Jump to content
  • advertisement_alt
  • advertisement_alt
  • advertisement_alt

Some Questions About Teaching for Current PhD Students


marXian
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hi all,

This is slightly different from our usual advice fare. I'm a "Graduate Teaching Fellow" this year at Northwestern's teaching/pedagogy center. Part of my role throughout the year has been to develop a project to improve pedagogical practices within my department. My goal has been to provide evidence to the chair, DGS, and DUS that formal opportunities for pedagogical training within the department are lacking (they're non-existent) outside of TA assignments and that we need such opportunities as part of grad student professional development. I'm building on work of past GTFs who have pushed the department for the development of a course in pedagogy--that's the dream. In the meantime, I would settle for an ongoing workshop series or a faculty-student teaching committee or something like that.

In developing my case, I'm trying to gather some qualitative evidence to present the faculty. I've put on my own workshop series on writing a syllabus for Theory & Method, I have survey responses from past GTFs about their workshops, I've surveyed recent grads from my department who are currently teaching, etc. I don't have any information about other RS departments, however, and I think that would be a good piece to include. If any current PhD students on the forum are comfortable sharing either in this thread or as a PM, I would be interested to hear about the following:

- In your department, is there opportunity to teach your own course(s), i.e. teach outside of TAing?

- What kinds of pedagogical support/training does your department provide?

The only major programs that I'm familiar with in this regard are FSU, since we've had some alumni in our department, and UCSB since I have some friends there, but I welcome responses from anyone! If you reply, I don't need your name, but please let me know what school you attend. Thanks!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the PhD in Religious Studies at Marquette, all PhD students now TA for 3 years with most teaching a 2-3 class periods a semester. In the fourth year a team-taught Intro to Theology is led by some of the faculty with the fourth year PhD students teaching breakout sessions. Weekly meetings (to the best of my knowledge) are held between the faculty overseers and the PhD students to discuss pedagogical techniques and address any questions they have concerning the process of teaching. Fifth year students teach undergraduate courses for the department on an as needed basis. These courses would be fully developed and taught by the PhD student. 

Additionally, many Marquette theology graduate students take advantage of the Preparing Future Faculty program with the mentor coming from within the department (http://www.marquette.edu/pffp/)

Additionally, twice a semester the graduate program offers a talk on an aspect of the ins and outs of what it takes to flourish in academia: teaching, publishing, research, etc. 

I will also speak to another program since I am familiar with it, and it has your dream. Asbury Theological Seminary requires a course in Pedagogy (Instructional Theory and Development) for all PhD Students, typically offered in a Winter Term/J-Term. The Biblical Studies students do also have the opportunity to become teaching fellows (in Greek or Hebrew) and facilitate the first two semesters of those languages for the MA and MDiv students. The size of the program does not always guarantee a place as an in class TA with teaching opportunity every semester. However, the TA's who do teach in class are often recorded with the professor then taking time to give amble feedback. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In my current program, you can teach your own course once you're ABD but you're restricted to teaching a strictly undergraduate course. The department strongly encourages you to teach a standard Intro course (HB, NT, Church History, Intro Christian Theology, etc) but some students have been successful in petitioning the dean to teach a one off. There's no official pedagogy course that we take (one is in the works) but a lot of small group work with faculty and we're required to rotate through faculty to observe their teaching methods.

While I was at Vanderbilt I TA'ed some undergraduate courses at Lipscomb at part of my Supervised Ministry. I was allowed to sit on some Theology & Practice sessions because of it. I was restricted but we watched these YT videos (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLB1EPeYUwa4m0bbBCexclfXFVp6EypHut) and discussed them. I can't speak to the rest of their development.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

16 hours ago, marXian said:

Hi all,

This is slightly different from our usual advice fare. I'm a "Graduate Teaching Fellow" this year at Northwestern's teaching/pedagogy center. Part of my role throughout the year has been to develop a project to improve pedagogical practices within my department. My goal has been to provide evidence to the chair, DGS, and DUS that formal opportunities for pedagogical training within the department are lacking (they're non-existent) outside of TA assignments and that we need such opportunities as part of grad student professional development. I'm building on work of past GTFs who have pushed the department for the development of a course in pedagogy--that's the dream. In the meantime, I would settle for an ongoing workshop series or a faculty-student teaching committee or something like that.

In developing my case, I'm trying to gather some qualitative evidence to present the faculty. I've put on my own workshop series on writing a syllabus for Theory & Method, I have survey responses from past GTFs about their workshops, I've surveyed recent grads from my department who are currently teaching, etc. I don't have any information about other RS departments, however, and I think that would be a good piece to include. If any current PhD students on the forum are comfortable sharing either in this thread or as a PM, I would be interested to hear about the following:

- In your department, is there opportunity to teach your own course(s), i.e. teach outside of TAing?

- What kinds of pedagogical support/training does your department provide?

The only major programs that I'm familiar with in this regard are FSU, since we've had some alumni in our department, and UCSB since I have some friends there, but I welcome responses from anyone! If you reply, I don't need your name, but please let me know what school you attend. Thanks!

Hey there,

I'm at Duke (Religion PhD):

1) we are required to TA (in religious studies), precept (in the divinity school; very similar to a TA but with a bit of teaching), or serve as an RA between years 1-4. Not long ago we were required to do one of these for the 5th year, but due to no one graduating on time they now pay us for TAing the 5th year without having to do anything (a great perk!). As for teaching your own class, we have the following opportunities: a) in religious studies for undergraduates (not everyone gets this chance, it's usually dependent on your subfield and available faculty); b ) the divinity school uses us to teach intro language courses (Greek and Hebrew; though again these can be hard to get depending on how many want to teach); c) moneys available through Duke's graduate school to design and teach a course (from what I understand this is relatively easy to get? I haven't tried.). If it helps, I taught an intro undergraduate course last term in religious studies. To my surprise, I was left to do everything on my own and no one checked in on me. There was no checking my syllabus and my final grades went unchallenged (I understand the department sees them). 

2) as for prep, we have a certificate for college teaching run through the graduate school. It's common for doctoral students to do the certificate (I am doing it), but basically everyone says it's a waste of time. The requirements for religion doctoral students are a) go to a dozen or so seminars on teaching as it relates to the field of religious studies and b ) take a short course one semester on pedagogy (there are various options; some of them have you design an online course, syllabus, etc.).

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I was a graduate student at Georgetown they had a free program available to MA/PhD students who were interested in a certificate/non-certificate training on teaching theory and practice.

I think it was a great asset. I took a number of the workshops but I didn't complete the teaching tasks for a formal certificate/transcript notation. That flexibility was something that encouraged more graduate students to participate.

https://cndls.georgetown.edu/atprogram/

Link to comment
Share on other sites

15 minutes ago, sacklunch said:

2) as for prep, we have a certificate for college teaching run through the graduate school. It's common for doctoral students to do the certificate (I am doing it), but basically everyone says it's a waste of time. The requirements for religion doctoral students are a) go to a dozen or so seminars on teaching as it relates to the field of religious studies and b ) take a short course one semester on pedagogy (there are various options; some of them have you design an online course, syllabus, etc.).

Thanks, sacklunch! Just to clarify--it sounds like the teaching certificate is something offered graduate school-wide but that the requirements for it are specific to the department. Is that correct? I.e. is the pedagogy course part of the certificate requirements? (I'd be curious to know why people think it's a waste of time, but you don't have to tell me!)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

UNC Chapel-Hill (PhD Religion).

Generally speaking, every student is required to TA. After students pass their exams, they teach their own courses. 

The department also has a Graduate Student Teaching Committee: https://religion.unc.edu/graduate/for-current-students/gsoc/teachingcommittee/  (Committee members haven't been updated in a while.) 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

23 hours ago, marXian said:

Thanks, sacklunch! Just to clarify--it sounds like the teaching certificate is something offered graduate school-wide but that the requirements for it are specific to the department. Is that correct? I.e. is the pedagogy course part of the certificate requirements? (I'd be curious to know why people think it's a waste of time, but you don't have to tell me!)

I'm not sure how many departments have this specific option. The dozen or so seminars essentially count for one class (thus everyone needs two pedagogy courses). They involve Duke faculty or invited faculty working in religion/religious studies (and sometimes divinity). They are informal and last about an hour (and we always have food/coffee brought in from local places). You don't have to go to these seminars; you could also just take two of the pedagogy courses, all of which are meant specifically for this certificate (as you would expect almost everyone doing the certificate is in the humanities or social sciences). Some of the religion specific seminars have been useful, but I've found most of them to be irrelevant for non-elite careers. Often these seminars will discuss how one can succeed in the job market, but here too the content is moot for most of us. Time and again a faculty member will come in and go on about how s/he got hired at a TT school and the steps you can take to secure a similar path. But we never hear from faculty that work at "normal" places. I want to hear from the "failures" because, well, that path is certain for most of us. 

I've heard the pedagogy courses are a waste of time because they are 1) too theoretical and 2) too vague/generalized. They don't seem to help much with actual teaching (e.g. preparing for lectures, grading, teaching a class outside your area). Interestingly enough, the faculty seem to think the certificate is fantastic or at least they don't think it needs to be improved much. In any case, I haven't found faculty to be very helpful outside of guiding one's research. This seems to be especially problematic at TT schools. At least in my experience, the faculty here are divorced from the realities facing academics at most institutions, including teaching. They simply don't know how to help us because many of them were hired in the glory days of academy (when the jobs flowed like wine and administrators were few) or they are genius standouts that went directly from a TT doctoral program to a TT tenure track job. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

18 hours ago, theory9093 said:

UNC Chapel-Hill (PhD Religion).

Generally speaking, every student is required to TA. After students pass their exams, they teach their own courses. 

The department also has a Graduate Student Teaching Committee: https://religion.unc.edu/graduate/for-current-students/gsoc/teachingcommittee/  (Committee members haven't been updated in a while.) 

Thanks, theory. Are students required to teach their own courses, or is that just something that most generally do? Outside of the teaching committee, is there any institutional support for people new to teaching their own courses? (e.g. a university-wide teaching certificate program, etc.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

At my program you have the opportunity to teach intro to composition with your own class of 15-20 students (the university uses grad students to let all undergrads be able to take composition in a smaller class setting.) If you do so, you get a week of teaching orientation before and weekly professional development meetings during your first semester teaching it. Most religious studies grad students are TAs for religious studies courses, though, and training is up to the professor. Sometimes we can TA for professors outside of our departments as well, since we do a lot of interdisciplinary work anyway.

After we finish our exams, we can apply to teach a course independently and even suggest our own curriculum. I'm looking forward to designing a course around early Christianity and material culture someday!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

20 hours ago, sacklunch said:

I've heard the pedagogy courses are a waste of time because they are 1) too theoretical and 2) too vague/generalized. They don't seem to help much with actual teaching (e.g. preparing for lectures, grading, teaching a class outside your area). Interestingly enough, the faculty seem to think the certificate is fantastic or at least they don't think it needs to be improved much. In any case, I haven't found faculty to be very helpful outside of guiding one's research. This seems to be especially problematic at TT schools. At least in my experience, the faculty here are divorced from the realities facing academics at most institutions, including teaching. They simply don't know how to help us because many of them were hired in the glory days of academy (when the jobs flowed like wine and administrators were few) or they are genius standouts that went directly from a TT doctoral program to a TT tenure track job. 

Oh my gosh, I'm at PTS, and this is so true for my experience. We have a teaching course that meets in the evenings once a month for the first two years. It is such a waste of time. It is way too generalized and way too repetitive. Even we you think we'll talk about something specific (like the one session on grading), it's totally unhelpful ("Have you thought about making a rubric?"....wow, no shit, sherlock). I want to believe that it's possible to have a good course on pedagogy, but I've never seen it. We also talk a fair amount of job market stuff, but, like sacklunch's experience, we only hear from profs who are at PTS. The quoted passage very much rings true for me.

Our program has tons of TA/precepting opportunities (it depends on department, but you can expect to TA at least once a year). Then there are two opportunities for more teaching when you're ABD. You can apply to be a "teaching fellow." This varies based on the prof you're paired with from glorified TA to co-instructor. Or you can apply to teach your own course that you design, most offer an elective that is somehow related to their dissertation. There are about six of each of those available across the entire seminary each year. I think it's hard to get teaching opportunities for us because we don't have an undergrad we can teach at. Occasionally, if there is a gap in the faculty, a biblical studies student might be able to teach the intro languages class, but for some reason they prefer to hire adjuncts or non-tenure tracks for that. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

MarXian, unless students receive a fellowship that relieves them of their stipend obligation, then they are required to (1) TA prior to passing their exams and (2) teach their own courses after they pass their comps. Post-comp students can propose the course they want to teach, with the caveat that the course has to already have been listed in the undergraduate bulletin. (Though, they have control over the specific course content that they want to include.)

There is institution-wide support for teachers through The Center for Faculty Excellence: https://cfe.unc.edu/

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi @marXian!

I'm at Florida State right now (in my 3rd year).

Most PhD students in the religion department will TA for a semester, maybe a year, then teach their own courses basically every semester after that.  The courses you teach depend on both your research field and also the interests you express as far as teaching goes.  For instance, some people really push to teach the world religions course, but not everyone Has to teach it.  I'm in the religion, ethics, and philosophy track so the most common thing we do is teach a course in comparative religious ethics.

However, the humanities department at FSU for some time didn't have a graduate program, and they borrowed PhD students from other departments to teach a class on multiculturalism, and many of our students will also teach that for a year.  I actually taught that course for two years and skipped out on the TA experience till I was doing comps and just wanted to be able to focus more on that then on teaching.

For the most part, PhD students in our department will teach at least six or seven semesters before they graduate, and it's all at the undergraduate level, mostly intro courses, but occasionally someone will get to design their own course based on their dissertation.

As far as pedagogy, there are some informal groups and, occasionally, a course you can take.  I took a pedagogy course on teaching Islam at the undergraduate level.  I found it very helpful because it wasn't a generalized, theoretical thing about "teaching" but was specifically about teaching Islam.  We spent some time listening to the professor, but also gave prepared lectures of our own and got feedback from other students on what we could do differently.  We also designed two syllabi for different types of courses.  One was a general intro to Islam course, the other something specialized.   I think mine was something like sexual ethics in Islam.  Of course preparing syllabi was helpful, but we also got to have a copy of everybody else's syllabus, and that was really cool.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.