Interest in team-teaching increases

For the fourth year in a row, proposals for classes team-taught by graduate students and professors have reached a record high.

The Associates in Teaching program, which started in the 2009-’10 academic year, gives graduate students an opportunity to co-teach a course for undergraduates with a professor. Director of the Yale Teaching Center Bill Rando said the program has already received 25 course proposals, and he will select 20 to be offered in the 2013-’14 academic year this spring. Rando said the AT program fills an important gap in graduate school education by providing students with the opportunity to teach their own course rather than serve as a teaching fellow, but he added that financial constraints currently inhibit further expansion.

“The level of collaboration, the necessity to engage another mind throughout the process, the feedback and the opportunity to stop and reflect on your way of doing things in light of the way somebody else leads a discussion or chooses to organize a lecture is one of the best ways to become a better teacher,” Rando said.

Rando said he reviews the courses at the end of each semester and has been “overwhelmed” by the positive responses of the students and the teachers. This year, Yale College offered 18 AT courses, up from 12 in the previous year. Graduate students must serve as teaching fellows for one semester before they can participate in the AT program.

He said he hopes to see the program continue to grow in the future to meet steadily increasing demand, adding that Yale does not offer many opportunities for graduate students to teach outside of teaching fellows positions. But Rando added that having two teachers for one course is expensive and could result in a shortage of TF’s.

“To me, this is turning into an ideal chapter in a graduate student’s teaching career and one that many more graduate students would benefit from,” Rando said.

Professors interviewed said participating in the AT program enabled them to broaden the range of their course offerings. Music professor Daniel Harrison, who has taught two courses with graduate students, said both courses included information beyond his expertise and that he felt he had learned from the experience along with his students.

English and comparative literature professor Katie Trumpener, who supported the program from the start and is now teaching her second AT course, said Associates in Teaching allows graduate students to have direct teaching experience instead of simply assisting in a class, which will help them in their later careers.

“I remember finding the TF experience pretty frustrating because you’re stuck with someone else’s course whether or not you like it,” Trumpener said. “This program exposes to students the mechanisms by which professors figure out how to teach.”

Trumpener added that she feels the dynamics of a student and professor team-taught course allowed the class to be more creative and experimental than if she had taught it herself.

Four students interviewed who have participated in the Associates in Teaching program said they feel the experience has positively impacted their teaching abilities and overall experience at Yale.

Ksenia Sidorenko GRD ’15, who is teaching a course on graphic novels with Trumpener, said having autonomy over a syllabus and the opportunity to teach a topic that specifically interests her made the AT program more rewarding than a TF position.

“It makes a difference when it’s your own material and things you care about,” Sidorenko said. “When a new idea is voiced in class, it really feels like you’re generating knowledge in the field you are working in.”

Though Sidorenko said she was initially concerned that undergraduates would be less receptive to her than the professor during class, she said she has never felt any discomfort while teaching the class.

Roman Utkin GRD ’15, who co-taught a course titled “Modernist Berlin, Petersburg, Moscow” with comparative literature professor Katerina Clark, said his experience strengthened the relationship he had with Clark — his advisor — and helped him better understand how to teach actual class.

“It just enriched me personally and professionally, and I now have a course that I will certainly use in my portfolio when I apply for jobs,” Utkin said. “I wish every student could do it at least once because I think it is indispensable in a graduate students’ career.

Proposals for the Associates in Teaching program are reviewed by a committee of faculty and graduate school deans.

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