Teaching Teaching and Mentoring

The skills you develop in teaching and mentoring, such as establishing expectations, assessing the work of others and giving constructive feedback, managing the work of a team, and creating inclusive learning environments, are transferable to diverse career paths.

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Teaching skills & steps you can take to develop them *

Developing your knowledge of disciplinary pedagogy can benefit you in preparing to become a future faculty member, or in preparing for work in a setting outside of academia where explaining disciplinary concepts to your colleagues may be a valued skill.


Steps You Can Take


Take Departmental Pedagogy Class

Enrolling in a pedagogy course in your department will help you learn about pedagogical practices within your specific discipline. Departmental pedagogy courses can be found in the course catalog, where most are listed as 375 courses.

Serve as a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) or Acting Instructor-Graduate Student (AI-GS)

Serving as a GSI or AI-GS will help you to hone your teaching skills in a course within your discipline. Consider speaking to the Graduate Student Affairs Officer (GSAO) in your department to learn about openings for teaching opportunities in your field. You can learn more about GSI positions in the GSI, GSR, Reader and Tutor Guide.

Develop a Course Syllabus

Developing a course syllabus can help improve your understanding of a particular subfield of knowledge in your discipline. Your finished syllabus may also help you secure an academic job where you will have the opportunity to teach similar courses. Designing a course also gives you practice in formulating desired outcomes and ways to assess whether they have been met, an essential skill in any career. Each semester the GSI Teaching & Resource Center offers a workshop specifically geared toward graduate students who are interested in designing a course and corresponding syllabus.

Some other resources that may help you in developing a course syllabus include:

Undertake the Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education

The Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education is designed to help you develop your classroom skills, to prepare for teaching as a future faculty member, and to professionally document your work as a teacher. The activities that are part of the certificate program include general and discipline-specific teaching skills such as developing a teaching portfolio, cultivating strategies for efficient and effective grading, and using digital technology in teaching and learning.

Write a Teaching Statement for Job Applications

Applications for academic positions often ask candidates to submit a teaching statement that reflects their pedagogical experience and philosophy within their particular discipline. To get started with writing a statement of teaching philosophy, consider attending the GSI Teaching & Resource Center’s workshop on Developing a Statement of Teaching Philosophy and Teaching Portfolio.

Some other resources from The Chronicle of Higher Education that may be helpful to you in writing a teaching statement include:

Review Teaching Journals in Your Field

Many disciplines have journals that publish articles specifically related to teaching issues within the field. Investigate which teaching-specific journals may exist within your field or in fields closely related to yours. Consider reviewing these journals to get an idea of the types of research and conversations that take place within your discipline on the topics of teaching and learning. You may also consider reading some of the discipline-specific award-winning teaching ideas found in the Teaching Effectiveness Essays written by UC Berkeley GSIs.

Expanding your toolbox of instructional techniques will be beneficial regardless of the career you choose to pursue after graduate school. For those interested in teaching-related careers, developing teaching skills has obvious value, but for those planning to pursue jobs outside of academia, the skills you learn as a teacher are transferable to a variety of fields. Instructional techniques can broadly help cultivate important skills such as oral communication, active listening, managing teams, and problem solving.


Steps You Can Take


Take Workshops on Teaching

Each semester the GSI Teaching & Resource Center conducts a variety of workshops to help you develop your teaching skills and knowledge of pedagogy. If you are interested in careers outside of academia, you may be particularly interested in attending the workshop on The Transferable Skills of Teaching, which will help you to identify skills developed in teaching that are essential in a wide variety of careers. Selected handouts from this workshop are also available in the Workshop Handouts and Videos section of the GSI Online Library.

Read the Online Teaching Guide and Other Web-Based Resources

The GSI Teaching & Resource Center’s Online Teaching Guide and GSI Online Library offer graduate students a wide variety of general and discipline-specific teaching techniques that can help you develop skills for teaching in the classroom, as well as skills that are transferable to other career choices.

Teach Discussion and/or Lab Sections

Serving as a GSI or AI-GS will help you to apply your knowledge of teaching techniques to a real-life environment and to hone your teaching skills in the classroom. Consider speaking to the Graduate Student Affairs Officer (GSAO) in your department to learn about openings for teaching opportunities in your field. You can learn more about GSI positions in the GSI, GSR, Reader and Tutor Guide.

Use Online Media, such as Moderated Chats or Blogs, in Teaching

Using online media and technology in your teaching can diversify your teaching strategies, make you an attractive candidate for jobs that value innovative teaching experience, and help you become proficient in technologies that may be useful in careers outside of academia. For ideas about how to integrate the use of technology in your teaching, see the Teaching with Technology section of the GSI Teaching & Resource Center’s Online Teaching Guide for GSIs.

Deliver a Lecture or Research Paper in a Formal Setting

Delivering a lecture or research paper in a formal setting will help you to develop your oral communication and public speaking abilities—skills that are valuable in a variety of careers. Consider presenting a paper at a national or regional conference in your discipline, or see if there may be an opportunity to deliver a guest lecture in a course taught within your field. To prepare for and improve your public speaking, consider attending a Toast of Berkeley meeting. Toast of Berkeley is part of Toastmasters International, and meets weekly to help students, educators, and professionals develop confident and effective public speaking techniques.

Develop Skills in Guiding the Work of Teams

The ability to guide the work of a team and to foster productive collaboration among team members working toward a common goal is a skill that is important in a number of careers. Teaching at Berkeley will provide you with the opportunity to hone this skill by guiding students through group activities and team-based projects. Additionally, you might consider seeking out other opportunities where you can gain skills in guiding teams. For example, you may look into opportunities for mentoring teams of undergraduates working in a lab or another research environment, or you might look into leadership opportunities in your department that involve working with other graduate students on projects such as organizing an academic conference or establishing working groups on particular topics.

Complete Teaching Preparation Requirements

When you are a Graduate Student Instructor for the first time on the Berkeley campus, you will fulfill a set of requirements—the Teaching Conference, the Online Ethics Course, and the 300-level pedagogy course in your discipline—that will not only support you in your teaching but also help form the foundation of your teaching and leadership skills in future careers in or outside of the academy.

An inclusive classroom environment is an important component of student learning. Taking steps to develop your skills in creating an inclusive classroom will be beneficial not just to students who feel marginalized and excluded, but to all students in your class. Additionally, learning how to create an inclusive classroom environment will provide you with a set of valuable skills transferable to a wide variety of professional settings.


Steps You Can Take


Take Required Online Course on Professional Standards and Ethics in Teaching

The GSI Professional Standards and Ethics Online Course will introduce you to policies, practices, and standards that all instructors need to know in order to perform their responsibilities professionally and ethically. In addition to helping GSIs learn about essential campus policies, the online ethics course introduces GSIs to the importance of promoting learning through diversity in inclusive classrooms. While specifically geared toward classroom teaching, the information that you will learn in this course is applicable to many types of interactions both within and beyond academia.

Participate in Interactive Theater and Other Workshops on Promoting Inclusive Learning Environments

Each year, the Teaching Conference for First-Time GSIs includes an Interactive Theater event that introduces key components of promoting an inclusive learning environment for students at Berkeley. This program—a collaboration between the GSI Teaching & Resource Center, the Division of Equity & Inclusion, and Berkeley Interactive Theater—includes an in-depth, participatory exploration of microaggressions and the ways that GSIs can respond when they occur in the classroom. While the program focuses primarily on classroom teaching, GSIs learn skills for identifying and responding to microaggressions that are transferable to a wide variety of contexts. Additionally, the GSI Teaching & Resource Center offers a post-conference follow-up workshop, called Creating Inclusive Classrooms, that elaborates upon the character and consequences of microaggressions and provides additional resources for addressing them.

Developing your knowledge of how people learn can help you become a more effective teacher and mentor at Berkeley. This knowledge can also be applied to a variety of career settings when you work with colleagues as part of a team or oversee and support the work and development of junior colleagues.


Steps You Can Take


Take a Workshop Offered by the GSI Teaching & Resource Center

Each semester, as part of its Workshops on Teaching, the GSI Teaching & Resource Center offers a workshop entitled “How Students Learn” to introduce graduate students to research on learning and to help them make informed teaching decisions. This workshop helps Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs) consider ways to apply research-based principles to diverse learning environments.

Familiarize Yourself with Published Literature

To familiarize yourself with research on how students learn, consider doing some background reading of published literature. You might start by visiting the GSI Teaching & Resource Center’s page on how students learn. This page includes links to talks by UC Berkeley faculty on research into how students learn, and a list of core readings about how students learn.

Apply your Knowledge of How People Learn by Serving as a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) or Acting Instructor-Graduate Student (AI-GS)

Serving as a GSI or AI-GS will help you to apply your knowledge of student learning to a real-life environment and to hone your teaching skills in the classroom. Contact the Graduate Student Affairs Officer (GSAO) in your department to learn about openings for teaching opportunities in your field. You can learn more about how to obtain GSI positions in the GSI, GSR, Reader and Tutor Guide.

A central outcome of learning how to teach is the development of assessment skills that are transferable to other settings. The assessment techniques you develop through teaching and giving students feedback on their work will help you determine if students have met the learning outcomes set for them.  And, whether you work in academia, industry, government, or non-profits, knowing how to measure the outcome of your work and that of the people and teams you oversee will be an essential skill.


Steps You Can Take


Take Workshops on Assessment of Teaching and Learning

Each semester the GSI Teaching & Resource Center conducts a variety of workshops to help you develop your teaching skills and knowledge of pedagogy. To learn about how to assess your students’ learning, you may consider attending the GSI Teaching & Resource Center’s workshop Creating and Using Grading Rubrics, which is offered each semester. To learn how to assess the impact of your teaching on student learning, take the workshop Assessing Teaching and Learning.

Learn How to Write Learning Outcomes for Activities, Lesson Plans, and Courses

Writing learning goals for different aspects of your teaching is useful in concretizing what you would like students to be able to do with the material they are learning. In order to write clear, effective learning outcomes, familiarize yourself with Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. You can learn more about Bloom’s Taxonomy in the GSI Teaching & Resource Center’s Teaching Guide for GSIs. In particular, you may want to read about how to create learning objectives for writing assignments. Additionally, you may want to attend the GSI Teaching & Resource Center’s workshop on Syllabus and Course Design, where you can learn how to develop learning objectives for a course. The ability to formulate and measure outcomes has direct application for professionals in almost any career.

Develop and Use a Grading Rubric

Rubrics are grading scales that lay out the criteria used to assess a particular assignment or activity. Using a grading rubric can help you grade student work more effectively and efficiently, and can also be used to make grading criteria more transparent for your students. Familiarize yourself with the steps for creating and using a grading rubric by reading the section on grading rubrics in the GSI Teaching & Resource Center’s Teaching Guide for GSIs. The GSI Teaching and Resource Center also offers a workshop on Creating and Using Grading Rubrics.

Work One-on-One with Students to Identify and Rectify Gaps in Comprehension of Coursework

An important part of assessment is learning how to convey your feedback to students so that they will understand where they need to put additional effort to achieve the learning outcomes you have set for them.  Whether it be in writing on papers and assignments returned to students or face-to-face in office hours, giving constructive feedback to students will help you be an effective instructor and will give you high-quality practice in giving feedback on the work of others, an essential skill in almost any field.

As a graduate student, it is important both to gain experience mentoring others and to cultivate mentoring relationships that support your own professional development and career aspirations. Seeking out and developing productive mentoring relationships with faculty can help you complete program requirements in a timely manner with the support you need and develop the skills you need to be competitive when applying for positions in and beyond the academy. Gaining experience in mentoring undergraduate students will cultivate your techniques for mentoring others; these skills will be useful in any future career that involves guiding the work of others.


Steps You Can Take


Explore Opportunities for Formal and Informal Mentoring of Undergraduates

Mentoring an undergraduate or group of undergraduates will help you cultivate skills that are widely applicable both in and outside of academia. Most graduate students will mentor undergraduate students through teaching during their work as Graduate Student Instructors, but the University and various departments also offer a number of other opportunities for graduate students to mentor undergraduates.

You may begin by inquiring in your department about whether there are opportunities for you to mentor undergraduates in research or more generally. For example, many departments provide the opportunity to work with undergraduate research assistants on faculty or graduate student projects, to mentor undergraduates in their own research, or to work with undergraduates in other types of mentoring relationships. A number of departments also award fellowships to graduate mentors through the Berkeley Connect program.

To find opportunities to mentor undergraduates outside of your department, you might see whether there are broader disciplinary mentoring opportunities available through professional organizations in your discipline. You will also want to explore the Graduate Division’s page on Mentoring, which outlines several graduate mentorship programs such as Student Mentoring and Research Teams (SMART) and Getting into Graduate School (GIGS).

Find Out about Mentoring in Your Discipline

Mentoring and being mentored in your department is an important part of your experience at Berkeley. However, there are also mentoring opportunities outside of the University that may be of particular benefit to you. Explore the websites for the central professional organizations within your discipline and see whether they may offer any mentoring programs that will either allow you to be mentored or to mentor others.

Many disciplines have journals that publish articles on mentoring within the field. Investigate which discipline-specific journals exist within your field or in fields closely related to yours that may have articles related to mentoring practices. Review these journals to get an idea of the types of research and conversations that take place within your discipline on the topics of graduate and undergraduate mentoring.

Learn about How to Create Productive Mentoring Relationships

Creating productive mentoring relationships is not always easy. Consider accessing campus resources that will help you develop your skills as both a mentor and mentee. For example, you might consider taking a workshop offered annually in the fall by the Graduate Professional Development Program that addresses how to be an effective mentor and how to get the mentoring you need as a graduate student, or enrolling in the Graduate Professional Development Program’s one-unit course on Mentoring in Higher Education (GSPDP 301), offered annually in the spring. Additionally, you might read Getting Mentored in Graduate School, the text used in the Mentoring in Higher Education course. This text includes a number of sections that outline the qualities and behaviors of good mentors and of mentored graduate students that can assist you in creating productive mentoring relationships.

Watch for posts in the Graduate Division’s monthly GradNews online newsletter, like this article on Getting the Mentoring You Need, that can help you in your dual role as mentee and mentor. Graduate students seeking academic positions should know that mentoring experience and the ability to describe how they have successfully mentored undergraduates is becoming increasingly important in the academic job search. Developing mentoring skills in graduate school will also be of great benefit to your success in careers beyond academia where mentoring junior colleagues is often an essential part of the life of a professional.

Take Steps to Find Mentors that will Support Your Professional Development

Finding the right mentors can help you to move efficiently through your graduate program and to develop the necessary skills you will need to succeed in the career of your choice. Be intentional about seeking out a mentor and establishing a productive mentoring relationship. While one of your mentors may be your dissertation chair or Principle Investigator (PI), recognize that it is important to seek out a variety of mentors to serve all of your needs.  Another way to obtain mentorship in preparing for future careers is to seek out internships, some of which build into the program professional development activities and connect you with a mentor.  Some internship opportunities are listed on the Career Center website; others may be advertised within your department.

* Some skills serve in the development of more than one competency. Some skills may apply more to one discipline than to another. Keep in mind that the list of skills and steps you can take to develop these competencies is not exhaustive.

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Teaching skill-building workshops & events

Date Event Organizer
September 25 Assessing Teaching and Learning GSI Teaching & Resource Center
October 6 Design for Equity Lab D-Lab
October 10 Syllabus and Course Design GSI Teaching & Resource Center
October 11 Strategies and Skills for Mentoring: A Workshop for Graduate Students Graduate Writing Center
October 12 Seven Things Every Instructor Should Know About Fake News! Berkeley College Writing Programs
October 25 Creating Inclusive Classrooms GSI Teaching & Resource Center
November 1 Using Writing to Promote Learning GSI Teaching & Resource Center
November 9 How Students Learn GSI Teaching & Resource Center

More Events

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Selected resources to help deepen your Teaching skills

Resource Provided By
GSI Professional Standards and Ethics Online Course GSI Teaching & Resource Center
Workshops on Teaching for GSIs GSI Teaching & Resource Center
Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education GSI Teaching & Resource Center
Teaching Guide for GSIs GSI Teaching & Resource Center
Award-Winning GSI Teaching Ideas GSI Teaching & Resource Center
GSI Teaching Gallery GSI Teaching & Resource Center
How Students Learn: Talks by UC Berkeley Faculty Researchers GSI Teaching & Resource Center

More Resources