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Overview of Teaching at Penn State. James Sellers [email protected] First Things First. Welcome! Who is this guy?. James Sellers. PhD, 1992, Penn State University 1992 – 2001: Mathematics Professor, Cedarville University (Ohio)

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Presentation Transcript

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First Things First

  • Welcome!

  • Who is this guy?


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James Sellers

  • PhD, 1992, Penn State University

  • 1992 – 2001: Mathematics Professor, Cedarville University (Ohio)

  • 2001 – Present: Director of Undergraduate Mathematics and Associate Professor, Penn State University


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James Sellers

  • Research: number theory (related to partitions), combinatorics

  • Teaching (at Cedarville): precalculus, calculus, differential equations, combinatorics, elementary number theory, “math for liberal arts majors”


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James Sellers

  • Teaching (at Penn State): first year seminar, “math for liberal arts majors,” first year calculus, elementary combinatorics, elementary number theory

  • Extracurricular: racquetball, basketball, church activities, time with my wife and kids


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Your Roles at Penn State

  • Student

    • This is familiar territory

  • Researcher

  • Member of a team

    • You are a colleague in the department, especially in your role as teacher


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Your Roles at Penn State

  • Teacher

    • An integral part of the department!

    • Our department services the entire university (engineering, business, liberal arts, etc.)

    • We offer the second most credit hours on campus (behind the English Department).

    • Teaching mathematics is an extremely important endeavor; it should be viewed as a primary task while you are here.


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Your Roles at Penn State

  • Teacher

    • There will be many tasks to juggle as you teach in our department

      • Much of this semester’s training will focus on this

    • We value teaching (awards, recognition, etc.)

    • We provide a great deal of support (Mentoring Program, GTA Oversight Committee)


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Your Roles at Penn State

  • Classroom Manager

    • Next semester, you will probably be in charge of a classroom full of students. For many of you, this will be a first!

    • In a number of our sessions this semester, we will strive to get you ready for this.


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A “Top 10” List For Your Consideration

  • Know your audience and know the goals of your course

    • Aim the content correctly

  • Always go to your class prepared (to teach, to return graded materials, etc.)

    • This takes time outside of class

    • Again, we will give you lots of advice this semester


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A “Top 10” List For Your Consideration

  • Always conduct yourself in a professional manner in class

    • Never go to class looking or acting like you just got out of bed

    • “TA came to class in pajamas”

    • Remember that students call parents and parents will get involved. (“I pay lots …”)


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A “Top 10” List For Your Consideration

  • Never demean your students or colleagues

    • “No such thing as a bad question”

    • We will talk more about this later this semester

  • Always contact your coordinator or me if you have any questions about your class!


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A “Top 10” List For Your Consideration

  • Always give students the opportunity to see their quizzes, midterms, and final exam after grading

  • Remove as much uncertainty as possible

    • Try to give students as much detailed information throughout a course as you can

    • Exception? Don’t give too much information about specific exam problems during review


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A “Top 10” List For Your Consideration

  • Never ignore student requests for meetings or clarification on grades

    • Return emails or phone calls!

    • If you don’t know the answer, direct them to your course coordinator; just don’t ignore them


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A “Top 10” List For Your Consideration

  • Always strive to find a substitute for a class rather than canceling class (again, student focus on tuition lost, etc.)

    • Again, you are a member of a team, and many in the department are willing to help


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A “Top 10” List For Your Consideration

  • And my all-time favorite: Never say “Wow, that was a hard exam” or “Wow, am I glad I did not have to take that exam” to your own class!

    • This really happened

    • This really got the parents calling me



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