GTA Development Program

While in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Tennessee, I developed and co-taught a Professional Development Program for graduate students.  The department had approximately 60 graduate students at the time, and approximately 10-18 incoming full-time teaching assistants and associates per year.  

Its two major sources of inspiration and research came from:
•The national Preparing Future Faculty Program Initiative - A program focused on providing support for teaching, service and scholarship.  The funded portion of this program concentrates on teaching only, but through volunteer efforts of graduate students, a complimentary professional development seminar program encompassing other PFF facets was also implemented.

I lead a focus group of graduate students and UT faculty and staff to identify areas of need, and the Dept Head & the Assoc Head of Undergraduate Students, Dr. Chuck Collins, found financial support to run a series of seminars.  These seminars along with other leadership requirements would count towards a certificate in undergraduate mathematics teaching.

The core is a fall semester First Year Teaching Development Seminar designed to not only provide some training for inexperienced GTAs, but also to provide a safe place for open exchange of pedagogical thought.  The hope was that by providing a common and pre-allocated time and space to encourage thought on teaching, that we would not only improve graduate student teaching outcomes, but also begin to form a mathematics education community within the department.  The full materials for this course are provided in this link and were developed with Bob Guest, an instructor in the mathematics department with whom I taught the course.

Secondary to those goals, we hoped to give formal training to inexperienced GTAs, with a mentoring program of volunteer senior graduate student mentors.  The goal was for mentoring was to not only help with teaching, but with student retention, as new students navigate life in an R1 institution, and to remove the stigma that teaching does not matter in the R1 setting.  A subset of these mentors interested in earning the certificate in college mathematics teaching attended a special mentors’ seminar focused on helping their mentees by reflection on personal goals, see the picture above of the Mentoring class in Fall 2008.

Each spring an advanced topics in mathematics pedagogy course gave time to deepen explorations and included topics such as pedagogical techniques and metacognition, and incorporated a trip to the regional MAA meetingThe spring semester advanced pedagogy class enjoyed constant growth, and its core has always been graduates of the fall semester GTA program.  By only its second year of inception, 100% of enrollees were program graduates, even though program graduates only comprised 33% of the graduate student population.  This indicates success in our effort to form a math education community and change perception about the role of teaching in an R1 University.

Relevant Publications and Presentations:

  1. Integrating Science and Mathematics Education Research into Teaching, “Implementing a pedagogy and mentoring program for graduate students in a STEM department: Program development,“ Orono, ME June 2010
  2. Transforming Research in Undergraduate STEM Education, “Implementing a pedagogy and mentoring program for graduate students in a STEM department: Changing student attitudes,“ Orono, ME June 2010
  3. MAA Southeast Regional Meeting, “Mentoring as a vital component to a graduate teaching assistant teaching development program.” Charleston, SC, March 2008
  4. MAA Southeast Regional Meeting, “Creating and Nurturing a Mathematics Education Community: A bottom-up and top-down approach.” Statesboro, GA, March 2007
Subpages (1): First-year GTA seminar