The Associates in Teaching (AT) program got off to a great start with four pilot courses last semester and one currently running. Dean Butler has announced that it will expand to twelve courses next year.
“Our review of the Associates in Teaching program indicates that the teaching teams this fall were extremely satisfied,” says Dean Butler. “The graduate students serving as ATs were especially positive about the teaching experience itself and the contribution it makes to their education and their professional development. According to evaluations, undergraduates found the courses excellent and the experience often exhilarating. The program seems to be fulfilling its mission to provide a dynamic teaching experience for a graduate student and faculty member together.”
The at program was established to provide enhanced teaching opportunities for advanced Ph.D. students, who work closely with a cooperating faculty member to create (or redesign) an undergraduate course and then co-teach it. ATs attend all class meetings in order to observe and reflect on the faculty member’s teaching and participate in weekly discussions about teaching with the faculty partner.
“It’s a really outstanding idea that substantially benefits the professor, the students, and also the Associate in Teaching, who will find her or his first semester as a professor a lot easier after this training exercise,” notes Thomas Pogge, the Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs at Yale, who participated in the pilot program.
“The teaching experience I gathered from being an at differed quite significantly from being a TF,” said Markus Labude (Philosophy), who co-taught with Pogge. “As an at for Ethics and International Affairs, I was put in the position of an associate lecturer and spoke regularly in front of a large audience. More importantly, because I was the one speaking to the students in lecture, I did not have the continuous dialogue with the students that I would have in discussion sections. The dialogue normally provides feedback on whether the students did (or did not) understand the material. Lacking this feedback, I really had to make sure that the material I presented would be clear to the students. In my lectures, I had to put myself into the shoes of my students and anticipate any potential questions or sources of confusion. This taught me that preparing a comprehensive lecture is, in fact, much more difficult than audience members would suspect.”
Faculty members enjoyed the co-teaching partnerships.
Peter Stamatov, Assistant Professor of Sociology, re-designed a course titled “Empires and Imperialism” with Sam Nelson. “It was fun to share teaching duties with Sam,” he says. “Normally, when I teach a class on my own, it is a rather solitary experience, as I am responsible, single-handedly, for every aspect of the course. Sharing this responsibility with an advanced graduate student is a great experience—it is a learning experience for myself, as well, as my decisions and views are tested in conversations and discussions with my co-teacher. In my view, this is particularly helpful for a course that faculty like myself teach regularly. Working together with a graduate student infuses new blood and prevents such classes from stagnating.”
“Markus had been my TA the year before and had acquired an excellent, comprehensive grasp of the material and of what had worked well and what had worked less well. The opportunity to tap into this knowledge, experience, and good judgment was simply irresistible,” says Pogge. “Through our discussions over the summer, we worked up a much-improved syllabus, and we also shared feed-back about the class, communication with tas, grading, and so on. It’s been a really great experience that has helped the course in terms of both intellectual content and pedagogy.”
Graduate students sometimes introduce new technologies into established courses. “Markus used PowerPoint to great effect, something that I had not heretofore done in the classroom,” says Pogge. “Students had not bemoaned the fact before, but this time two or three of them expressed (in their course evaluations) the wish that I, too, had prepared PowerPoints for my lectures.”
Sometimes a new technique is strategic, not electronic: “One other innovative thing we occasionally did together was to disagree,” Pogge notes. “This is a great way to get students thinking in a philosophy class. In this respect, by the way, we also roped in the TAs, one of whom (Nathan Hake) gave a guest lecture that was critical of an essay I had published.”
Participating graduate students said that the experience was very helpful to them as future academicians and scholars. “One additional benefit of my regular, careful preparation of lectures is that I feel confident offering this course by myself in the future. This will be an undeniable asset on the academic job market,” Markus noted.
For at least one participant, there was an intellectual benefit. Jason Summach (Music) co-taught a course for non-majors called Forms of Popular Music with Daniel Harrison and said, “The course topic relates directly to my dissertation project, ‘Form In Top-20 Music: 1955 to 1989.’ We taught students to recognize the basic formal schemes at play in pop/rock music. The extent to which a song conforms to, or deviates from, conventional formal expectations constitutes an important layer of meaning, alongside parameters more commonly read as meaningful, such as the song lyric. Designing and teaching the course required that Dan and I cast our research findings in a teachable form. The classroom demands a high degree of precision and clarity. ... Time spent presenting my ideas in a precise, coherent form, before an inquisitive and interested audience, will pay great dividends as I proceed with the writing stage of my dissertation work.”
The Graduate School provided pedagogical as well as logistical support to the at participants. “I found it particularly helpful that Bill Rando of the Graduate Teaching Center sat in one class and then shared with both of us his thoughts on the dynamics in the classroom,” says Stamatov. “That was very reassuring and enabled us to get a better sense of how we did as teachers.” He also credits Robin Ladouceur of Academic Media and Technology with giving “incredible support.”
Pogge, too, expressed appreciation for the institutional assistance, saying that “Bill Rando, without interfering in our work, gave us a lot of good advice at the beginning and valuable feed-back on the basis of a class visit. It’s heartening to be at an elite school that cares about teaching and teacher training and finds intelligent, cost-effective ways of putting this care into practice.”
“It was a thrill to watch each of these teaching pairs in action,” says Rando. “I was very impressed with how each team interpreted the co-teaching opportunity, exploiting the relationship to bring material to life for students. It felt like everyone was learning.” For the 2010-2011 academic year, twelve new courses will be selected, divided equally among the humanities, sciences, and social sciences. Proposals are due at the Graduate School no later than Monday, March 1. A committee of faculty and Graduate School deans will review proposals, select those that will be funded, and notify applicants during the first week in April. The program will once again undergo a full review, including interviews with participating faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates, in the spring of 2011.
This year’s Spring Teaching Forum, which will take place on Friday, March 26, will explore the themes of co-teaching and teaching across disciplines.
Brooks and Suzanne Ragen
Professor of Philosophy
|“Kant’s Concepts of Nature”|
Allen Forte Professor
of Music Theory and Chair
of the Music Department
|“Forms of Pop/Rock Music”|
|“Empires and Imperialism”|
Leitner Professor of
|“Ethics and International
|Kazuyo Murata (Religious Studies)||“The Beauty in Islam”|