The ability to master a discipline and disseminate knowledge in a clear and concise manner is the true hallmark of a scholar. To foster the development of effective teaching skills, CMB students are provided a Teaching Assistants (TA) in undergraduate courses ranging from genetics, biochemistry, biology, and to microbiology. The responsibility of a TA usually involves a maximum of 20 contact hours per week in the course or courses to which they are assigned. This can include teaching laboratory sections, attending prep sessions and lectures, and/or helping to proctor and grade examinations. Students typically begin teaching in the second semester of their first year and continue teaching during the first or second semester of their second year. Beginning in the third year, the majority of students earn extramural support which does not have the expectation of teaching.
Teaching assistants receive guidance and learn classroom techniques from the faculty instructors in charge of the laboratory sections. Teaching as a TA is nothing if not reflected on. To this point, students and the Program receive two types of written evaluations of the student TA’s performance in addition to continued feedback from the instructors. The written evaluations are authored by the faculty instructor of the course and the undergraduate students the TA taught. It is also beneficial for our Program to evaluate the teaching experience of the students, so each TA has the opportunity at the end of the semester to comment on their teaching experience for that course.
Senior CMB students have recently offered to other graduate students specialized short courses in techniques they have mastered, such as fluorescence microscopy or bioinformatics analyses. This is another great opportunity to showcase emerging skills in a format that benefits current students as teacher and learner.
UVM’s Center for Teaching and Learning is an excellent resource for teaching skills, and they offer numerous workshops and retreats to help students refine their teaching ability. They also offer a Graduate Teaching Program for students interested in pursuing teaching as a career. This program enhances a student’s classroom skills beyond the standard TA experience as well as helps the student compile their teaching portfolio.