Graduate Teaching Fellows design and implement a discipline-specific project that contributes to the pedagogical development of graduate students in their department.
Kate Dugan, Religious Studies
Project Title: Talking about Teaching in Religious Studies
I developed three departmental workshops during the year: an introduction to TAing in the department aimed at creating a forum where new TAs had the chance to hear from current TAs about their experiences; mini-presentations with specific tips for teaching reading and writing and community building in discussion sections; and a workshop on writing teaching philosophies. TAs had a chance to discuss their teaching ideas and ideals, and think collectively about how to teach in Religious Studies. Comments on the evaluations reported appreciation for having the chance to learn from others and hearing new ideas for their teaching. Every single evaluation gave 5/5 for the former, and with two exceptions (who gave 4/5), all gave 5/5 on gaining new ideas for their teaching. I also began developing a database of resources for teaching outside areas of knowledge. I created an online database (via a host like blogger) of resources that can be quickly accessed for classroom use. I recruited resources from students and gathered the resources together into an easy-to-find set of resources. I also added a set of tips from experienced TAs about how to TA outside your area of expertise.
Jennifer Hobbs, Physics and Astronomy
Project Title: Fall/Spring TA Training and TA Resource Website
A department-specific training session for new TAs was held during the beginning of fall quarter to address topics like promoting student learning, best practices, creating a syllabus, techniques for grading, and writing a "lesson-plan" for lab or discussion sections. In the spring quarter, a TA-panel was held for the current first-year graduate students to help them begin to think about transitioning from the role as purely students to that of an instructor. Four graduate students with extensive teaching experience served on the panel and addressed questions like what to expect as a TA, common concerns of students, their strengths as an instructor, how to balance course-work, teaching and research, how they prepared to teach before each section, difficulties and opportunities, unexpected challenges and how they overcame them, and recommendations for new TAs. Third, a course site (in Canvas) was developed to host a variety of resources that would be useful to TAs in the department. It contains documents related to the various TA-training programs, teaching-literature especially as it pertains to teaching physics, sample documents from previous TAs (rubrics, syllabi, sample problems, etc.), a collection of questions asked by students during discussion sections (and how to identify the larger misconceptions), and blogs related to teaching (importance of a grading schema, tips for teaching special relativity, writing a good quiz, etc.). The course site was presented at a Brown Bag Lunch to both faculty and students.
Matilda Stubbs, Anthropology
Project Title: Four-Field Anthropology: Teaching Pedagogies and Methods
This project is oriented towards novice graduate students and new teaching assistants to prepare for teaching four-field anthropology to undergraduates. It consists of two workshops combining history, theory, and research methods that are the foundation of the American style of anthropology.
The first workshop, “Enter the Four-ce Fields: Basics on American Anthropology Fundamentals,” was part of the Teaching Anthropology: Epistemologies & Pedagogical Tools series (jointly offered with the Anthropology Department). This was the first of two TA-specific trainings regarding how to apply the "four-field" approach in the classroom here at NU and beyond. The second workshop, “How to be Jedi TA: Applying Four-Fields Methods in the Classroom,” addresses the specific department TA requirements and resources, what to expect if serving as a TA in any of the undergraduate four-field courses (biological/archaeology/linguistic/cultural), and learn of experiences and advice from some seasoned TAs in the department. In both events, participants complete a survey to evaluate the effectiveness of the training session. Preliminary survey results suggest that students without strong four-field expertise (especially those new to anthropology as a discipline entirely) find these trainings most relevant and useful. Many respondents expressed that this kind of information session would be beneficial during orientation to the department. As students do not TA the first year of the doctorate program (no masters students are admitted), it is reasonable that teaching-related issues are not explicitly addressed until just before the second year or at a later time during the graduate career of individual students.
The project also involved soliciting faculty as well as current and former TAs. The faculty that most recently instructed the required undergraduate core courses in the four subfields were consulted via email to gather syllabi, TA expectations handouts, and general input regarding how TAs can best support the instruction and facilitation in lecture, discussion and lab sections, and other necessary tasks (office hours, meeting with students, grading, record keeping, course design, etc). An online survey was sent out to current and former TAs to gather quantifiable data regarding individual preparedness for serving as TAs.
Tyler Zimmer, Philosophy
Project Title: Teaching Excellence in Philosophy: A Panel Discussion
I designed three collaborative workshops, offered throughout the year to confront the most prevalent challenges faced by teaching assistants leading discussion sections for Religious Studies. The workshop topics were selected in consultation with the program's graduate student association and included: (1) Overview: Strategies for Facilitating a Discussion Section; (2) Experimenting With New In-Class Activities; and (3) Growing as a Teacher and Cultivating Your Classroom Persona. I also worked with graduate students, faculty, and the director of graduate studies to evaluate departmental procedures and create the first-ever set of departmental TA guidelines, to be ratified by the entire faculty and included in the 2013-14 Religious Studies graduate student handbook.