This semester was my first semester as a Graduate Teaching Fellow. Over the summer, when I was anticipating holding this position, I was nervous that I would not be a good Graduate Teaching Fellow because I am a quiet person who does not have a strong command over a large group of people. Thus far, however, I have learned that there are many different types of leaders – being a loud and powerful person is not necessarily a requirement of being a good leader. I learned, for example, that my strengths in organization, reflection, honesty, and passion have helped me to be an effective leader.
One of the main pieces of my Graduate Teaching Fellowship this semester was to carry on the tradition set by last year’s Graduate Teaching Fellow, Nicole Brown, which was to send out a weekly email to the other instructors of the college study skills course I teach (ES EPSY 1259) that included what I planned to do in my class that week. Although this seems to be a fairly simple task at first glance, I found that it took me a great deal of thought to not only put my general plans for the week into words, but also to convey to the other instructors why exactly I felt that each activity I had planned for my students was important and useful. Despite the fact that this took a great deal of cognitive effort on my part, I felt that it was incredibly helpful for me to do in the sense that it reinforced my decisions to utilize the activities I had justified thoroughly in these weekly emails, and to not utilize the activities I couldn’t justify.
A secondary piece of my Graduate Teaching Fellowship this semester was to plan, and be involved in, bi-weekly social meetings for all of the instructors of ES EPSY 1259. Although I was not entirely sure how successful these social meetings would be when I first decided to plan them, I found them to be extremely beneficial. The primary reason that I felt these meetings were so beneficial is due to the fact that it gave us instructors the chance to get to know each other better. Although this may not seem related to teaching at first glance, it has been my experience that when you get to know someone well, you feel more comfortable sharing your experiences with them and asking them for help. Further, Walker, Golde, Jones, Bueschel, & Hutchings, 2009) suggest that it is important for graduate students to have a place that they can share their intellectual passions comfortably, which I believe did occur organically during our bi-weekly social meetings.
Another piece of my Graduate Teaching Fellowship this semester was to begin to create rubrics for some of the assignments all of the instructors assign to their students. The reason why I wanted to pursue this goal as a part of my Graduate Teaching Fellowship is because I wanted to find a way for all instructors to grade these assignments in a fairly consistent manner that would allow us to give our students detailed feedback in an efficient manner. As graduate students, we have so many demands on our time that any way in which we can be effective and efficient at the same time is always appreciated highly. After creating and using some of these rubrics this semester, I found that they did indeed achieve my goal of improving the effectiveness and efficiency of my grading. Additionally, I found that these rubrics helped me to consciously consider which pieces of my students’ assignments were particularly important to provide feedback for, and which pieces were not.
A final piece of my Graduate Teaching Fellowship this semester was to provide workshops for the ES EPSY 1259 instructors in order to make connections between the research I am familiar with as a student in the Educational Psychology program and how this can apply to teaching undergraduates. During our orientation in August, I led one workshop of this nature in regards to how we can apply the research outlining the factors that encourage college students to feel as though they belong (i.e. Freeman, Anderman, & Jensen, 2007) to our own teaching. In September, I led another workshop of this nature in order to highlight how research on the topic of interest development (i.e. Hidi & Renninger, 2006) can help us to not only increase our students’ interest in our own class, but also how we can utilize this information in order to help students improve their own interest in their other classes. Although I was nervous about leading both of these workshops, I believe that my passion for both of these topics helped me to present the material in an effective manner.
After my interest development workshop in September, many of the other instructors were inspired to present on the material that they are passionate about in future meetings, which is an amazing outcome that I was not expecting. When everyone on a team is able to share what they are passionate about, I believe that it helps the team to build their knowledge in a way that helps them to simultaneously learn more about each other and grow together. Overall, I believe that I have benefitted a great deal from my experience as a Graduate Teaching Fellow this semester, and I am looking forward to what this experience will bring for me next semester.
Freeman, T. M., Anderman, L. H., & Jensen, J. M. (2007). Sense of belonging in college freshman at the classroom and campus levels. The Journal of Experimental Education, 75, 203-220.
Hidi, S., & Renninger, K. A. (2006). The four-phase model of interest development. Educational Psychologist, 41(2), 111-127.
Walker, G. E., Golde, C. M., Jones, L., Bueschel, A. C., & Hutchings, P. (2009). The formation of scholars: Rethinking doctoral education for the twenty-first century. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.