Being a GTA


Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) at CSU join a nationally-recognized Composition Program; indeed, according to the 2012 U.S. News and World Report “America’s Best Colleges” edition, CSU ranks in the top twenty of all U.S. colleges in light of our commitment to composition and making writing an integral element of student success. Without question, the quality of our GTAs and their extensive preparation contributes significantly to our reputation for excellence, and our GTA professional development/mentoring program is designed to support GTAs throughout their tenure at CSU. Our first-year composition course, CO150, which all GTAs teach, is an immensely important class to the university. Each year over 4000 undergraduates enroll in this course to fulfill an all-university requirement.

Our GTA training is extensive. GTAs participate in a 40-hour pre-service training week; at this training GTAs are introduced to current writing theories as well as to their practical applications.  Taking a rhetorical approach to writing instruction in an active and engaged classroom, we introduce GTAs to strategies for the teaching of critical reading, peer review, revision activities, small-group interaction, individual conferencing, technology integration, research and library methods, and commenting and grading. Since GTAs serve as instructors of record with full responsibility for a class of 19 students in their first semester of teaching, we prepare them for the demands of taking students through a series of four, scaffolded writing assignments. In the process, GTAs become proficient in best practices relating not only to classroom teaching approaches but in individual conferencing with students and in evaluating and responding to writing via feedback loops that utilize written comments.

To further assist their development over the semester, GTAs audit the first-year composition course as it is being taught by a senior faculty member. They then meet with this audit instructor twice a month to discuss pedagogical challenges. GTAs also engage in twice monthly whole GTA group professional development sessions that invite guest speakers and introduce new techniques from locations such as our Resources for Disabled Students, The Institute for  Teaching and Learning,  Student Retention, and the Diversity Offices.  GTAs are observed in their teaching and receive detailed feedback on their classroom practices. They are also mentored in their grading, obtaining individualized feedback on their feedback throughout their time as GTAs. Finally, GTAs enroll in a rigorous three-credit graduate pedagogy course in their first semester where they have opportunity to study theories of writing and put them immediately into practice, trying out their ideas under the mentorship of senior composition faculty.

All in all, GTAs receive continuing professional development in the teaching of writing throughout their graduate school education; upon graduation, in addition to having graduate-level preparation in their disciplinary program, whether English Education, Rhetoric and Composition, Literature, TESL/TEFL, or Creative Writing, GTA also emerge as extremely well prepared college instructors.