10 Beyond the teaching assistantship: Graduate and postdoctoral student professional development in teaching and learning

Monday, August 3, 2009: 4:40 PM
Cinnarron, Albuquerque Convention Center
Janet Batzli , Biocore, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Madison, WI
Sarah Miller , Wisconsin Program for Scientific Teaching, University of Wisconsin- Madison, Madison, WI
Michelle Harris , Biocore, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Madison, WI
Background/Question/Methods We describe a stream-lined program that trains graduate students and postdocs in the sciences to use current literature on learning theory, pedagogy, assessment and instruction to develop and implement innovative teaching materials and approaches in the context of a real course. Beginning in 2004 we partnered an 8-week seminar course on teaching for future faculty with a large enrollment, four-semester introductory biology sequence where faculty instructors work with graduate and postdoctoral student 'teaching fellows' to develop instructional approaches that meet difficult teaching and student learning challenges. In our introductory biology courses, teaching fellows have developed, implemented, and assessed 8 teaching projects over five years including units on a.) molecular structure and function of proteins using computer imaging and hand-held models, b.) PCR and gel electrophoresis, c.) use of statistics to plan experiments and interpret data, d.) an inquiry-based lab unit investigating C. elegans gene expression using RNA interference, e.) use of podcasts to make time for active learning in lecture, and f.) a laboratory unit on bioinformatics and molecular imaging.

Results/Conclusions As a result of this partnership, we have evidence for measurable learning gains for our students. These outcomes have been reported, presented or published in six scholarly education papers co-authored by teaching fellows and faculty partners. We will discuss key features of this program that promoted solutions to some of our most difficult teaching challenges in the classroom, and helped faculty instructors establish a culture of scholarship in teaching. Graduate students and postdocs, gained practical in-depth teaching experience (beyond a TAship), gained insight into how people learn, into new pedagogy and instructional approaches, and established a network of teaching colleagues. We feel that all of these experiences will help these future science faculty enjoy a productive and fulfilling career in teaching and research.

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