Teaching Orientation for Graduate Students

Graduate students can register for orientation sessions to learn practical, evidence-based strategies that they can implement on the first day of class. Orientations help supplement department-based orientations and trainings.


Topics include tactics to get classes off to a good start, best practices in feedback and grading, introduction to active learning principles and approaches, inventories of teaching policies and resources at Columbia, and guidance for using CourseWorks (Canvas). Teaching orientation is open to all new teaching assistants, teaching fellows, and graduate students in an instructor role.

Sciences and Engineering

Thursday, August 31, 2017
CESPR and Mudd Hall
9:00 am – 2:00 pm

Humanities and Social Sciences

Friday, September 1, 2017
Davis Auditorium
9:00 am – 2:00 pm


NOTE: Graduate students who cannot attend the orientation designed for their discipline are welcome to attend on the alternate day. 

Program Description

The CTL teaching orientation for graduate students provides guidance for getting a discussion section, lab, or other teaching assignment off to a good start, providing efficient and effective feedback to students, navigating difficult situations that may arise, and tracking and reflecting on the development of your teaching practices. A limited number of microteaching practice sessions will be running after the main orientation.

Orientation resources include FAQs for TAs at Columbia, a Syllabus Checklist, and Canvas tutorials. Sessions running at orientation include:

Preparing to Teach:
Find out about ways to get your class, session, or lab off to a great start, including setting a positive, inclusive tone and establishing clear policies and expectations.

Facilitating Your Students’ Learning Inside the Classroom and Lab:
Discover strategies to promote student engagement and participation in lecture, discussion, and lab–and bolster their actual learning.

Facilitating Your Students’ Learning Beyond the Classroom and Lab:
Explore grading and mentoring practices that communicate expectations to students and help them progress to defined goals.

Navigating Tricky Situations As a TA:
Discuss ways to handle difficult situations with peers, experienced Teaching Assistants, and representatives of support offices (Student Conduct and Community Standards; Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action; Psychological and Counseling Services, Disability Services).

Frequently Asked Questions

Email your questions to CTLgrads@columbia.edu.

Who can participate?

This orientation is open to all graduate student instructors. It is especially useful for graduate students who are new to teaching.

Are any of the resources from the orientations available online?

CTL staff are available to meet with you to talk about any of the topics listed in the program description above. Some helpful resources are also listed below.

I have a scheduling conflict with orientation – will you be running these session again?

CTL runs expanded versions of orientation sessions during the academic year, as well as microteaching practice sessions. Join the CTL mailing list to be alerted about upcoming opportunities.