Thanks for Attending our “Art of Managing Graduate Students” New Faculty Workshop, 2/19/13

The session’s moderator, Dr. Tamara Fish, the CTE’s TA Coordinator, kicked off the event by introducing the speakers, which included Dr. James Zebroski (English), Gordon Taylor (Engineering Technology) and Victor Gallardo (Engineering Technology).

Dr. Zebroski’s remarks were organized around the topics of “working inside the institution–teaching”; “working inside the institution–research”; and “working outside or on the edges of the institution.” Here are a few of the highlights:

  • “I try to see TFs less as advanced students and more as junior colleagues (as cheesy as that may sound).”
  • “Set up a support apparatus or better use the one you have”; stakeholder conferences; coordination; anticipate pragmatic teaching concerns of new teachers.
  • encourage your grad students to attend and present at national conferences; attend with them, mentoring them there, and then debrief afterwards.
  • Set up voluntary groups, and FEED THEM.  Feed them some more.
  • Collaborate with wherever possible: write an FDIP grant that employs them, or use them for research, or co-teach informally with them.

Because Taylor and Gallardo work so closely together as Lab Managers for ET, they gave a joint presentation about the issues that they encountered in their work with TAs.  Here are their highlights:

  • To provide consistency of expectations with performance and outcomes, it’s necessary to communicate at the outset the department’s policies, rules, and expectations for students in the course.
  • Their lab students really benefited from a hybrid style of instruction, because it allowed them to review online materials (such as the CTE instructional modules) at their leisure, then discuss them in face to face groups or review as needed.
  • The differing cultures of students coming from different parts of the world or with experiences from different disciplines or universities made teaching more complicated at the graduate level.  Clear, consistent expectations communicated early and then reiterated throughout the semester were the only ways to address those potential misunderstandings.
  • Each semester was organized like a project that had to be reverse engineered from the final deadline back through the sequence of assignments and deadlines.

Finally, Dr. Tamara Fish noted that grad instruction was a “liminal space” where students could work together but which also might inspire anxiety, resistance, or anger.   She asked attendees to consider their TAs as apprentice faculty who would benefit from being introduced into the complexities and pleasures of academic work, even with all its institutional constraints.  As faculty, we helped to model for our students the nature of academic work.

After a lively discussion of professional dress, and the difficulties of teaching and professionalizing those not directly imitating our career paths, discussion broke up around 2:30.

If you have further thoughts on this topic, or would like CTE to address other topics of interest to you or your department, please email me at or hit REPLY on the blog.



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