October 14, 2015

Workshop series prepares graduate students for teaching in the university classroom

Doctoral students master an academic discipline, but they don't always spend time learning a vital skill for future professors: How to teach at the undergraduate and graduate level.

A new series of workshops sponsored by the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) is giving Penn GSE students a better understanding of how to manage a college classroom and communicate complex ideas.

The workshops are filling a need, said Penn GSE Professor Rand Quinn.

“When I was a graduate student, you had to pick this up on your own,” Quinn said. “You had to look for a good teacher and watch them, or go to a job talk and really think in-depth about what made it good.”

Quinn will be leading a workshop on designing and delivering effective presentations on October 15 at noon. The skills students learn in these workshops will benefit doctoral students who plan to work either in or outside academia. 

The goal of the CTL-GSE Pedagogy workshops is to expose students to different approaches for creating individual lessons and courses, said workshop organizer Katie Clonan-Roy, a fifth-year Penn GSE doctoral student and the CTL Graduate Fellow for Teaching Excellence.

 Many Penn GSE students have some experience in a classroom, but it is often teaching in a K-12 school. The college level is different, Clonan-Roy said. The expectations are higher for students, who have a different set of responsibilities than they did in high school.

 When interviewing prospective professors, colleges will want to know a candidate can build courses and help their students succeed, Clonan-Roy said. The workshops should get Penn GSE students thinking about their own pedagogy, Clonan-Roy, and hopefully inspire more students to serve as teaching assistants while they are here. 

“We’re talking about skills all students will need: How to clearly communicate an idea, how structure a job talk, how to use visuals,” Quinn said.

Abby Reisman, Assistant Professor in the Teaching, Learning, and Leadership division, kicked off the series in September with an overview on teacher education.

On November 17, Sigal Ben-Porath, of the Education, Culture, and Society division, will discuss how professors can cover controversial topics in the university classroom.

Other workshops will follow through the spring. You can find the full list of CTL events happening across the university here. For more information about Penn GSE, email Clonan-Roy at kclo@gse.upenn.edu.