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Executive Summary

Apprenticeship in CollegeTeaching

Apprenticeship in College Teaching: A Certificate Program for Graduate Students

 

Executive Summary

 

Boston College does a good job of preparing graduate students for their roles as teachers at BC and beyond.  By taking advantage of departmental and university resources, students can, for example, attend workshops on preparing a syllabus, leading discussions, grading fairly, teaching with technology and creating a teaching portfolio.  They can also observe faculty teaching, take departmental courses and work with teaching mentors.  Until now, however, BC has not offered a university-wide incentive to encourage and reward participation in these programs.  Many of BC’s peer institutions, including Brown, Georgetown, Notre Dame and the University of Virginia, award certificates to students who complete a preparation program for college teaching.  Starting in 2011-2012, BC graduate students, too, will be able to earn a certificate and a letter from the Office of the Provost.  Participants will also leave the program with a completed teaching portfolio that will help them in their own development and in their job searches.

Apprenticeship in College Teaching

 

Graduate students are usually very excited when they receive their first appointment as a teaching assistant or fellow.  They are eager for the new responsibility and the chance to share their subject with other students.  They want to do well and live up to the expectations of their departments, but they may also be worried.   They wonder if their students will see them as ‘’real” teachers and if they themselves will feel confident at the head of the classroom.  They also worry that teaching will take too much time away from their other academic duties. 

At the same time, parents of prospective students often express concern about their children being taught by graduate students.  In fact, many first-year students do have at least one teaching fellow or teaching assistant, and frequently they have several.  Graduate students have much to offer undergraduates—enthusiasm, fresh perspectives on their fields and new ideas about teaching—but they are apprentices.  They need and deserve assistance in becoming the excellent teachers our undergraduates are hoping to encounter in college. 

The Apprenticeship in College Teaching Program is designed to help TA/TFs become the best teachers possible.  Boston College already does a good job of preparing TAs and TFs.  Most of the preparation takes place in departments, through formal programs and mentoring relationships.  The Connors Family Learning Center (CLCF) also offers a series of workshops and consultation services.  The new Apprenticeship Program will build on and work with these efforts to provide our students with truly outstanding preparation. 

Graduate students who decide to complete the program will demonstrate their commitment to their students and to their own futures as academics.  Through seminars and workshops, they will become familiar with useful teaching techniques and develop confidence in their abilities as teachers.  Through meetings with faculty in their departments and careful teaching observations, they will become knowledgeable about teaching in their disciplines.  By developing a syllabus and a teaching portfolio, they will become reflective and intentional teachers, able to discuss their teaching philosophy and techniques with prospective employers. 

At the end of the program, students will earn a certificate to help them compete for teaching jobs after graduation.   The credential will show their commitment to teaching and help them stand out from other applicants.  They can also expect to have better student evaluations at the end of each semester, which will make them even more attractive as they enter the job market. 

The Apprenticeship Program will offer a new and exciting opportunity for BC graduate students.   It will also underline BC’s commitment to developing our graduate students—the next generation of faculty members—and to providing excellent teaching to the students they will be teaching at BC and beyond.

 

Overview of requirements

 

All graduate students are invited to participate in BC’s new Apprenticeship in College Teaching Program.  The program coordinates and formalizes efforts that have long been under way in departments and in the university to prepare graduate students for teaching at Boston College and in their future careers.  By combining these efforts, the Apprenticeship Program provides graduate students with a framework within which they can deliberately plan their development as teaching scholars.  Students who complete the program will receive a letter from the Office of the Provost for inclusion in their teaching portfolios.

Students who choose to participate will file a plan of completion, including their goals and a proposed timeline, with The Connors Family Learning Center.  Since students’ plans will differ depending on their departments, each department will have a liaison to help students choose the best ways to complete the program requirements, either through departmental or university resources. The program is very flexible and can be completed in one year or over the course of two or even three years. 

Required components:

  • Submit an online plan for completion to the CFLC. 
  • Attend a teaching orientation, to be held at the beginning of each semester.
  • Attend five required workshops, plus two electives.  The required workshops will be on Syllabus Design, Grading, Creating a Teaching Portfolio, Classroom Management and Conducting a Teaching Observation.  The two electives can be chosen from a variety of topics.  All workshops can be completed with departmental or CFLC programs. 
  • Write a course syllabus.
  • Conduct and write up a teaching observation of a faculty member.
  • Invite a faculty member to conduct and write up an observation of you teaching, in person and/or on videotape.
  • Document your completion of all components in a teaching portfolio that includes a reflective statement of your teaching philosophy.  All participants have the option of creating an electronic portfolio.

Benefits:

  • Practical advice and information about college teaching, learning, college students and  academic careers
  • One-on-one guidance from faculty and the CFLC in developing your teaching skills.
  • A credential to demonstrate your commitment to teaching.
  • Help in developing an online portfolio, a very useful tool in the job search.

Components of the Apprentice Program

Plan for Completion

Students will submit an online form that asks them to consider their reasons for wanting to earn the certificate;  this is the beginning of the reflective approach to their own teaching.   The form will also ask for their plan of completion, including a timeline and an indication of how they plan to complete the requirements (i.e., through departmental or CFLC workshops). 

Workshops

Students will begin with an orientation, at the beginning of either fall or spring semester,  that covers immediate concerns of classroom management, use of technology at BC, what to do on the first day of class, etc.

In addition to the orientation, students will attend 5 required workshops, plus 2 electives.  The required workshops will be on Syllabus Design, Grading, Creating a Teaching Portfolio,  Classroom Management and Teaching Observations.  The two electives can be chosen from a variety of topics.  All workshops can be completed with departmental, CFLC or other teaching-related university programs.   (See Appendices for more details on CFLC workshops.)

Write a course syllabus.

Students will write their own syllabus for a course that they will be teaching at BC or, if they never have to write their own syllabus, for a possible future course after graduation.  The workshop will prepare them and they will get feedback from the CFLC and/or department faculty.

Conduct and write up a teaching observation of a faculty member.

After attending a workshop on what to look for in a teaching observation, students will choose a faculty member, in consultation with their departmental liaison, and ask permission to observe.  They will be looking for methods that they can emulate or avoid in their own teaching.

Invite a faculty member to conduct and write up an observation of you teaching, in person and/or on videotape.

All students should be observed teaching, even if this has to be a mock lesson for those not yet in the classroom.   It may be a faculty member from the student’s department who performs the observation but if this is not possible, the Apprenticeship program directors can arrange to do it. 

Teaching Portfolio

Students will document their completion of all components in a teaching portfolio that includes a reflective statement of their  teaching philosophy.  All participants have the option of creating an electronic portfolio.  The Apprenticeship Program directors will look carefully at the portfolios and meet with each student individually.   The portfolio is the capstone of the program.  This is where students bring together their experiences and reflect on their beliefs about teaching, their own style and methods.

The portfolio should be much more than a collection of items about teaching.  It should be an organized overview of the teacher, with a beginning, middle and end.  It usually contains: a title page, a table of contents, a CV, an overview of the teaching history, a statement of teaching philosophy, sample syllabi, examples of class activities, student work and evaluations.  Online versions can also include video.  Some also include reflective statements on how the teacher hopes to improve. 

For our certificate program, candidates will include a section on how they have developed as teachers, including the workshops they attended and their reflections on them and  the observations they did and that were done of them.  There will also be an official certificate stating that they have completed the program.

Appendix I

Sample agenda for the orientation to be held at the beginning of each semester

Welcome

                        Office of the Provost

                        Remarks by faculty member

                        Introduction to Apprenticeship Program by Director of Connors Center

                       

                       

Concurrent Sessions I

The First Day: Tips on how to handle that first class—a session for teaching fellows with their own classes (repeated in Session II)

Roundtable for Teaching Assistants—an informal discussion among new and returning TAs

                        Roundtable for Teaching Fellows—an informal discussion among new and returning TFs

                        Teaching in the U.S.—an informative session for international graduate students

Concurrent Sessions II

The First Day: Tips on how to handle that first class—a session for teaching fellows with their own classes (repeated from Session I)

Promoting academic integrity in your classes

Teaching on-line at BC: An overview of the principal eTeaching environment at BC (Blackboard Vista)

Managing your classroom

Lunch

Concurrent Sessions III

                        Teaching in the disciplines, sessions led by faculty

 

 

Appendix II

Descriptions of sessions offered by the CFLC

Designing a Syllabus

In this interactive workshop, participants will go through the steps of planning a syllabus. The first step is articulating your goals for the course: What do you want your students to achieve? What should they be able to do by the end of the class?  Next you’ll plan out how they will reach these goals—what will they read, do, write? How much can you reasonably expect them to do for each class?  Finally, what observable behaviors (tests, papers, projects) will let you know that you and your students have achieved the course goals?  How will you evaluate and grade them? In this interactive session, students will articulate their goals and begin work on the steps to achieving them.  We will also go over important components such as policies on attendance, late papers, accommodations  for disabilities and academic integrity.  We will have a syllabus checklist. 

Grading Fairly

Grades can be a powerful tool in teaching, but students must feel that they are being graded fairly.  In this seminar, we will explore ways to make sure that you are very clear in your expectations and about the ways you will be grading.  What are your criteria for an assignment?  What will an A look like? And a B?  Will you grade on a curve?  Do you accept extra credit?  What is the average grade at BC? And in your department? We will go over some basics of grading and then discuss cases that touch on difficult areas in grading.

Creating a Teaching Portfolio

A portfolio is the showcase of your teaching development.  It is your opportunity to show the world what happens in your classroom. Your students leave at the end of each semester—what will you have left to show prospective employers?  A teaching portfolio is the place to collect artifacts of your teaching and to demonstrate your philosophy and approach to your discipline.  This workshop will introduce the important elements of a teaching portfolio, using examples of hard-copy and online portfolios.  The second half of the workshop will help you get started on your teaching philosophy statement, the heart of any portfolio. 

Managing Your Classroom

No matter what your discipline, managing students is a part of teaching.  This session will cover all sorts of practical questions, such as what to do about laptops in class, late arrivals, students who have special needs or situations and students who have to miss class because of athletic schedules or other outside obligations.  We will also discuss difficult conversations that can arise around race or sexual orientation or in response to situations that occur on campus or in the world.

Observing and Being Observed

Observing others teach and receiving feedback on our own teaching are extremely valuable experiences.  To get the most out of a teaching observation, however, it is important to prepare. If you are going to be the observer, you may want to develop a checklist of important things to look for. Does  the teacher involve students interactively? Does he or she use PowerPoint effectively?  How many points does the teacher cover before pausing to ask a question?  When you are being observed, you may have specific things you’d like the observer to watch for, such as whether the students seem engaged with the material or if your questions lead to good discussions.  In this session, we will go over various ways that you can construct observations that will be most useful to you.

In addition to these five required workshops, students will choose at least two others: leading discussions, running a lab, lecturing, discussion with a master teacher, developing rubrics, understanding learning styles and  teaching inclusively. 

Apprenticeship in College Teaching

Checklist for Certificate

 

  • Submit an online plan for completion, with guidance from a department faculty member, and submit your plan to the CFLC. 
  • Meet with CFLC staff member.
  • Meet with your department liaison.
  • Attend a teaching orientation (held at the beginning of each semester).
  • Attend 5 required workshops, plus 2 electives. The two electives can be chosen from a variety of topics (e.g., teaching with technology, teaching in the diverse classroom, leading discussion, lecturing).  All workshops can be completed with departmental or CFLC programs; please write a one-paragraph description of each workshop for inclusion in your teaching portfolio.    The required workshops:

 

  • Syllabus Design
  • Grading
  • Creating a Teaching Portfolio
  • Classroom Management
  • Conducting a Teaching Observation
  • Elective:          _______________________________________________
  • Elective:          _______________________________________________ 

 

  • Write a course syllabus and submit to CFLC and/or department for feedback.
  • Conduct and write up a teaching observation of a faculty member.
  • Invite a faculty member to conduct and write up an observation of you teaching, in person and/or on videotape.
  • Document your completion of all components in a teaching portfolio that includes a reflective statement of your teaching philosophy.  All participants have the option of creating an electronic portfolio.
  • Meet with CFLC staff member for final submission of the portfolio.
  • Receive your signed certificate and include it in your portfolio.