Teaching and mentoring roles often involve significant leadership and collaborative responsibilities. In teaching positions, such as GSI positions, you will have the opportunity to collaborate with other GSIs and the instructor of record. Effective collaboration will enable you and your colleagues to work more efficiently and effectively by, for example, developing lesson plans together or splitting up lesson design responsibilities. In the classroom and in mentoring environments, you will also gain opportunities to lead students and mentees, and facilitate effective collaboration amongst students. Nearly every career involves some elements of collaboration and leadership, and teaching and mentoring experience is a valuable way to demonstrate those skills. To learn more about developing other skills in teaching and mentoring, see the Teaching & Mentoring competency in this guide.

Steps You Can Take

Teach, Team-Teach, or Serve as a GSI in a Multi-Section Course

Collaborative teaching as a graduate student can take different forms, such as serving as a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) in a multi-section course, team-teaching a course with another GSI, or serving as the sole GSI in a course taught by a professor. Co-teaching entails coordinating with faculty members or other graduate students on subjects like curriculum planning, scheduling, course content, communication with students, and assessment.

Practices that can make you a more effective collaborator in a co-teaching context include taking on leadership responsibilities, practicing effective communication, reconciling differing approaches and perspectives, and “managing up.” These are all interpersonal skills that are highly valued across many career paths.

On co-teaching, also see “Grad Students Should Co-Teach,” Inside Higher Ed (2016), “Bringing Collaborative Teaching into Doctoral Programs,” The American Sociologist (2013), “What We Learned from Co-Teaching,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2016) and “Partner Up,” from Maricopa Community Colleges.


Serve as Head Graduate Student Instructor (GSI)

Managing a classroom involves many skills that are transferable to other contexts. These include public speaking, answering questions clearly and accurately, maintaining records, time management, assessing work and giving constructive feedback, creating objectives and goals for your work and the work of others, working with a supervisor, and assessing your own performance. Being a Head GSI gives you the added responsibility of coordinating the work of junior colleagues who make up the teaching team and exercising leadership skills such as negotiation, conflict management, and complex data management. Not all departments have Head GSIs, so ask the instructor of record for the course you are teaching if they will be selecting a Head GSI.


Serve as an Acting Instructor-Graduate Student (AI-GS) for a Course You Have Designed

As an Acting Instructor-Graduate Student you serve as the Instructor of Record for a particular upper division course. Although you are still under faculty supervision, you will be responsible for designing and running every aspect of the course. Consider speaking to the Graduate Student Affairs Officer (GSAO) in your department to learn about openings for teaching opportunities in your field. You can also learn more about this position in the GSI, GSR, Reader and Tutor Guide.


Incorporate Team-based Projects and Group Work into Teaching

Teaching affords you the opportunity to develop many leadership skills transferable to other settings while also employing activities that contribute significantly to student learning. Group work and team-based projects enable you to practice skills fundamental to leadership and management: designing and guiding group projects and activities, establishing clear expectations, responding appropriately to conflicts, assessing performance and the outcomes of work, and fostering a sense of community. To learn more about incorporating team-based projects into your class as a GSI, read through the “Teaching Discussion Sections” teaching guide created by the GSI Teaching & Resource Center. You can also request an appointment with a Teaching Consultant at the Center to receive feedback and guidance as you design these activities.


Serve as a Formal Mentor for an Undergraduate

Mentoring undergraduate students will help you develop skills that are transferable to mentoring junior colleagues, trainees, and students in other organizational settings. One aspect of mentoring is concerned with the substantive aspects of the tasks at hand. The other is about motivating people to do their best work, guiding them through challenging situations, and giving them constructive feedback. There are training programs and courses on campus that will help you develop these skills and give you an opportunity to apply them in practice. These include a graduate course GSPDP301 titled Effective Mentoring in Higher Education, the Graduate Division’s SMART initiative, Berkeley Connect, and Getting into Grad School (GiGS). You’ll find additional information on these programs on the Graduate Division’s page on Mentoring.