
physical education department is
in the best shape.
"The training, support and
supervision which they give the
graduate students who teach the
required P.E. courses is unbeliev
able," Schwartz said. "The Uni
versity must find additional
resources to train, prepare and
support TAs in other
Schwartz suggested that stu
dents should be more assertive if
they felt they weren't being
By ANNA TURNAGE
and PAM EMERSON
Gollege professors are not just
people who teach, they are
facilitators, motivators, ana
lyzers and researchers.
"When someone decides to be a
professor, it means they have a real
desire to learn, they love to experi
ment, and they have a keen commit
ment to help other people," said
Barbara Day, a professor at UNC's
School of Education.
"At a university, a teacher's chal
lenges are different than in high
school education because the stu
dents are already bright kids and
eager to learn," she said. "This pre
sents even more of a challenge to
them because their job is to help stu
dents develop to their full potential,
knowing that potential is great."
Part of the challenge in helping
students develop potential means
that professors must continue to
learn and study, Day said. "Profes
sors are constantly reading and
researching so they can motivate
students to be the best they can be."
Helping teachers be the best they
can be is the function of UNC's
Center for Teaching and Learning.
Dr. Joe Schwartz, the director, des
cribes the center as "a one-stop K
mart for all your teaching and learn
According to Schwartz, the best
type of method for a professor
depends on the personality and
teaching style of the individual
"It's all very individualized," he
said. "You can't suggest a teaching
technique unless you know what
kind of style the professor has.",
The center is located in the base
ment of Wilson Library and has
been operating for almost two years
to help professors improve their
teaching skills. It provides teachers
with objective points of view about
how they can improve their methods
and gives them the necessary mate
rials to improve their approach.
Schwartz, a political science pro
fessor, said he did not believe that
simply standing in front of a class .
and lecturing is the way to reach stu
dents effectively. "Frankly it gets
boring to get up there year after year
and have a monologue with your
self," he said. "There is actual
research stating that students forget
at least 90 percent of the informa
tion two weeks after the course has
"There is no way to make them
learn unless you create a learning
environment in which they can
apply their skills," he said. "What's
the point of going over a semester's
worth of material if they're just
going to forget 90 percent of it?"
To remedy the problem Schwartz
allows open group discussions in his
"It's not only important for stu
dents to hear what I have to say, it's
also important for me to hear what
they have to say," he said.
"I think the role of a professor is
to help and to force students to
examine their ideas, morals and
values about themselves and the
world around them," Schwartz said.
However, he said many of the pro
fessors that come to him for help
feel their students aren't putting any
effort into their classwork. .
"Professors become very discour
aged when students don't seem inter
ested and motivated," he said. "A lot
ot them just say, 'Why should I
spend so much time and energy pre
paring to teach a class if students
spend so little time trying to learn
"In other words, it takes two to
tango. If a professor spends a lot of
time preparing for a class, then so
should students," he said.
A tough job
One of the greatest challenges fac
ing teachers is how to motivate stu
dents and hold their interest
throughout the class period.
Student motivation is one of the
most important jobs a professor has,
Day said. "The essence of it all is to
make sure that students 'buy in' to ;
what you're teaching."
How a professor motivates a stu
dent depends on what kind of
methods are used and what kind of
students they have. "Most students
respond better to a professor who
uses different strategies," Day said.
"Some students don't really need
that they're simply going to learn
the material no matter what the
A large class size makes a differ
ence for some teachers when trying
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to get ideas across to students,
according to Day. "It is harder for a
professor to know their students and
what kind of techniques will be best
for them," she explained.
"It's a lot harder to keep a stu
dent's attention in a classroom of
200 students," she said. "Professors
will know if they're not getting
across mainly through nonverbal
cues and whether or not students are
enthusiastically speaking up in
Peter Kaufman, professor of reli
gious studies, manages to hold stu
dent attention in his big lecture
classes by alternating between dis
cussion and lecture.
Kaufman said he tried to encour
age opinions that were different
from his so students would hear
more than one voice in the lecture.
Rarely do students in classes of
100 or more expect to be called on
at random, but that is exactly what
happens in Kaufman's classes.
Another unusual feature is the abun
dance of energy he exhibits in class,
pacing back and forth and almost
ranting at times.
"I would be no good lecturing in
the traditional way," he explained.
learn is the primary goa
"I can't stand still, for one thing."
Kaufman said he tried to stress
insight and evaluation rather than
memorization in his classes. To help ,
accomplish this goal, he distributes
questions before topics are discussed
in class and offers voluntary discus- .
Kaufman, who has taught at
UNC for 10 years, said he loved
teaching because it was always new
and never routine. "This is an
extraordinarily wonderful place to
teach in terms of the student
"My students are motivated," he
said. "They usually do not take my
classes if not."
Attorney Barry Roberts admits he
uses intimidation to motivate the
students in his business law classes.
"I cannot tolerate for a student to be
unprepared," he said. "I can't come
to class unprepared, so neither can
His students must be trained to
function in the real world where
there is tension and pressure, he
The Socratic question-and-answer
method is Roberts' way of keeping
students involved in class. He tries
to call on each student at least once
a week in classes of about 50 stu
dents and more often in the smaller
Roberts said the closest he could
bring students to experiencing the
situations discussed was by creating
hypothetical situations. "I can create
an outrageous hypothetical they will
remember, and along with it, they
will remember the law that applies."
He said there was no way to des
cribe the ideal student due to the
many acceptable patterns. "There
are some who are too quiet, and I
try to get them to speak up, and
then there are others who talk too
much without thinking."
One mistake Roberts said many
students made is failing to pay
enough attention to the instructor
when choosing a course. By picking
the classes that best fit their sche
dules, he said students waste great
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Students who sign up for Dr.
Robert Johnson's psychology classes
have to be motivated, according to
Johnson, or they would not be will
ing to drive the 40 to 60 miles a
week necessary to complete their
required hours of volunteer work.
For several years, Johnson has
taught a class that allows students -to
actually work in a mental health
care facility or within a related
organization. Most of the students
complete their volunteer hours at
John Umstead Hospital in Butner.
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"My own personal viewpoint is
that other fields would do well with
practicum courses, so students can
see what it is really like out there,"
Johnson said. "No one talks theories
in real jobs."
The student view
A good teacher inspires a student
to do his best personally, according
to Jolie Westerman, a junior
psychology and French major.
Mark Dendle, a senior French
and international studies major, said
class discussion was not only impor
tant, but should be considered in
calculating grades. Grades should
improve if a student speaks up in
class, he said.
"A teacher should stop between
major sections of the lecture to ask
if there are questions and never
slight a response to one of those
questions," Dendle said.
His major complaint was teachers
who do not speak English clearly. "I
dropped those classes," he said.
Mike Archey, a senior political
science major, once walked out of a
class because a teacher could not
solve his own logic problem. "I did
not pay my tuition so he could stand
up there and not know what he's
doing," he said.
Some students feel it is important
for a teacher to reach out to them
on a personal level. Huffy Huffman,
a junior economics major, said the
teacher should know every student's
name whenever possible:
Daphne High, a senior English
major, agreed. "I like a teacher who
involves the class and who has a
personal relationship with them
someone we know a little about,"
she said. "A good teacher is some
one who not only likes the subject
but enjoys teaching it."
Of course, it is virtually impossi
ble for a teacher to learn the name
of every student in a class of 300.
That is one of the reasons many stu
dents prefer smaller classes.
Huffman said he preferred an
atmosphere where students and
teachers are interactive. "I don't like
large classrooms," he said. "It's too
easy to get bored."