Teaching 101

Learning to Teach Workshop gives crash course in classroom basics

By Ryan Badecker

For McGill’s current and future Teaching Assistants and the world’s apprentice academics, the initial transition from student to teacher in the university classroom can be a nerve-wracking experience. Time may be a great teacher, but support, good preparation and solid advice from professionals in the field never hurt either.

With this in mind, the second biannual “Learning to Teach: A Professional Development Workshop for Graduate Students,” session was held on Nov. 8.  Presented by Teaching and Learning Services in conjunction with Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, and with support from the Tomlinson Project in University-Level Science Education (T-Pulse), the workshop is designed to further the professional development of graduate students while enriching the overall pedagogical environment of McGill.

Building on the success of that first “Learning to Teach” workshop in March, the November session drew 267 participants. The workshop provided an opportunity for grad students to gain valuable insights from seasoned McGill professors and graduate student instructors through an interactive panel on the subject of “What I wish I had known about teaching when I started.”

Participants also heard presentations from library staff members, who targeted the specialized needs of graduate student instructors, and took part in a plenary session on “University Teaching and Learning.” Small break-out sessions on topics ranging from course design and grading to leading effective discussion allowed students to engage with the specific, day-to-day aspects of teaching in an interactive setting. A survey of the participants demonstrated the massive popularity of the event, with an overwhelming majority of students indicating that they came away with a better understanding of the teaching and learning process and a renewed enthusiasm for teaching.

The next Learning to Teach Workshop will be held in spring 2008.  In addition, Teaching and Learning Services will be offering advanced “Seminars about Learning and Teaching” (SALT) throughout the year, which will provide graduate students with the opportunity to redesign a course in their discipline and explore learning-centered approaches to teaching. For graduate students in the sciences, make sure to check out the Graduate Teaching Development Workshop run by T-PULSE taking place Jan. 13-16th, 2009.  A similar workshop, run by the MacDonald Innovations for Teaching Improvement (MITI), is available to students at the MacDonald Campus. For more information on the workshops, contact Teaching and Learning Services (tls@mcgill.ca).