A flowchart on a board

Prepping a Lab

is not a terribly complex process. Your instructor should be providing you with breakdowns for your labs, and your job as a TA is to be ready to follow the breakdown.

If there is no breakdown provided for you, this guide should give you a sense of how to put one together for yourself regardless.

Two bridges, one shoddily built and falling apart and one well formed and sturdy

The plan or structure

of the lab helps give you a sturdy outline how you will achieve covering each of the given goals. Think of these as a set of instructions to help step you through the lab. If you are unclear with any of the tasks, or unsure of how to teach a particular section of the plan, make sure to ask the instructor.

Included in the plan should be some clear and concise goals for the lab. These help you and the students know what you will be doing over the course of the lab, and can vary from 'Learn how to do X in Photoshop' to 'Complete critiques on the first project'.

For each of the goals, there should be an activity, as well as a timeframe in which that activity should be completed. It helps to know how long each activity should take beforehand to ensure you can finish your lab on time.

A TA practicing the piano and another TA trying to unicycle, but has fallen over

Practice makes perfect,

or, at least it will make things less likely to go wrong. With your plan in hand you want to rehearse and test out as much of the plan as possible, including:

  • Rehearsing any software tutorials you are meant to run
  • Rehearsing any coding tutorials to ensure everything runs smoothly in the end
  • Having a clear understanding of any discussions you are meant to run
  • Checking what deliverables you will be looking for
  • Review the rubric for any projects students are working on
  • Know what the rubric says you should provide feedback on

Rehearsing and trying things out helps you find any potential areas for mistakes or problems, and when in doubt about an item, just ask your instructor.

The instructional team - TAs and instructor - looking out over the edge of a building in a cityscape

Your team is there to help

you figure things out. It is worthwhile checking in with other TAs and the instructor about the plan to make sure that you are all on the same page. Students appreciate consistency in delivery, and making sure you are all working similarly definitely helps improve that.

Your question for this section


Come up with a plan for a lab covering the basics of two different design ideation methods for a project. Include goal(s), activities and a timeframe for each of the lab activities.

You'll be reviewing your 'proposal' with your instructor to help understand the ins and outs of lab prep.

Next up:

In the First Lab