CHEM 601/BISC 603
TA Teaching Case Assignment

Final Assignment - Write a Teaching Case
Due via e-mail attachment to Dr. White by the Tuesday before the last class of the semester.

For the last class meeting after Thanksgiving Break, each student should bring five copies of a short teaching case that relates to a difficult or decision-making situation that a teaching assistant might encounter. The case ideally would be based on a situation you have experienced or encountered this semester. The situation can be related to TA-student dilemmas, TA-faculty communication, TA-lab support staff problems, experiments that didn’t work, events outside of school that affect job performance, or anything that has relevance for new teaching assistants. Alternatively, you may write a case dealing with a dilemma encountered in a research laboratory involving a graduate student mentoring an undergraduate.

What is a Teaching Case?

A teaching case is a real or possible event written as short, fictionalized story. It typically involves an unresolved, emotionally-charged situation that is intended to trigger discussion. Discussants must analyze and then propose solutions. A good teaching case may involve multiple issues but it should have at least one major point to make. Teaching cases should be short so that they can be read and understood in no more than a few minutes, leaving plenty of time for discussion. Cases based on real situations can be revealed in stages such that proposed solutions can be successively compared to what actually happened.

Some Details:

Please read a sample of the TA Tales on line at: <> to get a feel of what a teaching case study is. Then use an experience from your life as a laboratory (or recitation) TA that presented a dilemma or interesting situation for you that would be of interest to TAs in the future, as in the "Pass the Problem" activity we have done several times in class.

The following are several elements that are considered important in a TA Tale:

Revising TA Teaching Cases 

The ultimate purpose of this exercise is to add to a collection of teaching cases that reflect situations teaching assistants might encounter, "What Do I Do Now? Laboratory Tales from Teaching Assistants" <>. These will be added to by students in future offerings of Introduction to Laboratory Instruction. They will be used in those courses as the focus of discussions on how best to respond to different situations.

I consider all of the cases submitted as drafts in need of revision. The objective for class is to critique all of the drafts so that you, the authors, can use the feedback to improve the cases for final electronic submission by Thanksgiving.

Within the group you are in, read and discuss each case written by a member of your group. Give substantive feedback. Authors-take notes. As a guide, consider the following questions:

•    Does the case involve a fictionalized real situation or a situation a TA (or RA) might encounter?
•    Does the case involve a dilemma or situation where a TA needs to make decisions on the best course of action?
•    Does the case have drama? For example, does it end without resolution at a critical moment—an unresolved climax?
•    Is there dialog? Dialog often makes cases more realistic and interesting.
•    Do the characters have names? These can be cryptic or playful, e.g. Pete Hess (“PH”) might be a TA working on an acid-base titration lab or Prof. Ferris might lecture on iron. Hap Lloyd might be a TA in a genetics course.
•    Is the case sufficiently fictionalized that the people involved remain anonymous?
•    Is the case long enough to provide the needed information but short enough to maintain interest and leave time for discussion?
•    Is the title appropriate? Is there a better title?
•    Can the case be improved by adding or modifying the story?
•    Does the case represent a situation not already included in the TA Tales booklet?

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Created 13 November 2005, last updated 22 Noveber 2009 by Hal White [halwhite at]
Copyright 2009, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716