eCOTS 2012 - Virtual Poster #20

"Introducing the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning to Graduate Students Instructors"
with Ulrike Genschel, Iowa State University

Hosted by: Erin Leatherman, The Ohio State University

The Department of Statistics at Iowa State University relies on graduate students instructors to cover a significant amount of the departmental teaching responsibilities at the undergraduate level. These students typically teach one section of a multi-section introductory course that is coordinated by a faculty member. The faculty member oversees all teaching efforts and advises student instructors in general questions or concerns that arise throughout the semester. Nevertheless, the majority of these graduate student instructors have no formal training in pedagogy or adult learning theory, and many pedagogical questions from these instructors cannot even be addressed appropriately due to lack of resources and time. In an effort to improve training of graduate student instructors, I created a weekly discussion group this semester to provide students with an opportunity to learn more about the scholarship of teaching and learning. This semester we will spend time reading and discussing a book called "Thinking about Teaching and Learning" by Robert Leamnson. We will also address topics in which students expressed interest. The purpose of this presentation is to provide an overview of the topics covered in the discussion group as well as feedback on this first experience. There are currently 10 students participating.

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Carla Thompson:

Enjoyed your slides and commentary concerning the preparation of GAs for the scholarship of teaching and learning in statistics education. Our institution has a similar orientation seminar for all GAs to prepare then in philosophical as well as operational considerations concerning the role of GA within specific disciplines. However, we are not allowed to have GAs teach graduate level statistics courses. Do you have some suggestions for what types of preparation to afford GAs who are responsible for working with graduate students?
Thankyou for your presentation.

Carla Thompson, Associate Professor, University of West Florida

Ulrike Genschel:

Hi Carla,

Our graduate students don't teach graduate level classes either. (I am sorry if this came across somehow. ) All of the classes they teach are at the 100 and 200 level. I honestly have not put much thought towards preparing graduate students who instruct other graduate students. I would think that lot of the same principles such as setting clear expectations in the classroom or having students actively make use of discipline specific language (Chapter 3 of the book I reference) will be the same.
I believe that graduate students are the more experienced and independent learners but they often struggle with the transition from undergraduate to graduate. At ISU we are currently looking into building learning communities for first-year graduate students.

Thank you for your interest!! And sorry that I could not be of much help.

Jennifer Kaplan:

This is a really timely presentation for me because I am taking over the class that our first year graduate students in statistics take to prepare them to teach. I'm completely revising the course and would love feedback from Ulrike (and everyone else) on what to include and how to structure the course (which will meet for two 90 minutes sessions a week). Suggestions?

Here is the official course description:
Provides graduate teaching assistants with knowledge of pedagogical approaches and available support systems for teaching statistics courses.

Thanks in advance!

Jennifer Kaplan, University of Georgia

Ulrike Genschel:

Hi Jennifer,

I'll need a bit of time to tabulate a more coherent and complete list of the ideas that I have. I have no formal training in pedagogy and I am learning as I go. I just participated in a two day workshop last week that was all about experiencing teaching from the learners' view. Many of the activities included some "role play" which was very insightful to see students' perspectives. This will allow me to focus more on the aspects that are important to get student's attention. The workshop was given by a faculty member from the Educational Policies and Leadership department here at ISU and I will definitely get more input from them as I am setting up a similar course here at ISU in the future.

I'll compile a list of topics that I have found useful by the end of this week and post it here.


Bethany White:

Hi Jennifer & Ulrike,

Ulrike, I really enjoyed your talk. Thanks!

I taught a graduate-level course called "Teaching Statistics" in my department for the first time in Fall 2010. It was a small class (3 officially enrolled + 1 who audited the course) but we all got a lot out of it. We met twice a week for 90 minutes per session. I originally set it up with more structure but it evolved into more of a reading group format (but with assessments as planned at the beginning of term). I'd be happy to share my course syllabus with you if either of you are interested. Please email me at and I can send you a pdf copy.


Bethany White, Western University, Canada

Ulrike Genschel:

Hi Bethany,

That sounds great. Thank you, I will definitely send you an email in the next couple of day.

Thanks again,