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How To Be an Effective Graduate Instructor. Modified from a Collection Compiled by Tom Drummond North Seattle Community College. An effective graduate instructor. is enthusiastic. avoids being cynical and negative. has appropriate expectations of their students .

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how to be an effective graduate instructor

How To Be an Effective Graduate Instructor

Modified from a Collection Compiled by Tom Drummond North Seattle Community College

an effective graduate instructor
An effective graduate instructor

is enthusiastic.

avoids being cynical and negative.

has appropriate expectations of their students.

is sensitive and even-handed.

      • Treat your students with respect.
      • Do not flaunt your authority.
  • Treat everyone the same.

remembers that she or he is now part of the teaching staff, not a student in teaching labs and recitations.

an effective graduate instructor3
An effective graduate instructor

talks to the students about educational goals.

helps your students learn to be flexible.

stresses the chemical principles.

does not quarrel with the course materials or course organization.

an effective graduate instructor4
An effective graduate instructor

does not do anything that might be even remotely interpreted as sexual harassment!

specific teaching tips
Specific teaching tips

First impressions are important.

specific teaching tips6
Specific teaching tips
  • Project a positive attitude to your students. Honest humility is okay, but students expect competence and confidence.
  • The first day you meet your class
    • Write the following on the board:
      • the course and section
      • your name
      • your office
  • Introduce yourself.
  • Indicate how the recitation fits in with the rest of the course.
  • If not done in lecture, discuss specific information about course policies--attendance, test and quiz policies, homework, the grading system, etc. (from the course packet)
specific teaching tips7
Specific teaching tips

Be on time.

Be prepared. A problem may look simple and straightforward, but ...

Dress casualty but neatly.

Wear a watch.

Learn your students' names as quickly as possible.

Speak clearly and loudly and write legibly on the board.

specific teaching tips8
Specific teaching tips

Recitation should be a discussion, not a lecture.

Encourage all students to participate.

Do not to let one or two students dominate every discussion.

Get feedback from your class concerning what they need from you.

Encourage discussion by asking effective questions.

If necessary, say, "I don't know," and find the answer before the next class session.

Come to class with a few relatively challenging conceptual questions to get the students active in class.

getting started
Getting Started

Ask if your students have questions.

If they don’t, ask some of your own.

thoughtful questions
Thoughtful Questions
  • The right kind of questions:
    • open the door to student's participation.
    • focus the learner's attention upon applying their current understanding to the content or problem.
    • have follow-up avenues that you can follow to lead a student to find an adequate answer using resources available.
  • Each success on one of these questions is a lesson to the learner that he or she knows how to think. (And each failure is a lesson in the opposite.)
thoughtful questions11
Thoughtful Questions
  • Description:
    • What did you see? What happened? What does the problem ask for? What is the difference between.....?
  • Common Purpose:
    • What is the purpose of.....? What is the usual function of.....?
  • Procedures:
    • How does one normally do.....? How was this done? What is the normal (non creative) next step?
thoughtful questions12
Thoughtful Questions
  • Possibilities:
    • What else could .....? How could we.....? If we didn't have, or couldn't use, ....., what could.....?
  • Prediction:
    • What will happen next? What will you see? What will be the effect?
  • Justification:
    • How can you tell? What evidence led you to.....?
thoughtful questions13
Thoughtful Questions
  • Rationale for reality:
    • Why is it that way? What is the reason for it?
  • Generalization:
    • What is the same about ....... and ......? What could you generalize from these events? What principle is operating?
  • Definition:
    • What does ...... mean? Define the word ...........

With one exception, none of these questions asks for recall of facts or information.

thoughtful questions14
Thoughtful Questions

Wait Time

After posing a question, give your students at least 5 seconds to understand it and begin the formulation of an answer.


All teaching moves learners into areas of risk and incompetence. So the job of an instructor often is to find potential when it is easier to notice problems.

The best rewards promote personal reflection and independence, and they actually work. Effective teachers support emerging initiative, cooperation and perseverance with well-timed positives

  • Surprisingly, Avoid Praise
  • Praise, the expression of judgement, is less successful in rewarding learner performance than other techniques. Praise tends to foster approval seeking rather than independence.
  • 'I like how complete this is.' (implies pleasing me is important)
  • 'Good question.' (implies some other learner's questions are not good)
  • That's a great titration.' (implies a learner should seek the teacher's approval versus 'a correct titration,' which is feedback, not praise)
  • Description
  • Describe objectively those aspects of learner performance needing support. Avoid evaluation, state an accepted conclusion a group of dispassionate observers would concede:
  • 'You have addressed each item.'
  • 'That question is probably shared by many here today.'
  • 'That titration certainly looks precise.'
  • Narration
  • Detail the action a learner takes immediately as it occurs. Narrations usually begin with 'You ......'
  • 'You're raising an issue that needs discussion.'
  • 'You're obviously trying to fit the pieces together.'
  • 'You remembered to rinse the buret first.'
  • Self-Talk
  • Talk about your own thoughts or experiences.
  • 'I have wondered that, too.'
  • 'Questions like that have always intrigued me.'
  • 'It took me four trys to figure out how not to overshoot the end point.'
  • Nonverbal
  • Communicate your recognition through body language and facial expressions.
  • Smile broadly.
  • Thumbs up.
  • Move to convey excitement and enjoyment.

The times when an instructor should correct performance are often the most difficult as well as the most significant. People naturally tend to become defensive, confused, or ashamed when criticized or given advice. Yet individualized correction is often the key to improved performance. An effective feedback procedure should enable reflection and self-correction without fostering hostility or defensiveness.

Where possible, give feedback individually, not in front of a group.

  • Step 1. Objective Description of Facts
  • State the facts as you see them:
  • 'There are 14 misspelled words here.'
  • 'Since I assigned the class the problem, you have asked me four questions.'
  • 'I have not seen you touch a piece of equipment during this lab period.'
  • Get agreement before proceeding any further. Correcting errors may not be possible unless both parties agree to a common set of facts.
  • Step 2. Culturally Accepted Conclusions
  • Describe what a group observing the event would conclude and check that generalization:
  • 'It hasn't been spell-checked. Is that true?'
  • 'This is the first time you have tried that problem, huh?'
  • 'Wouldn't most people conclude that you are letting your group do your work for you?'
  • Again, get agreement. Usually the learner will either justify or correct when the behavior is recognized as holding an accepted meaning. Your viewpoint may be wrong and, to be fair, should be examined simultaneously by you and the student
  • Step 3. Judgements and Personal Opinions
  • After the above have been discussed and agreed upon, the judgements of both parties can be stated without inducing animosity or defensiveness. At times it may be wise to check first with the recipient before moving to this stage: 'Would you like my opinion?'
  • 'That many mistakes imply you don't care if it is ever read.'
  • 'I would like to look at your homework before you come to recitation.'
  • ‘Your group evaluation is likely to be higher if you participate in the work.'
leading a discussion
Leading a Discussion

Avoid trite questions. Questions about things which are obvious are best left out of a discussion. Don't insult the intelligence of your students!

Types of questions which do not promote discussion are, "Right?" "Any questions?" and questions which can be answered by a simple "Yes" or "No."

Wait! Wait a few seconds before calling on someone for a response. This will give everyone a chance to think about the answer. If students are asked to respond too quickly, they may freeze, and not be able to think of the answer. Waiting also indicates to the students that you really expect a thoughtful response.

leading a discussion26
Leading a Discussion

Select specific respondents. Call on students by name. This will allow more people to contribute to the discussion and will prevent eager-beavers from monopolizing the discussion.

Distribute questions. Feel free to call on anyone in the class, including those who do not have their hands up. Shy students may never involve themselves in a discussion unless they are prompted. Further, if students know they might be called on, they tend to spend more time in preparation for class.

leading a discussion27
Leading a Discussion

Listen to the response. If you have an answer in mind, you may not recognize a different but equally correct response.

Reinforce responses. See Responding. Even for wrong answers, try to reinforce the act of responding.

Use the students. Students can sometimes explain complex phenomena or problems in novel ways. They may do a better job than a TA of explaining material on the level of their peers.

Discourage guessing. Make it clear to your students that the thought process they use is more important than the answer.