My first TAOS report

Fall 2014 was my first semester as an official teaching assistant (TA) at Georgia Tech, which means that at the end of the semester, I got my first TAOS (Teaching Assistant Opinion Survey) report in my career.  The course I TA’d was CEE 3000, Civil Engineering Systems.  The course is designed to give an overview of what civil engineering systems are about and how one can critically analyze, model, evaluate, and communicate the sustainability of a system in aspects such as economics, environment, society, and politics.  To many students, this course is the first, yet often, the most confusing course in the discipline because of the amount of material it covers and the number of instructors it has.  Three instructors gave lectures in this course. One focused on engineering sustainable systems, one focused on analytical and evaluation tools and applications, and the other focused on engineering communication.

As the head TA of this course, my role was to hold office hours, offer review/help sessions, and give and grade homework assignments.  There were 57 students in the class, most of them were CEE and ISyE students.  I am proud to say that I got to know every single one of them.  About half of the class came to my office hours regularly, and the other half, I either provided help via email or had some levels of interaction throughout the semester.

This class was very special to me, not only because it was my first class in the U.S. or because I got to know every single one of them, but also because of the fact that their feedback and comments on the TAOS report (attached at the end of this article) were too good to be true.  I am truly blessed and grateful for such a great class and I treasure each and every one of their comments very much.  Their comments gave me great confidence on my journey pursuing a faculty position and I hope I can live up to their positive and encouraging comments.  Examples of their comments are:

“[He was] always responding to emails quickly and being putting forth your best efforts for our success”

“[He] was very caring and genuinely cared about our success in the class”

“[He was] very easily approachable and explains concepts in multiple ways”

“[He was] very helpful in sections where I had a lot of confusion and held review/help sessions before tests where he methodically went through the problems so that we could understand how to go about doing the problems”

“homework was challenging and influenced me to consistently seek help from the TA. I benefited in the long run because I gained confidence in critically thinking about problems”

“with a sincere desire to help the students do well in the class, he sat down with me for two hours to not only work through the problem with me, but explain it to me in such a way that I was able to do it proficiently during the exam”

“[He was] the best TA I have EVER had. I cannot explain how helpful he was and what a great job he did.”

In addition, with regard to my most needed improvements, almost all respondents unanimously said that there is nothing for me to improve. Examples of their comments are:

“None, he was an exemplary TA”; “Ross deserves a promotion”

“Nothing, he will make a great professor/civil engineer one day and I hope he TA’s other classes I am in!”

In addition to my TAOS report and students’ comments, what made this class even more special was the guidance and encouragement the class instructors gave me.  Examples of their feedback and comments are:

“[He] possess great assets in utilizing appropriate and effective examples in explaining concepts to his students. Ross also created great, appropriate, and effective interactions with the students. This interpersonal relationship motivated the students to seek for help, understanding that Ross was always willing to accommodate and work with their tight schedules”

“[He] has been a joy to work with on the development and execution of the course, I trust the careers of my students in his capable hands, and I know he will continue to teach with energy, passion, and excellence. Georgia Tech is fortunate to have Ross as a mentor to young students.”

The Associate Chair for Graduate Programs, Dr. James Mulholland, said

“Ross has made a substantial contribution to the teaching mission of the school through his involvement in CEE 3000 in Fall 2014. Not only has he inspired a group of CEE students early in their educational process, he has helped a faculty member make the transition to a new teaching role for the school. We are fortunate to have had Ross contribute to our educational mission, and we are extremely happy to promote his continued development as a teacher.”

I know, from the bottom of my heart, that I have a long way to become a good teacher.  I am extremely humbled by these comments and will continue to advance and improve myself.  I hope one day, I will deserve all the praises.


Table 1.  TAOS Report for CEE 3000 – Fall 2014

Question Interpol. Median Number of Responses
5a 4 3 2 1 NA
Oral communication 4.8 23 6 1 0 0 0
Written communication 4.8 20 7 2 0 0 0
Explained concepts clearly 4.8 22 7 1 0 0 0
Concept familiarity 4.9 24 3 0 1 0 0
Respect for students 5 29 0 0 0 0 0
Attitude about teaching 4.9 24 6 0 0 0 0
Stimulated interest 4.7 19 6 3 1 0 0
Approachability 4.9 27 2 1 0 0 0
Preparedness 4.9 25 4 1 0 0 0
Classroom management 4.9 25 3 1 0 0 1
Engaged students 4.9 23 4 1 0 1 1
Overall effectiveness 4.9 27 2 0 1 0 0
a 5 = Exceptional / Strongly Agree; and 1 = Very Poor / Strongly Disagree.

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