TA Conversations

A professional development opportunity for graduate students in the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences

February 7, March 7, March 28, and April 18, 2011 – Collaboration between Earth and Ocean Sciences Graduate Student Council and Earth and Ocean Sciences – Science Education Initiative

As one of three Coordinators for The Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences Graduate Student Council, I worked in partnership with Francis Jones from the Earth and Ocean Sciences Science Education Initiative (EOS-SEI) to plan a monthly gathering (and free lunch) for teaching assistants in EOS. This informal meeting series aimed to increase communication about science education, and discuss teaching assistantship experiences. During the first lunch in mid-February of 2011, we surveyed attendees for the teaching issues they have or would like to discuss. From a list that documented all the attendees’ ideas, I grouped the ideas into themes, prioritized these topics, selected dates, and presented this semester-long plan to EOS-SEI. Francis responded positively to my suggestions, thanked me for “doing the primary organization” for this series, and we implemented the three themes I identified.

This series led to some exciting outcomes. In the early March session, we asked the attendees “what do you want in terms of TA training?” First, the group suggested specific topics they wish to see addressed in training session(s), such as giving and receiving feedback, using rubrics, and teaching assistant empowerment. Second, a new TA training model for the Department was drafted. As of spring 2011, our TA training consisted of EOSC 516, which is a (non-mandatory) course for graduate students. Due to ideas that came out of that lunch session, we decided to develop a half-day workshop that would be added to our annual fall Grad Student Orientation, as well as a written guide and resource list for TAs that will be handed to new graduates as part of the welcome package. I was involved in the early stages of development of this workshop, and as I got closer to my M.Sc. defence date the new EOS Graduate Student Council elected for the 2011-2012 year implemented this idea for fall 2011. The workshop received full support from the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, and has been run during each fall orientation since its’ development.