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I am an undergraduate student in my final year on a Computer Science course. Every week I assist in a 2nd year (undergraduate) class that I took last year on programming. The programming class covers a range of languages, tools and topics, and is divided between a number of lecturing staff. There is one other assistant other than myself who helps in the class.

As an assistant in the practical sessions of these classes, I will often be chatted by students on Teams (course is currently virutal due to lockdown) for help in completing the practical work. I help by:

  • Giving links to related work (such as Mozilla/specific library documentation/stackoverflow)
  • Explaining tasks that are too complicated
  • Look over (but not add anything) to student's code
  • Giving broken down explainations of how to complete a programming task in technical language (eg.- "You gonna need to write a function that adds x to y...") I should stress that I never give away answers or actually type any code myself.

I am currently unsure of what to do with the current lecturer in this class as they are giving me alot of mixed messages, these including:

  • Asking where students are when only a third of the class shows up to the virtual teaching and lab sessions.
  • Asking not to share code with students, even when they can see that I have not given any code to the student (when the conversation is in the main module chat.)
  • Questioning why I'm spending a significant amount of time helping an individual student who is stuck and needs help. In this case (which has happened a few times) I leave the main call, go into a private call and do a 1-2-1 with the student.

I have gathered a consensus from a number of students that a good number do not appreciate his teaching style a great deal (he tends to read off the slides he has produced and rarely gives live demonstrations.) I have generally not given my opinion on this lecturer, even though I share similar sentiment from being taught by this lecturer in other classes. What is the message this lecturer is giving and what can I do?

(It should also be noted that I have a good working relationship with the head of department, who is also my tutor, and he was the previous lecturer on this module I assist in. I get the impression that my assistance is appreciated when the HoD was teaching.)

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    Have you asked the lecturer for any guidance on what he wants/expects from you?
    – avid
    Mar 18 '21 at 13:50
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    Everything you write here sounds very professional. I’d start by having an informal chat with your former boss along the lines of if, in hindsight, he had any suggestions on how you could further improve as a TA, then gently mention your worries here. If still needed, I’d talk with your current boss after to make sure it’s no misunderstanding. Mar 18 '21 at 14:29
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Getting questioned should never be an issue unless the demeanor is hostile. But, you probably have good answers to any questions. Just tell the prof what it is you do and assure them that you, for example, don't code for the students.

In face to face education it is advised that people even professors, normally advise students "with the office door open". You might consider getting a way to retain a transcript of any 1-1 advising you do, just as a check on any misunderstandings.

But, asking the prof for advice on what they feel you "should have done" in anything that they question might help. But keep a record of their advice.

You might also exploit the relationship with the other (former) professor who might have a conversation with their colleague to make sure that the groups are treated the same from year to year and across sections. If they can come to a common understanding and communicate it to you then everyone will be better off. They don't need to say that you've complained, and you haven't, if you just point out that there may be differences that might better be resolved. It might even be a department wide issue.

If the current professor is a novice at this, they may have some learning to do themselves about how to manage a group of students effectively. Especially online.

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    Yep. Whoops, Getting too old for this. Thanks for the catch @JoelReyesNoche .
    – Buffy
    Mar 18 '21 at 14:39

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