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The Teaching Assistant’s Guide: Essential Skills for College Lectures and Labs

By Ed Himelblau, California Polytechnic State University

Download a Free Excerpt from The Teaching Assistant’s Guide: Essential Skills for College Lectures and Labs:


Available for preorder on Amazon.

Due July 30, 2024 • 140 pages, illustrated (48 B&W), index
Paperback •
ISBN  978-1-621825-17-3

  •     Description    
  •     Contents    


“How should I prepare to teach a new topic?”

“How do I balance my time between teaching, research, and my own classes?”

“What if the students don’t respect me?”

New TAs—typically young graduate students—need answers to these and many other questions as they step into their roles as teachers. The Teaching Assistant's Guide offers advice to help first classes go smoothly, worksheets to help advance preparation, a teaching diary to record experiences and save time, guidance for maintaining boundaries, proven strategies to increase student participation, tips to make grading fast and fair, and steps to make a class inclusive and welcoming. Bringing together practical advice from experienced TAs and insights from education research, this handbook will help all new teachers get off to a great start.

“TAing your first class as a graduate student can feel nerve-racking and overwhelming. It’s hard to know what to expect. The Teaching Assistant's Guide is a terrific step by step guidebook to help set you up for success. I wish I had this resource when I was starting out!”

—Shannon Odell
Neuroscientist and Science Communicator

The Teaching Assistant's Guide fills a gaping hole in the teaching literature. Himelblau creates a terrific road map for TAs with a mixture of cartoons, quotes from experienced TAs, and his own unique voice. This book is for anyone hoping to improve the classroom experience for TAs and their students.”

—Jo Handelsman
Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery and author of Scientific Teaching and A World Without Soil


Ed Himelblau (he/him) is a biology professor at California Polytechnic State University. He is also a cartoonist for The New Yorker and other publications. (See Ed's cartoons at and @himelblog.)  Ed lives in San Luis Obispo, California with his wife and daughter. He received the Cal Poly Distinguished Teacher Award in 2018. Since 2015, Ed has taught a class for incoming graduate students who are teaching for the first time.


1 Boundaries: Make and Maintain Them
2 Your First Class
3 Reflection: Capture Your Experience
4 Content: Be a Guide for Students
5 Inclusivity: Help Students Feel Welcome
6 Participation: Promote Active Learning
7 Think—Pair—Share: Get Them Thinking and Talking
8 Grading: Make it Fair and Efficient
Appendix: Guidelines for Teaching
Your Teaching Reflections
About the Author