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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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
On campus, you will find numerous resources and trainings for becoming an effective teacher and mentor. 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 non-teaching jobs, the skills you learn as a teacher are transferable to a variety of careers. Instructional techniques can broadly help cultivate important skills such as oral communication, active listening, managing teams and leading meetings (including remotely), assessing the work of others, and problem solving.
The GSI Teaching and Resource Center is your go-to campus office to find resources and support for all things related to teaching and mentoring. The GSI Teaching & Resource Center’s Online Teaching Guide provides guidance on every step of teaching, from pre-semester preparation to collecting student evaluations on your teaching at the end of the semester. The Center also offers regular workshops on teaching, which are a key place to learn about essential teaching techniques. If you have questions or concerns about teaching, you can sign up for free and confidential consultations with a staff member from the Center. The GSI Online Library offers additional online resources, including essays on teaching techniques, guidance for international GSIs, and materials from past workshops.
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”. These workshops and resources will also help you maintain a better work/life balance through time management, as you learn to do teaching tasks more efficiently and effectively.
If you are interested in careers outside of academia, you may be particularly interested in attending the workshop called “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.
All graduate students have the opportunity to enroll in The Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, which is designed to help you develop your classroom skills, prepare for teaching as a future faculty member, and 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.
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.
Many disciplines have journals that publish articles specifically related to teaching and mentoring 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.
Now that you are familiar with the resources available to you on campus to develop your skills in teaching and mentoring, it is important to understand some of the key skill sets that contribute to effective teaching and mentoring. As an instructor or mentor, it is important to understand how to create inclusive learning environments, develop learning outcomes, assess student learning, guide group work, and provide constructive feedback. This knowledge and skill development can also be applied to a variety of career settings when you work with colleagues as part of a team, oversee and support the work and development of junior colleagues, are responsible for designing educational or training materials, or are responsible for assessing outcomes of interventions or programs.
An inclusive classroom environment is an important component of student learning, dismantling educational inequities, and embracing student diversity. Taking steps to develop your skills in creating an inclusive and equitable classroom benefits all students in your class and makes students from marginalized identities and backgrounds feel safe, acknowledged, and supported. Additionally, learning how to create an inclusive, equitable classroom environment will provide you with a set of valuable skills transferable to a wide variety of professional settings.
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, check the calendar of the GSI Teaching & Resource Center for the recurring workshop “Creating Inclusive Classrooms: Microaggressions and the Learning Environment”, which elaborates upon the character and consequences of microaggressions and provides additional resources for addressing them.
To learn more about building inclusive and equitable environments, anti-racism in teaching practices, and how to address your own implicit biases, see the detailed guidance offered in the Equity and Inclusion competency of this guide.
Writing learning goals for different aspects of your teaching is important for clarifying what you would like students to be able to do with the material they are learning. It is important to write learning objectives for both an entire course and for each assignment required in the course, and to communicate these to students. 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. You may want to read about how to create learning objectives for writing assignments. Additionally, consider attending the GSI Teaching & Resource Center’s workshop “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.
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 the work of the people and teams you oversee is an essential skill.
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 providing written feedback on papers and assignments or providing verbal feedback 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. To continue learning how to assess the impact of your teaching on student learning, take the workshop “Assessing Teaching and Learning,” offered by the GSI Teaching and Resource Center.
Rubrics are grading scales that lay out the criteria used to assess a particular assignment or activity, and are an important tool for assessing students’ work. Using a grading rubric can help you grade student work effectively and efficiently, and can also be used to make grading criteria more transparent for your students. It is important to create rubrics that clearly correspond with the stated learning objectives for the assignment. 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 called “Creating and Using Grading Rubrics”. Gaining experience and skills in rubric development is valuable for both academic and non-academic careers; rubrics are often used to evaluate staff performance or assess the skills of job applicants. With experience using rubrics, you will be more equipped to supervise and provide feedback to employees or be involved with hiring processes.
The ability to guide the work of a team and to foster productive collaboration amongst 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. For guidance on how to effectively facilitate group collaboration, see the sections on group work in the Teaching Discussion Sections part of the GSI Teaching and Resource Center Teaching Guide.
Additionally, you might consider seeking out other opportunities where you can gain skills in guiding teams. Learn more about how you can develop these skills in the Leadership and Collaboration competency of this guide.
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 the GradPro workshop on how to be an effective mentor and how to get the mentoring you need as a graduate student, which is offered annually in the fall semester. To keep up to date about upcoming GradPro workshops, sign up for the Graduate Student Professional Development Digest. Also consider enrolling in GradPro’s one-unit course on Mentoring in Higher Education (GSPDP 301), offered annually in the spring.
For more on developing your skills as a mentee and getting the most of your network of mentors, see the section “Working Productively with Mentors and Faculty” in the Leadership and Collaboration competency of this guide.
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. For more information on tools for remote learning, see the GSI Remote Teaching Hub, where you will find best practices for remote teaching, resources for support and consultation, and campus policies.
Learning to work efficiently on various commitments is an important skill for a variety of career paths that value multitasking and project management. The GSI Teaching & Resource Center offers a variety of workshops and resources that can help you complete time-consuming teaching tasks, like grading, both effectively and efficiently. For more on time management, visit the Writing and Communication competency in this guide, which has guidance on topics relevant to working as a teacher, including setting up calendars, scheduling, and goal setting.
Whether or not you plan for a career in academia, graduate students are often well-trained for various careers in education. For example, some graduate students will go on to become Instructional Designers or highschool teachers at private institutions. The following resources are particularly helpful for students who intend to pursue an academic career. For more guidance on career preparation both within and outside of the academy, see the Career Exploration and Preparation competency of this guide.
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, which is 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:
Applications for academic positions often ask candidates to submit a teaching statement or philosophy 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 recurring workshop on Developing a Statement of Teaching Philosophy and Teaching Portfolio. See slides and resources from these workshops in the Center’s Online Library.
Also see “Part IV: Job Documents that Work” in the book The Professor Is In by Karen Kelsky, available as an ebook from the Library.
Other resources from The Chronicle of Higher Education that may be helpful to you in writing a teaching statement include the articles “How to Write a Statement of Teaching Philosophy” and “4 Steps to a Memorable Teaching Philosophy.”
Today it has become increasingly common for academic job applications to ask candidates to submit a so-called diversity statement. This may be requested as a part of the cover letter, incorporated in the teaching statement, or as a separate document. For this statement, scholars are typically asked how their teaching, research, service, and advising does or would contribute to diversity, equity, and inclusion at the institution, department, and discipline in question. Make sure this statement is not a perfunctory exercise but an opportunity to reflect on your teaching and research practices. To learn more about what to include and not to include in a diversity statement by reading “What Is a Diversity Statement, Anyway?” in the book The Professor Is In by Karen Kelsky.
Some other resources that may be helpful in writing a diversity statement include:
* 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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