Graduate School

General questions about GRAD 5004, the Graduate Teaching Assistant Workshop 

Q: What is the course about?

A: Since 1991, Virginia Tech has conducted the Graduate Teaching Assistant Workshop (GRAD 5004) which is a mandatory  (pass/fail) course that is required of all new GTAs and is designed to provide recommendations and advice from dedicated faculty, staff, and experienced graduate students and to assist GTAs in developing as teachers. The covered topics and material also aim at the development of the knowledge base and skills of future faculty members and aspiring professional practitioners.
This course can also be used towards the Future Professoriate Certificate for students intending to become university educators. More information can be found at  on our certificate webpage.
The GTA workshop consists of the following:

Phase I is an 8-hour workshop and is mandatory for all GTA workshop participants;

Phase II consists of several sessions. Students are required to attend at least three of them:

  • TWO Teaching Techniques and Skills (TTS) sessions,
  • ONE Ethics (Encouraging and Enforcing Honesty in the Classroom) session, and 
  • ONE Reflection writing assignment. This is a 400-word essay about your reflection of either a challenge you faced in your experiences as a teacher or GTA (Topic A), or the most valuable things you learned during one or more of the sessions you attended this semester in the GTA workshop (Topic B).   

Please refer to the syllabus on Canvas for details on these requirements as well as the link to sign up for Phase II sessions through Canvas's scheduler function on the GRAD 5004 Canvas site. 

Q: Who has to take this course?

A: This course is required for all GTAs during their first semester of appointment. Those funded by GRA or GA or not funded do not need to take it.  Some of these students take it in order to be ready if a GTA becomes available or simply to learn more about teaching.  

Q: What do I have to do to pass this course?

A: This is a pass/fail class.  In order to pass, a student must attend Phase I, sign up for and attend three Phase II sessions (one ethics and three TTS sessions), and complete the writing assignment.  

Q: Who is the instructor and how do I contact them?

A: Professor Muhammad R. Hajj, Ph.D. is the instructor of record for the course.  He organizes the sessions with the help of the Graduate Teaching Assistant. Both Dr. Hajj and the GTA coordinate the class and communicate with the students throughout the semester.  Dr. Hajj is an Associate Dean in the Graduate School and also a professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics.  You can contact him by email at GRAD5004@gs.vt.edu.  For an appointment, please call 231-5645. 

Questions about GRAD 5004 Phase I 

Q: What is Phase I?

A: Phase I is an 8-hour mandatory workshop that consists of a set of presentations by speakers who provide information to all GTAs on the following topics    

  • Graduate Education in the 21st Century

  • Family Education Rights and Privacy (FERPA)

  • Computer Security Issues for GTAs

  • Diversity and Inclusion in the Classroom

  • Practicing Excellence and Leadership

  • Undergraduate Honor System

  • Title IX

  • Threat Assessment and Security in the Classroom

  • Services for Students with Disabilities

  • Practicing Excellence and Leadership 

Please bring your Hokie ID to swipe to verify your attendance. Refreshments and lunch are provided by the Graduate School. 

Q: When is Phase I held?

A: You will need to arrive to Virginia Tech one week before the start of the semester in order to attend Phase I. In the fall semester, Phase I is held on Tuesday of the week preceding the starting week of the semester. In the spring semester, Phase I is held on Thursday of the week preceding the starting week of the semester. Please make sure you read all instructions and emails because these dates might change. 

Q: What is Phase II?

A: Phase II is a set of in-person and electronic sessions taught by faculty members, instructor, and experienced graduate students on topics of value to GTA.   Students are required to take TWO Teaching Techniques and Skills (TTS) and ONE Ethics (Encouraging and Enforcing Honesty in the Classroom) sessions. To guarantee a seat in an in-person session that is of interest to you, please sign up early on Canvas scheduler (located in the Calendar) and remember to sign in for each of these sessions to verify your attendance at the beginning of each session in person.  More information is provided below. 

Q: How do I register for Phase II sessions?

A: Students should be able to view the various offerings on Canvas scheduler (under the Calendar tab).

Please remove yourself from the list in case you cannot attend a session that you have registered for.  This is important as it will allow someone from the waiting list to be contacted to tell them they can attend. 

Q: What is the written assignment in the class?

A: Since much of the class is based on attendance we would like you to be able to think about what you have learned and reflect on how this might help your teaching.  A complete description and instructions for preparing and submitting the assignment and examples are posted under Files tab (Resources, Written Assignment section) on Canvas.  You should submit your assignment in the “Assignments” tab on Canvas (not as an attachment to the instructor or GA!) any time during the semester but no later than the first week of November (for Fall semester) or April (for Spring semester).

Q: I am not a GTA or I have taken the class before. How do I drop the class?
A: Your department has registered you for this class or requested your registration in this course from the graduate school. This is a required class for all GTAs during their first semester of appointment as GTAs. If you are a GRA or a GA or if you have taken the workshop before as a GTA in another department, you will need to contact your department and explain it to them. Your department should then request the Graduate School to drop you from the course.
Q: I am a graduate student who has taught before, I am a student who will be grading only, or I was a GTA in the Spring semester and did not take the class. Do I need to attend the workshop?
A: Yes. This is a required course.
Q: My department is holding its orientation on the same day of the workshop. What should I do?
A: This should not happen. Please inform your department that you must attend the workshop. They can either postpone a part of the department's orientation or finish it early. 

If you choose to attend your departmental meeting, you need to make sure you drop the GTA workshop from your study plan in that semester, and retake it in the following semester. 

Questions about GRAD 5004 Phase II 

Q: If I cannot attend all the TTS in-person sessions, is there any online TTS option?

A: Yes, online TTS options are available. Please request access from the GTA. 

Q: How are the points of Online Library Sessions and Securing the Human posted on my gradebook?

A: Please confirm your completion of online sessions by checking your attendance record on Canvas. 

Q: Should I complete all the three Online Library Sessions to satisfy the TTS requirements?

A: No, you are only required to complete TWO of the three Online Library Sessions’ modules. 

Q: What is the minimum passing score for each Online Library Sessions’ modules?

A: The minimum passing score is 70 percent of the total of EACH module point. 

Q: What are the maximum points assigned for each of Phase I and Phase II sessions?

A: Each of Phase I, TTS 1, TTS 2, Ethics sessions, and the Reflection assignment has 20 points. If you attend in-person and/or online, you will get 20 points for each session attendance or completion. If you do not attend, you get 0 (zero) point. 

  • If you do not attend Phase I, you are required to drop the course or you will end up earn an F (FAIL) grade. If you retake the course and earn a passing grade (P), your F grade will be changed to RG. 
  • If you miss one Phase II session during the semester, you will earn an I (Incomplete) grade. This INCOMPLETE grade can be changed to PASS when you complete the missed Phase II session in the following semester. 
  • If you miss two or more Phase II sessions, you will earn an F grade in the class. If you retake the course and earn a passing grade (P), your F grade will be changed to RG. 

Q: What if I was denied attendance points after attending one or some of the sessions?

A: Please make sure before each session starts that you sign the attendance sheet distributed by the GTA of this course.

You are also expected to arrive 15 minutes before each session starts. You will NOT be allowed to sign the attendance sheet after the session starts.

Q: Is there any online Ethics session option?

A: No, we do not offer any online Ethics session option. 

Q: What if I only need to take TTS or Ethics in the following semester?

A: You should contact the GTA in charge in the following semester via e-mail.