Workshop for new GSIs

I’m being interviewed to lead a workshop for new engineering GSIs.  If anyone has any thing they would like to say to engineering GSIs, leave a comment.

General GSI stuff:

  • Discussion
    • Student passivity: Many students will want to passively take notes and not participate.  However, there’s no guarantee such students understand and can apply the material.  Therefore, I advocate engaging all students by posing questions and creating an atmosphere of discussion and student inquiry.  Also try to avoid a few loud students crowding out the others.
    • Scope: Discussion is not measured by how much material you cover but how well the students understand the material.  Have backup material if you finish early, but you don’t have to get through everything.
    • Students in trouble: Expect attendance to drop immediately after midterms.  Most likely, these students skip because they are busy with other midterms and assignments.  However, generally it’s the students who need your help and can least afford it who skip.  Need to find a way to reach out to those students.
    • Transparency: If you have some teaching technique or policy that the students might resist, I suggest you treat them like adults and discuss it with them and explain your motivation for it.
  • Office hours
    • I run mine like discussion, but focused on individual questions.  I feel it’s okay to cover a solution to a problem set, but the student should figure it out with you asking leading questions.
  • Grading
    • Consistency: In order for the professor to assign semester grades, it’s important for students to be evaluated fairly.  Therefore try to enforce this in your grading arrangements, such as having each assignment/question be graded by one person or, if multiple people are grading, to share a detailed rubric.
    • Speed: 5-point rubric.
    • Transparency: If there’s anything you’re looking for (e.g. clear organization) or taking off points for (e.g. notational errors), tell the students.
  • Announcements
    • Repeat yourself: Just because you mention it in discussion or post to bSpace doesn’t mean everyone got the message.  If it’s important, repeat it.
  • Feedback
    • From GSIs/readers: Feedback from grading assignments and from teachers should be shared with the teaching staff as a whole so any significant issues can be dealt with.
    • Mid-semester evaluations: In case something can be altered to make the second half of the semester better.  See GSI Resource Center.

Engineering specific:

  • Sciences
    • Higher-level skills: Many students have gotten into a habit, possibly from high school, that learning mainly is the first few basic levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy (knowledge, comprehension, application).  But, as engineers, we want them to use this knowledge in new …
    • Prerequisites: Like mathematics building up from definitions and postulates, many courses in engineering rely on material from prerequisite courses.  However, do not be surprised if some students have forgotten some parts or have some misconceptions leftover.  Help them through it and take note of any prevalent problems so you know what to look for next time you teach the course.
  • Labs
    • In my experience, many students treat labs like another problem set to be gotten over with and look no further.  However, there is probably a reason your course/department has that lab component, so make sure students are getting what they need out of it.
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