What happens when you ask students to independently interpret historical texts and treaties – and do so using new technology? What misconceptions might students make about disciplinary fields, based on instructors’ own biases? How does one effectively gauge students’ comprehension and keep them engaged in class? These were just a few of the questions graduate students presented and discussed at the 2020 Graduate Teaching Showcase.
Graduate students compete for the chance to deliver quick, compelling talks about their own teaching at the annual Graduate Teaching Showcase, co-sponsored by the Faculty Innovation Center, UT Libraries and the Graduate School. Now in its fourth year, this event highlights a range of topics and issues that graduate student instructors encounter in their classrooms: from broad, philosophical questions about pedagogy to discrete, immediate concerns about students’ learning. Seven graduate students from across campus were selected to present at the Showcase. The Showcase brings together a variety of people from across disciplines and different roles on campus; over 60 people, including faculty, staff, and undergraduate and graduate students, from over 25 departments and units on campus came to the event.
This year, Dr. Daina Ramey Berry, Associate Dean for Graduate Education Transformation and Oliver H. Radkey Regents Professor of History, opened the event and energized the crowd with a compelling account of her own development as an instructor. She recalled a formative experience early in her graduate student career when she taught her first lesson and it did not go as smoothly as she (or her students) had hoped. Dean Berry then shared how those experiences have shaped her approach to teaching and how she cultivates her students’ openness to learning through sharing her own ideas, opinions, and emotions as they relate to her course. Her authenticity and openness about her growth around teaching resonated with many in the audience.
In between blocks of presentations, audience members interacted with each other during two discussion times to reflect on the talks. One attendee commented, “Hearing about the different ways I can engage students is extremely helpful! I think hearing ideas from a variety of schools and disciplines is a great way to inspire diversity and community.” Other attendees appreciated the chance to learn about new teaching methods and takeaways for their own teaching contexts.
After engaging in discussion and hearing the presentations, the event closed with a reflection activity in which all attendees were presented with a square piece of paper and asked to write what they learned or what they hoped to apply to their own teaching practice. On the other side of the paper is a printed image of rhizomes, when arranged next to each other, represent the multiplicity of ideas and entry points for learning about teaching. Participants shared a range of ideas and comments, from “compliance is not equity,” to “teach with heart” and “embrace technology in the classroom rather than fear it.” Attendees gathered and read each other’s reflections and continued their conversations around teaching at UT Austin.
Gauging and Engaging Your Students with Instapoll, Rebecca A. Zárate (RAZ)
(Educational Psychology) With the advent of new technology and apps like UT’s Instapoll, we educators are able to gauge our students' understanding on the fly. In addition to checking in, apps like Instapoll allow instructors to share feedback from students in real time on a projector in class. This gives the students the chance to see what their peers are thinking and how others are understanding the material. Many times these polls also results in a quick laughter break which helps keep the class engaged and in good spirits, even when learning about standard error.
Confronting Ableism in the Classroom, Dani R. Soibelman (Communication Studies)
Historically, universities have not adequately addressed the needs of disabled students. While the ADA requires certain protections, they merely scratch the surface of disability justice in education. This results in implicit classroom ableism; without confronting it directly, we cannot create ideal environments for all of our students. This presentation aims to raise awareness for disabled students' concerns and generate a conversation about improvements we can make as students and instructors
Building Better Teachers: Using Role-play to Create Content Experts, Richard Wong (Department of Mathematics)
What qualities are the most important to being a good instructor? This was the central theme I focused on while teaching “M371E, Learning Assistant Experience in Mathematics”. To answer this question, I employed role play scenarios for students who worked as CalcLab tutors, for many of whom it was their first experience in the content expert role. The role-play method challenged their perspectives on teaching, and helped them to become more effective, thoughtful, and reflective content experts. Moreover, this technique also served the dual purpose of a barometer to gauge the effectiveness of my own teaching.
Team-Based Learning: The Relationship between Teamwork and Work Experience in a Classroom Assignment, Brett W. Robertson (Communication Studies)
Undergraduates want work experience. Unfortunately, there’s been a reported disconnect between perception of skills students feel they acquire in the college classroom, and what employers need. In this presentation, Communication Studies graduate student, Brett Robertson, will focus on his experience and reflection teaching about teamwork through experiential-instructional methods, while helping students build meaningful work experience through a semester-long assignment.
Treaties, Technology, and Trusting Your Students in English 314, Alexandrea Pérez Allison (English and Mexican American & Latino/a Studies)
Last semester graduate student, Alexandrea Pérez Allison, taught the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in an entirely new way—one that was a little outside of her comfort zone. Yet, by doing so she witnessed her students use technology to craft their own insights and conclusions, rather than looking to her for the “right” answer. Through this process, she learned the importance of class activities that guide students rather than tell students, and also learned the importance of trusting her students and her instincts as an instructor.
Why do we teach subjects as if they are perfect? Organic Chemistry: From Mustard Gas to Anti-Cancer Drugs, Chris Wight (Department of Chemistry)
Graduate students and professors are often passionate advocates for the disciplines they teach. So how is the presentation or content we choose to teach biased? And what misconceptions could our students take away from our omissions, whether intentional or not? I discuss how I have grappled with this very question and present one way I have tried to address this: by acknowledging the failures and tragedies of my disciplines’ past to try and provide students with a more representative view of organic chemistry.
Fostering and Supporting Diversity in Podcasting and Audio Storytelling, Kelsey Whipple (School of Journalism)
After designing and teaching her first podcasting class, Whipple learned there's a wide gap between supporting diverse voices and perspectives in audio storytelling and actively encouraging them. In her talk, she'll share the early mistakes she made as a radio/podcast enthusiast and educator and how she and her students learned together to create space for more diverse, more interesting and more inclusive people and identities in their broadcast stories and podcasts. Not everyone needs to sound like Ira Glass to be heard.