Helping grad students interested in teaching careers: a proposal

Below is a proposed Teaching Certificate Program that Amanda Schrager Lavelle and I put together at the prompting of Joe Edwards, the current PBGSA president. The purpose of the program is address what we perceive as a lack of guidance for students in our graduate group who are interested in teaching careers. While the program will initially only be for PhD students in the plant biology graduate group (PBGG) at UC Davis, we would certainly like to see it expanded to other groups. We will be presenting the program at the annual PBGG meeting in June and would love to get some feedback before then, so please read and comment below.

Proposed PBGG Teaching Certificate Program

The goal of the program is to provide PBGG students with a clear framework for developing their teaching skills, thereby allowing them to improve their competitiveness for teaching jobs/jobs with a significant teaching component. In most cases, this program would be completed after the qualifying exam, most likely in later stages of a student’s PhD career. Completing the program will take a typical PhD student at least 2 years, with the first 1-1.5 years dedicated to completing the TAing and elective requirements. These experiences will make the student more competitive to get into one of the non-TA teaching programs (described below).

Required components

-Work as a classroom TA for a least 4 quarters, in at least 2 different courses

-Have your teaching observed at least twice by experienced observers (either CETL or a prof)

-Following the conclusion of teaching at least 2 classes, complete the Teaching Reflection Document

Teaching training electives (must complete at least 6)

Any significant teaching training activity may be counted for the certificate, but options not listed below should be cleared first. If you complete more than 1 of the non-TA teaching experiences (listed below), that can count as 2 teaching training electives.

-Complete the CETL AITC summer workshop series (“Learner Centered Teaching”)

-Participate in the graduate teaching community (GTC) for a full quarter (can be repeated up to 2 times)

-Complete an online course (i.e. this coursera course I took) on some aspect of teaching

-Attend any of the other workshops on teaching offered by CETL or other campus entity (basic TA training does not count) (can be repeated up to 4 times)

-Take a course on teaching at UCD (i.e. the seminar on college teaching or MCB390)

-Read a book on best practices in college teaching and write a summary of the book and a reflection on what you will incorporate into your own teaching (at least 2 pages). One recommended option is “What the Best College Teachers Do,” by Ken Bain. (can be repeated up to 2 times)

Career preparation electives (must complete at least 3)

-Attend any workshop or panel discussion on careers in college teaching, the interview process, writing statements of teaching philosophy etc. (can be repeated up to 2 times)

-Complete an informational interview with a person currently teaching college-level biology (cannot be a UCD research professor – lab coordinators or lecturers are okay). After the interview, write up a 1 page summary of what you learned. (can be repeated up to 2 times).

Non-TA teaching experience component (must complete 1)

Options for this component are listed below, in order of likely benefit to people planning to apply for full-time teaching positions. Other programs may be substituted here, provided that they are of similar duration and intensity.

-Teach all or part of a course (at UCD or elsewhere) as an adjunct/associate instructor

Faculty diversity internship program (Los Rios Community College)

-Be a CETL TA teaching consultant

Professors for the future program

-Participate in a structured outreach program that has a training component, such as the Powerhouse Science Communication Fellows program

Teaching Portfolio

After all certificate requirements are complete, the student must complete a teaching portfolio. The rationale for requiring a portfolio is that most teaching job applications will require some, if not all, of the components found in this portfolio. The portfolio will include:

-Statement of teaching philosophy

-Diversity statement

-Documentation of all teaching training and professional development activities

-Example teaching materials such as curricula, homework assignments, or in-class activities

-Selected student reviews

Please let us know what you think of the program. You can leave a comment below with suggestions on how it could be improved.

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3 thoughts on “Helping grad students interested in teaching careers: a proposal

  1. I’m really excited to see PBGG consider this direction. A lot of the teacher training objectives and activities are extremely valuable experiences that I have had the pleasure of trying. I think as far as actually supporting students who desire a teacher-training program, as it is now, falls short – this is a laundry list of things to do. As a former leader of GTC, while discussing the requirements for GTC quarterly certificates, one grad student replied, “Oh, I’m going to put it on my CV whether I complete it or not.” – with the CV-inflation mindset (or not) and the laundry list done, what does *this* certification offer to the student?
    Preparing (graduate) students properly to step into a teacher/professor role should stop being ‘by fire’ and on the backs of the (undergraduate) students they fail the first few times at the collegiate level.
    This list currently makes a huge assumption that on-record professors are master teachers, which anyone who has experienced R1 university systems can attest is not a safe assumption; Professors come with a random assortment of biases, bad habits, and sometimes a straight up distaste for teaching. Furthermore, those professors who do go above and beyond for undergraduate education (and there are many who do) may still not be effective managers nor good teacher-mentors – these are different skill sets.
    If PBGG wants to certify that they have produced an excellent teacher, then certify not just the number of experiences, but the quality. I’d advocate for more peer mentorship from senior TAs (within PBGG or across groups), more direct feedback from undergraduate students (what do they need? want? find helpful?), and cherry-picking the best faculty teaching mentors to give talks, meet with students, or be one-on-one mentors. If the PBGG folks want to join forces with other grad groups and/or CETL and/or GTC to offer support on “how” to write teaching proposals or to expand TA training to include more education-centered advice BEFORE students hit the classroom, this could improve the teaching experience for all parties.
    Additionally, though I have participated in most of the things on this list, I would still find this quite intimidating as an incoming graduate student. If this list is here to stay, perhaps breaking it into ‘advised quarters’ would help it seem more approachable.
    Glad to see you guys tackle this. It’s not an easy target, but a very worthwhile one, and so far a great start to a list of teacher-resources available at UCD!

  2. I’m really excited to see PBGG consider this direction. A lot of the teacher training objectives and activities are extremely valuable experiences that I have had the pleasure of trying. I think as far as actually supporting students who desire a teacher-training program, as it is now, falls short – this is a laundry list of things to do. As a former leader of GTC, while discussing the requirements for GTC quarterly certificates, one grad student replied, “Oh, I’m going to put it on my CV whether I complete it or not.” – with the CV-inflation mindset (or not) and the laundry list done, what does *this* certification offer to the student?
    Preparing (graduate) students properly to step into a teacher/professor role should stop being ‘by fire’ and on the backs of the (undergraduate) students they fail the first few times at the collegiate level.
    This list currently makes a huge assumption that on-record professors are master teachers, which anyone who has experienced R1 university systems can attest is not a safe assumption; Professors come with a random assortment of biases, bad habits, and sometimes a straight up distaste for teaching. Furthermore, those professors who do go above and beyond for undergraduate education (and there are many who do) may still not be effective managers nor good teacher-mentors – these are different skill sets.
    If PBGG wants to certify that they have produced an excellent teacher, then certify not just the number of experiences, but the quality. I’d advocate for more peer mentorship from senior TAs (within PBGG or across groups), more direct feedback from undergraduate students (what do they need? want? find helpful?), and cherry-picking the best faculty teaching mentors to give talks, meet with students, or be one-on-one mentors. If the PBGG folks want to join forces with other grad groups and/or CETL and/or GTC to offer support on “how” to write teaching proposals or to expand TA training to include more education-centered advice BEFORE students hit the classroom, this could improve the teaching experience for all parties.
    Additionally, though I have participated in most of the things on this list, I would still find this quite intimidating as an incoming graduate student. If this list is here to stay, perhaps breaking it into ‘advised quarters’ would help it seem more approachable.
    Glad to see you guys tackle this. It’s not an easy target, but a very worthwhile one, and so far a great start to a list of teacher-resources available at UCD!

  3. Pingback: Guidelines for PBGG students interested in teaching careers | The Prospective Prof

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