TA Training

All Teaching Assistants (TAs) for 5.111 must go through a 5-day training prior to the start of the course.

Teaching Assistant (TA) Information and Expectations for 5.111

Throughout the course, we will introduce connections between disciplines and demonstrate the relevance of chemical principles by incorporating examples from biology and medicine. These connections will be made through in-class examples and reinforced through biology-related problem-set questions. We hope to facilitate the class's understanding of and enthusiasm for chemistry through these connections as well as by communicating our own excitement for the material through our teaching. You as TAs have a major impact on the success of these goals through your interactions with students in your recitation sections and office hours.

Below we provide some general expectations for Teaching Assistants. TAing this course involves

  • Attending all class lectures, which are 3 times per week.
  • Preparing for and leading your recitation section, which will meet twice per week. You will be provided with suggested problems and topics for each recitation, but you are free to structure your classroom in whatever way works best for your class. During this training we will discuss active learning strategies, setting expectations, and other related topics.
  • Participating in weekly TA meetings.
  • Holding two office hours per week (as one 2-hour or two 1-hour sessions). In addition, many students send questions by email, so please check your email at least once each morning and afternoon.
  • Grading problem sets and exams. Problem sets are due each week. Homework should be graded and returned in recitation sections. Exams will be graded immediately following each exam.
  • Reinforcing the biology-connections made in the lecture and in the problem sets.

Training Schedule

Day 1
9:30 - 10:30

Welcome and introduction to 5.111

Introduction of the 5.111 faculty.

Discussion on goals of the course, goals of TA training, and resources for TAs and students.

Practice exams and biology-related problems were sent to each TA over the summer. These were provided to familiarize you with the problem types in 5.111 and to help you identify concepts that you may need to spend extra time on during training or during the course. Please attempt all problems prior to training, and come prepared with questions.
10:30 - 11:30


Discussion-based teambuilding exercises. TA pictures. The pictures will be used to make a TA information sheet with pictures and email addresses to be distributed on Day 2.

11:30 - 12:30

Chemical principles in biology and medicine

A presentation of representative biological examples that will be introduced during 5.111 lectures.

12:30 - 3:00

Group activity

Lego DNA activity at the MIT museum

Day 2
9:00 - 10:30

Challenges in teaching 5.111 recitations- part I

Discussion and role playing led by former 5.111 recitation TAs. (PDF)

Review the acid-base problems from the practice exams.

Reading assignment:

Buy at Amazon Cohen, G. L. and C. M. Steele. "A barrier of mistrust: How negative stereotypes affect cross-race mentoring". Chap. 15 in Improving Academic Achievement: Impact of Psychological Factors on Education. Edited by J. Aronson. pp. 305-331. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 2002. ISBN: 9780120644551.

Prepare a 6-10 minute microteaching lesson for Day 3.

10:30 - 11:30

Question and answer on practice exams and selection of microteaching assignments

Q/A session on any problems from the exams. Discussion of Microteaching strategies and expectations. TAs will select a problem for microteaching.

11:30 - 12:00

Tour of the 5.111 classroom, chemical education office, and recitation rooms

1:00 - 2:00

Diversity workshop

A discussion of diversity issues in 5.111 based on the assigned reading

2:00 - 3:30

Strategies for teaching acid-base titration problems

An overview of how to approach acid-base problems, one of the most difficult concepts for 5.111 students (using lecture notes from lectures 21 through 23)

Day 3
2:00 - 5:30

Microteaching practice session

TAs present microteaching problems with immediate class feedback and discussion.

Write out your tentative course schedule and preferred recitation time slots.
Day 4
9:15 - 10:15

Recitation assignments and Q/A on course selection

Selection of recitation time slots and an opportunity to ask questions about graduate course selection.

Finalize your 6-10 minute microteaching lesson for Day 5.
10:15 - 11:00

Classroom clicker demonstration

Demonstration on using classroom response devices and an overview of 5.111 clicker policies.

11:00 - 12:00

"Interactive Learning" workshop

This activity has been run as a joint activity with all chemistry TAs in the department or as an activity with 5.111 TAs only. For the 5.111-only version (1.5 hours), we use activities from:

Buy at Amazon Handelsman, Jo, Sarah Miller, and Christine Pfund. "Active Learning." Chap. 2 in Scientific Teaching. New York, NY: W. H. Freeman and Company, 2006. ISBN: 9781429201889.

1:30 - 3:00

Challenges in teaching 5.111 recitations - part II

Discussion and role playing led by former 5.111 recitation TAs. (PDF)

Day 5
9:00 - 12:00

Microteaching taping

12:00 - 1:00

Wrap-up and assessment

Discussion of expectations for the first day of teaching and of what worked or didn't work in the TA training.