For Faculty & Staff

How To Be An Effective Recitation Instructor

Before classes start:

Establish some reliable form of regular communication with the course lecturer, using e-mail or telephone. 

Weekly in-class activities: 

Here is a suggested agenda for running a typical recitation section. Your own recitation should include all or most of these activities, depending on the instructions given you by your lecturer. 

  1. Return graded homeworks and quizzes from last week, as appropriate.
  2. Answer any questions about course mechanics, such as office hours, exam schedules, review sessions. etc.
  3. Discuss answers to last week's quiz.
  4. Answer questions on material presented in previous lectures.
  5. Discuss homework problems.
  6. Administer a quiz (at the instruction of the lecturer).

Weekly pre-class preparation: 

  1. Grade quizzes or homeworks from last week. Keep an accurate record of all grades, since these will be a component of the cumulative average used in computing final grades.
  2. Discuss current course status with the course lecturer and provide him or her with feedback on student performance.
  3. Prepare homework solutions, text review, and quiz material for class.
  4. Keep established office hours.

Workshops: 

If you are teaching certain calculus courses, part of your recitation section may be devoted to a workshop, in which groups of three or four students work cooperatively on a set of problems, supplied to you by the lecturer, which you distribute to them. During the succeeding week students then individually write up one of the problems, and turn in this write-up at the next recitation. Running a successful workshop involves: 

  • Making sure that the students form groups of appropriate size and that all students belong to some group;
  • Encouraging the students in each group to talk to one another about the problems and to keep working reasonably steadily;
  • Giving hints to groups that are stuck, without solving the problems for them;
  • Announcing at the end of the workshop which problem is to be handed in next week.

Workshop problems are graded both for mathematical content and presentation: students are required to prepare neatly written solutions, with all work explained in full English sentences. Model write-ups may be found on the course web pages. If you have never conducted a workshop before it is a good idea to discuss the procedure thoroughly with your lecturer, with an experienced recitation instructor or teaching assistant, or with some other faculty member of the mathematics department. You might ask one of these people to observe your own workshop, or arrange to observe a workshop conducted by some experienced instructor. 

Problems: 

Problems with course attendance, unruly students, suspected academic dishonesty, etc. should be discussed with the course lecturer, the course coordinator, the head TA, or the undergraduate vice chair, as available. 
As mentioned above, instructions for dealing with emergencies that interfere with any of your own responsibilities are found in Absences: Mathematics Recitation Instructors page; and we do not cancel recitations until all alternatives have been exhausted.