Well, one term TAing down, and (hopefully) one to go. How did people fare?
The first few weeks were kind of rough. During TA training, we had been given a short presentation on how to do group work (including this wildlife documentary like video
and several papers claiming it was the superior way to lead a discussion section -- as opposed to just working problems on the board). So I tried a mix of lecture review, board work, and group work. This worked well for a while, but the pace of the lectures started to pick up, and it became clear that I didn't have time to do all three. So I requested feedback from the students about which parts they liked. To my surprise, the average ranking from most to least useful was board work, lecture review, and group work (my ranking was group work, board work, lecture review).
I had already decided to cut back on the lecture review, and mix it in with the board work, but the big questions was what to do with the group work. Research showed that it was effective when done correctly, and I was following the recommended format fairly closely. Who was wrong? My current theory is that board work can give a false sense of confidence -- it's easy to see a problem done and then think, "I can do that. No problem." But it's not always true -- working the problem through is the way to find out. Combine this belief that board work is as effective as group work and the fact that it takes less time to do a question on the board than in a group, and the perceived efficiency of board problems could explain the reasoning behind their ranking. They also had plenty of opportunity to do group work on the homework (and many of them did), so perhaps discussion section group work was superfluous.
In the end, I cut the group work, both because it was unpopular and because the increased class pace made it too hard to both do group work and board work (I felt some board work was necessary). My students seemed to do fine, but I still wonder if that was the right decision. At any rate, my evaluations were good, so I managed to please them (although everyone hate my quizzes... I was only starting to get the hang of making them at the end).
Anyhow, this term is completely different. I've been assigned to the same class, but with a prof who does things differently. He and the head TA have pretty much planned out everything -- the discussion sections will be pretty much all group work and they have made up worksheets for all the TAs to use. Quizzes are taken care of in a similar fashion. They seem to know what they are doing, and it certainly means less work for me, so that is nice. On the other hand, I had a bunch of ideas for how to do things differently this term, and now I won't get to try them. I'm curious to see how this setup works out.