CNDLS Graduate Associate Laura Chasen, who helps to coordinate Faculty Programs and Apprenticeship in Teaching workshops, shares the following update on this semester’s pilot of the AT Teaching Circle.
After conducting preliminary assessment interviews for the Apprenticeship in Teaching Program, the AT team noticed a recurring theme in participants’ answers; they want to feel like they are part of a cohort or student community as they travel through the program. John Rakestraw, CNDLS Director of Faculty Programs, has also long desired that a stronger mentor/mentee relationship develop in the AT Program. Early this summer, the CNDLS team began imagining how we could blend these desires and incorporate them into the program. The result – this fall’s pilot of the AT Teaching Circle.
A small group of graduate students and one post-doctoral fellow committed to meeting three times over the course of the semester to discuss their past and present teaching experiences. Rakestraw served as group facilitator. While he framed each discussion around a central question, or a selected reading, he allowed the students to focus the conversation around their teaching interests and concerns. Discussion topics ranged from classroom management to dealing with differing political and religious beliefs in the classroom. Students directed discussion according to teaching experiences they encountered throughout the semester. One student expressed that participating in this kind of open, small-group discussion allowed her to air specific concerns and get helpful advice that she could directly apply to her teaching. Participants were able to test new ideas developed in the discussions and then report back to the group about the effects of what they had tried. Another student noted that as “a new teacher, so many issues come up,” explaining that it was helpful “to hear from others with similar levels of experience.”
Throughout the course of the semester this small group of graduate students and their mentor developed a sense of camaraderie and genuine interest in each other’s academic disciplines and personal lives. In fact, at the end of the semester, the only major complaint expressed on the evaluations was that this group did not get to meet often enough. Plans call for the Teaching Circle to continue in future semesters.