Making sure our new graduate students are ready for those first few days of TAing
Provide an opportunity for new graduate students to reflect on their new identity as they move from students to research colleagues
Provide an opportunity to explore the ideas of modern research-based pedagogy
Provide an opportunity to explore some professional development skills such as presentation giving which are deeply connected to their experience as TAs
This is quite an ambitious list for a course that meets for one-hour per week and also, by design, tries to keep the outside-of-class workload down (new graduate students are busy after all!). One thing I am noticing in particular this round as I have continued to refine the course is the persistence of the idea that explaining content is a teacher’s number-one job. An idea that is clearly challenged by the modern literature’s focus on the importance of student construction of knowledge.
As the new semester starts, I am once again teaching P619G – Graduate Student TA Training and Professional Development Seminar. This course for the professionalization of first-year UMass-Amherst physics graduate students; we strive to give our new graduate students tools such as time management and presentation skills that they can use throughout their careers. To help with more immediate concerns, these skills are taught through the lens of TA training. Presentation skills can easily be taught through the practice of giving mini-lectures in lab sessions, for example. How could these skills be documented by graduate students in a useful way? Could we do something similar for our undergraduate students, who also have a freshman seminar?
During my AAPT SM18 experience, I focused on presentations and posters from three main areas in which I have deep personal interest: IPLS/curriculum development, diversity/equity in physics, and self-efficacy/attitudes. In addition, I attended several sessions related to areas of interest for our department, specifically on integrating computation through the curriculum. In this post, I will synthesize and reflect on my take-aways from the conference. I saw a lot of good talks. As such, this post is somewhat long.