Building a Pedagogical Practice: Online Professional Development for Graduate Student Instructors

Brief Abstract

Graduate student instructors are often an undeserved group when it comes to professional development. It is often assumed, if not encouraged, that graduate students must rely on the mimicry of our teaching mentors. In this discussion, we will explore the experience of the graduate student instructor developing an online course using a community of practice approach for graduate student professional development. We will also demo the micro-credential in graduate student pedagogy we have developed at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.


Leslie Short Doctoral Student, Curriculum and Instruction Master's in Education, Learning Systems Design and Technology (2016) Master's in Public Administration (2009)

Extended Abstract

 It should be no surprise that graduate student instructors, much like incoming adjunct faculty, are an underserved population in terms of professional development. Much of the resources are targeted towards tenure-track faculty. Yet, graduate student instructors find themselves teaching courses and serving as instructor of record just the same. When undergraduate students sign up for classes, they don’t get to choose and sometimes they don’t even know whether or not a class is taught by a seasoned, full professor or a green, first semester doctoral student. The undergraduate deserves a quality learning experience from everyone teaching classes at a university. Faculty have many resources available to them. Most universities have instructional designers on staff who can help faculty teach in the most efficient and effective ways by following best practices. Faculty are a part of a professional community with seemingly infinite resources. However, graduate student instructors, on the other hand, often feel alone. They rely on reflecting upon the classes and professors that had the greatest impact on them. They teach by mimicry. It is often assumed that if a graduate student reaches out for help, they are ill prepared to teach. In our discussion, we suggest that graduate students can be effective teachers in the classroom. They can innovate and not fall back to simple mimicry of their teaching mentors. There are resources on campus that help us succeed in the classroom. In this discussion we will present the micro-credential for graduate student instructors we have developed at the Center for Teaching Excellence at Southern Illinois University focused upon graduate student pedagogy. The micro-credential is completely housed within our LMS, D2L-Brightspace, and consists of six modules where participants learn about learning theories, presented an introduction to pedagogy, learn how to write learning objectives and connect them to the activities and assessments in their course, learn how to craft a syllabus, learn about the two kinds of assessment and shown how to implement them into their classes, and learn how to create rubrics for assignments. Our program takes a community of practice approach, allowing graduate students to learn from each other while they develop a personalized practice of pedagogy.