A key way to develop skills in teaching and mentoring is through practice. As a graduate student, there are a number of opportunities available to you to start gaining experience in these areas. By gaining experience as a teacher and mentor, you will be able to demonstrate to future employers a number of important and widely applicable skills, such as communicating complex information, assessing learning and other outcomes, providing effective feedback, public speaking, mentoring junior colleagues, and much more.

Steps You Can Take

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 and develop expertise in the course content. You can learn more about GSI positions in the GSI, GSR, Reader and Tutor Guide. Consider speaking to the Graduate Student Affairs Officer (GSAO) in your department to learn about openings for teaching opportunities in your field. It is also common practice for graduate students to teach in departments outside of their home department. Many openings for GSI positions across campus are listed on the Graduate Division’s GSI Position website.

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 a 300-level pedagogy course—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.

The required pedagogy course is usually listed as course number 375. Your department may offer its own pedagogy course, which will teach you pedagogical practices specific to your discipline. However, you are also welcome to take the Graduate Division’s pedagogy course, GSPDP375, which will provide insights for teaching across disciplines. Some other pedagogy courses are also welcome to all students regardless of department, which are typically listed on the GSI Teaching & Resource Center website. All pedagogy courses can be found in the course catalog.

The required 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.


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 in all careers where you might supervise and guide a team or mentor junior colleagues. 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 can visit the websites for the central professional organizations within your discipline and see whether they offer any mentoring programs that will either allow you to be mentored or to mentor others.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 (SURF SMART) and Getting into Graduate School (GIGS).

As you explore being a mentor to others, it is important to consider your own implicit biases and address how they impact your activity as a mentor. You may want to view the webinar Developing Anti-Oppressive Communities: Supporting Black Students and Mentees from the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity and review the Equity and Inclusion competency of this guide. Also consider reviewing the guidance and resources offered in the Equity and Inclusion competency of this guide.


Give a Guest Lecture

Many opportunities exist at Berkeley to give guest lectures—you just have to find the right situation and make your interest and expertise known. If you are a GSI, consider asking the instructor of record if you can guest lecture for that course, since you will already be familiar with the course layout and content. You can also consult course catalogs in your department or related fields to find lecture courses being offered in your area of specialization. Contact the professor to ask if they would be willing to let you offer a guest lecture in one of their course sessions that semester—many are happy to let graduate students gain the lecturing experience and will offer subsequent feedback.  You can also record your lecture and get feedback on your oral communication skills from the GSI Teaching & Resource Center.

For tips on improving your presentation and communication skills in the classroom, see these two articles on “Public Speaking for Teachers” from the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning at Yale: “Lecturing Without Fear” and “The Mechanics of Speaking.”


Teach or Mentor off-Campus

Although it can be difficult to find mentoring and teaching experiences off of campus, some students might find that off-campus options are a good fit for their goals. Off campus, you may find opportunities to develop and teach your own course through, for example, adjunct lectureship roles, or you may find novel teaching and mentoring opportunities through volunteer organizations. For example, you may consider teaching at Mount Tamalpais College, which offers higher education to people incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison.