Creative—and effective—solutions win honors for 11 GSIs Published: July 15, 2010 By: Dick Cortén Teaching Effectiveness Award honorees and those who honored them (left to right, standing in top row): Gina Zupsich, Rahul Bjørn Parson, Jessica Shade, Aaron Lee, Catherine Cronquist Browning, Danielle Champney, and Jeff Reimer (chair of the Graduate Council’s Advisory Committee for GSI Affairs); (bottom row, seated) Lora Oehlberg, Susan Muller (Graduate Division associate dean), Graduate Dean Andrew Szeri, Linda von Hoene (director of the GSI Center), and Anastasia Kayiatos. (Photo: Peg Skorpinski) Already honored among the hundreds grad students honored with the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award, they were invited to submit essays about teaching problems they encountered and how they solved them. Eleven of the entries had that winning touch. The Graduate Division’s Teaching Effectiveness Awards were presented May 13 in the Women’s Faculty Club. The winners identified a teaching/learning problem in their own classes, laboratories, and sections, then came up with a method, strategy, or idea to address the problem, implemented it, measured its effectiveness, and described the process in an essay. Their essays become part of a permanent archive. A few examples of the current winners, in quick summary (Photos by Peg Skorpinski): In South and Southeast Asian Studies, Rahul Bjørn Parson needed to make his Introductory Hindi course accessible to a hearing-impaired student, so he took the opportunity to involve the whole class in multisensory, participatory ways. The hearing-impaired student taught him, and fellow students, how to speak so she could read their lips. As a result, this group of learners outperformed the other Introductory Hindi section, and after two semesters in that classroom climate the hearing-impaired student was “linguistically equipped” to conduct fieldwork for her dissertation in India. The new and often difficult vocabulary in feminist theory — “phallogocentrism,” “compulsory heterosexuality” — is actually intended to empower, but undergrads new to Gender and Women’s Studies often find it dense and befuddling. GSI Anastasia Kayiatos created a group self-help project to make the terms and meanings a shared resource. Her students wrote their own definitions of new terms they encountered, then discussed and debated them. Week by week, Kayiatos added the class-approved results to a growing glossary on their bSpace site, culminating in “a collaborative dictionary co-authored by 50 students, comprising more than 60 pages and hundreds of entries. As they pursue related studies, her former students are continuing to use and add to the glossary. Aaron Lee found that his astronomy students had trouble getting a feel for the “unimaginably huge and unimaginably small sizes and distances” in the course. So he helped them translate the numbers into familiar experience. For instance, the speed of light — 300,000 kilometers per second — translated to 671 million miles per hour, then how long it would take for light to travel around the earth’s circumference, and how long the trip from Berkeley to Los Angeles that would take (it could get there about 475 times in one second). These are all the Teaching Effectiveness Award recipients for 2010, listed alphabetically with teaching department and essay title: Danielle Champney, Education (SESAME) — “Using Prediction, Competition, and Reflection to Make Connections in Calculus II” Catherine Cronquist Browning, English — “Ethical Engagement: Practical Solutions for Addressing Plagiarism in the Writing Classroom” Emily Hamilton, History — “Playing Teacher: Adding Predictive Power to Students’ Toolboxes” Anastasia Kayiatos, Slavic — “(Feminist) Dreams Really Do Come True” Aaron Lee, Astronomy — “Bringing Astronomy Down to Earth: A Teaching Strategy That Helps Develop Intuition” Lora Oehlberg, Mechanical Engineering — “A Hands-On Approach to User Interface Prototyping” Rahul Bjørn Parson, South and Southeast Asian Studies — “Language Pedagogy as a Group Effort” Matthew Sergi, English — “A People’s History of the English Language: Dialect Communities” Jessica Shade, Integrative Biology — “Encouraging Deep Learning in an Introductory Course” Julie Ullman, Molecular and Cell Biology —“Teaching Students How to Create a Picture Worth a Thousand Words” Gina Zupsich, French — “Free in Theory: Teaching Gender in Historical Perspective” The 11 new winning Teaching Effectiveness Award essays are posted on the GSI Center website in its treasure-trove archive of inventive teaching tips that stretches back 11 years. Anyone facing a classroom might find something useful there. The essay site has a wide range of visitors, from beginning GSIs to long-term tenured faculty at Berkeley, across the U.S., and elsewhere in the world.