What is learning?

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The list below represents what a group of experienced UVic Teaching Assistants (TAs) have identified as important guidelines for working in a group, both in-person and online. Not all suggestions below may be applicable in all departments on campus. Please use the list as a guide only as this list is not exhaustive but encompasses a diverse array of group work considerations.

General suggestions


  • Be respectful of what others have to say
  • Acknowledge others’ ideas
  • Do not have side conversations when others are speaking
  • Provide constructive feedback and encourage students to do the same
  • Disagree with respect
  • Keep group discussions safe and confidential


  • When someone has the floor, allow them to finish speaking
  • Give everyone a chance to speak – do not dominate the discussion
  • Ask for clarification
  • Listen deeply
  • Turn your cell phones off
  • Bring humour
  • Keep group work relevant to the task at hand

Best practices

  • Ask questions to clarify important points
  • Stay on task
  • Take outside room breaks only when necessary
  • Be responsible for returning from breaks on time
  • Use positive language
  • Be open and willing to share your experience
  • Be encouraging and come prepared

Respect for Diversity

Our intent in the learning environment is that:

  • students from diverse backgrounds and perspectives be well-served by the course
  • students’ diverse learning needs be addressed
  • the diversity that students bring to the class be viewed as a resource, strength, and benefit

    Our intent is to present materials and activities that are respectful of diversity: gender, sexuality, disability, age, socio-economic status, ethnicity, race, and culture.

    Participant suggestions should be encouraged and appreciated. You might welcome participants’ constructive feedback regarding possible improvements in the effectiveness of the course for the participant personally or for other students or student groups. 


    Here are a few tips that you can share with learners to help things go a bit more smoothly in an online format:

    Our discussions may lead to debate and disagreement, which is a great way to foster critical thinking, so it is vital that you feel comfortable expressing your opinion but also respect the ideas of others. Please be careful, considerate, and respectful in all your communications.

    1. Conduct and express yourself in a way that is respectful
    2. Mute your microphone when you are not speaking to reduce background noise interference
    3. Turn on your camera when possible, to create a sense of community
    4. Look at the camera to make eye contact when talking
    5. Use the chat field and whiteboard for constructive questions and comments only
    6. Before you post your comments/questions, take a moment to re-read them – because they lack nonverbal cues, they might land differently than you intended
    7. Before responding to someone’s question or comment, take a moment to make sure you are coming from the perspective that they have posted with good intentions. Remember, lack of nonverbal cues may have resulted in a misunderstanding of what they meant…if you are unsure, be curious and ask in a respectful way

    Keep in mind that some people may be in circumstances that make it difficult to share their video (e.g., shared accommodation, family, health, and privacy) and therefore, it is advised to encourage video sharing but not make it mandatory.

    This guide was developed during the Teaching Assistant Consultants’ (TACs) seminars for the academic year 2009-2010 and updated in 2020-2021.

    About this post

    This post was last updated:

    August 11, 2022

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