Teacher and Mentor Training
Graduate Student TA-Training “Boot Camp”
We have developed and implemented two versions of a TA-training “boot camp” for the Chemistry and Biology Departments at MIT. The 20-hour, complete training was designed for incoming freshman chemistry graduate student TAs and recently, we have adapted it into an 4-hour TA training for second-year Biology graduate students.
The goal of the programs is to create a supportive teaching community among graduate students and improve course recitations by increasing TA confidence and enthusiasm. As such, we begin our longer training with a welcome address that includes a teaching-award section to celebrate the previous year’s TAs and to signal the importance of quality teaching to the new class of assistants. The rest of the program consists of discussion-based teambuilding exercises, active teaching workshops, role-playing discussions with former TAs, a diversity workshop, and peer-evaluated microteaching. The inclusion of boot camp alumni has been vital to the program because they enthusiastically lead role-playing sessions and group discussions.
Program assessments have demonstrated that investing a few extra hours in TA training at the start of the semester can have a major impact on the quality of graduate student teaching, the cohesiveness of a TA team, and on the experience and development of TA boot camp graduates.
TA-Training Modular Components and Associated Resources
Sample Training Schedule for long version of Chemistry TA Training
|Training Module||Time (hr)||Objectives||Resources|
|Welcome and TA awards||1.0||Overview the “boot camp” training and to specifically acknowledge quality teaching|
|Meet your Teaching Team||2.0||Be able to articulate teaching goals and answer the question, “what kind of teacher do I want to be?” Develop a good working relationship with your teaching team. Become familiar with course policies and faculty expectations.|
|Teaching Triptych: Learning and Cognitive Theory, Interactive Learning and Problem Solving, and Teaching as Performance||2.75||Be able to apply research on how students learn to one’s own teaching. Be able to describe specific strategies for active learning.|
|Lunch with TA Team and former TAs||1.0||Become acquainted with TA team|
|Challenges in teaching recitations/labs||3.0||Become familiar with common challenges specific to your course assignment, and be able to apply best teaching practices developed by former course TAs.|
|Addressing Stereotype Threat in the Classroom||1.25||Be able to define stereotype threat and identify who can be affected by it, explain how stereotype threat can lead to poor performance in a class or lab, and apply strategies to overcome the negative effects of stereotype threat.||Summary|
|Getting Ready for Microteaching: Microteaching Logistics and The Art of a Good Presentation||1.0||Be able to recognize presentation pitfalls and describe practices for application in Microteaching module.|
|Microteaching:||3.0||Practice giving and receiving wise criticism in the context of teaching a five-minute recitation lesson.|
Diversity-Training Resources: Addressing Stereotype Threat in the Classroom
We have written a diversity-training guide, “What Every Teacher and Mentor Should Know: A Guide to Identifying and Reducing Stereotype Threat to Maximize Student Performance” that has been assigned in the Chemistry and Biology Department TA training programs, other mentoring and teacher-training programs at MIT, and disseminated to Brandeis University and Southwestern University.
First described by the social psychologist Claude Steele and his colleagues, stereotype threat is the perceived risk of confirming a negative stereotype. This potentially debilitating fear of proving a false stereotype true (i.e. the presumption that women are not as good as men at quantitative reasoning), or being unfairly judged based on the stereotype, distracts and discourages students.
Our training guide can be used 1) To help educators understand and identify “stereotype threat” and the various ways it can undermine student performance in the classroom, and 2) To equip educators with strategies to eliminate the threat and thereby maximize each student’s performance in the classroom.
Discussions of stereotypes and diversity often focus narrowly on race and gender and have the potential to seem accusatory. Although gender-based and race-based prejudices are cause for deep concern, and may be among the most overt of personal prejudices, the title of this article eludes to the fuller spectrum of stereotypes embedded in everyday social interactions. Stereotypes result from the way we have been socialized— or programmed— by our families, friends, and the media to think about groups of people, including those groups to which we belong. For example, if science graduate students traditionally celebrate, commiserate and generally connect with classmates or lab mates over beers, how might that unintentionally alienate those who do not drink alcohol because of personal preference or because of religious or medical reasons? Are we unintentionally sending a subtle message about who belongs and who might not by presuming to know what “we” all enjoy?
Weslee S. Glenn, Elizabeth M. V. Taylor, and Catherine L. Drennan. What Every Teacher and Mentor Should Know: A Guide to Identifying and Reducing Stereotype Threat to Maximize Student Performance.
HHMI-MIT Mentor Training Initiative
In recognition of the essential role of mentoring and the limited resources uniformly available to student advisors, we have developed a mentoring seminar for graduate student and postdoctoral mentors. The seminar is designed to provide a supportive and stimulating forum for the discussion of mentoring challenges and strategies throughout the summer. Sessions include facilitated discussions on mentoring techniques that are based on quantitative research and MIT-specific case studies.