Effective teaching strategies demonstrated by top graduate student teachers

by Julie Dodd

Falcon Restrepo-Ramos receives the Calvin A. VanderWerf Award from Dean of the Graduate School Henry Frierson and Dr. Constance Shehan, chair of the selection committee. The VanderWerf Award is given to the top of the teaching award winners. Morgan Yacoe also received the VanderWerf Award. Photo by Julie Dodd

Promoting student involvement.

Connecting learning to important issues.

Assigning meaningful projects.

Establishing a supportive learning climate.

These were some of the effective teaching strategies employed by the graduate students who were selected to receive the University of Florida’s Graduate Student Teacher Awards for 2019.

As a member of the faculty committee that observes the graduate students nominated for this award, I could feel the energy of those really engaging instructors when I visited their classes. I admired the graduate students’ course design and class planning to create such good learning experiences for their students.

Structuring class activities to get students involved

In the classes I observed that were taught by award-winning graduate students, their students were actively involved. Here are three examples I observed.

The winners of the University of Florida’s Graduate Student Teaching Awards for 2019 and members of the selection committee. Photo by Eric Zamora

In a physiology lab, the students worked in teams to review the results of the physiology lab they had conducted independently online.

Talking with classmates in a small group helped them answer some of their own questions about the lab and prepared them to share their experiences and the questions they still had with the class. In addition, after talking in small groups, the students were more confident in speaking in class.

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Presentation for teaching assistants focused on strategies for developing syllabus and having good start to school year

University of Florida orientation for teaching assistants

New teaching assistants listen to a panel of faculty members and administrators talk about “Classroom Challenges.” Photo by Julie Dodd

by Julie Dodd

More than 400 teach assistants attended a second day of orientation as they get ready to take on teaching duties when classes start at the University of Florida next week. The orientation is sponsored by the Graduate School and the Teaching Center.

I was one of the invited speakers. My topic was “A Positive Start to Your Teaching: Your Syllabus and the First Week of Classes.” [You can download a PDF handout of the slides I used for my presentation — dodd_2013_ta-orientation]

UF Teaching Assistant HandbookI divided my presentation into several parts:

* Advice about what they should be doing now to get ready for the start of class. That discussion included meeting with their supervisor, getting copies of course materials, and mapping out their own schedule for the semester (including office hours).

* A discussion of how a well-designed syllabus can assist teachers and students. Most of these new teaching assistants won’t be developing the syllabi they will be using this fall, but they need to know what the course policies and procedures are. Thinking more long-term, those who are interested in going into a career of teaching in higher education need to know how to create a syllabus.

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