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TAing the PHYS 20 or PHYS 40 series laboratory sections

The PHYS 20 series is an algebra-based introductory physics sequence that has three lab courses that students usually take while taking the associated lecture course:

  • PHYS 22:  Lab for mechanics, fluids, and heat; taught Autumn quarter.
  • PHYS 24:  Lab for electricity, magnetism, optics; taught Winter quarter.
  • PHYS 26:  Lab for modern physics (special relativity, algebra-based quantum physics, cosmology); taught Spring quarter.

The PHYS 40 series is a calculus-based introductory sequence that also has three lab courses that students usually take while taking the associated lecture course:

  • PHYS 46:  Lab for heat and light; taught Autumn quarter.
  • PHYS 42:  Lab for mechanics; taught Winter quarter.
  • PHYS 44:  Lab for electricity and magnetism; taught Spring quarter.

The introductory physics labs are pass/fail and have their own syllabi.  Students sign up for lab sections independently of the lecture components.  Like the discussion sections, the labs are interactive and student-driven.  After a brief introduction to the material and equipment, students work in groups of two on the lab.  Instead of passively waiting for students to call him/her, the TA is actively checking in with students to make sure they understand concepts.  This is often done by asking students a question that is an extension of the lab activity that they may have just completed.  If students appear confused, the TAs usually engage students in their own learning by asking them Socratic questions and demonstrating techniques that they can use to be convinced that they are (or are not) on the right track.  Much of the curriculum developed for these classes follows the philosophy of Physics Education Research, which promotes active learning.    

In addition to leading lab sections, TAs attend mandatory weekly TA meetings for their class.  At these meetings, TAs go through the pre-lab and the lab themselves; identify areas that may confuse students and discuss strategies to help students; check out the equipment and familiarize themselves with troubleshooting techniques.  

PHYS 20 and PHYS 40 series lab section TAs have a 50% appointment with the following duties:

  • Attend mandatory weekly TA meeting and complete additional preparation for lab section as needed.
  • Lead two 110-minute lab sections each week.
  • Attend at least one 50-minute lecture each week to interact with students during 'clicker questions' in classes where clickers are used and to ensure consistency in learning goals, notation, etc., between lecture and lab sections. Be sure you are available Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, at either 9:30 to 10:20 am or 10:30 to 11:20 am.
  • Grade weekly labs and return them at the beginning of the following lab period. If a student needs to re-do a lab or lab report, they should get that feedback even earlier.
  • Help with test-running and proof-reading midterm and final exams, and in administering the exams.
  • Attend grading sessions for midterm and final exams. 
  • Staff the Physics Tutoring Center for two hours each week to assist students with homework problems and in understanding concepts.
  • Hold an hour of office hour in the Physics Tutoring Center to assist students with pre-lab questions or with other course-related questions.
  • Help with miscellaneous tasks determined by the Head TA.

For a 50% appointment, TAs should plan to spend an average of 20 hours per week over the quarter.