June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.87.1 - 13.87.11
A Professional Development Program for Graduate Students at North Carolina State University
The traditional engineering graduate school experience involves taking courses, selecting a dissertation or thesis advisor and project, performing the research under the advisor’s supervision, and completing and defending the dissertation. Such an experience trains graduate students to carry out research on a problem someone else has defined and gotten funded. It does not, however, prepare them for anything else they might be called upon to do in graduate school and in their professional careers, including:
• Teaching assistant responsibilities. Grade assignments, projects, and tests; supervise laboratories; work with students in office hours; teach recitations and cover classes for faculty members.
• Getting a job after graduation. Choose between an academic and non-academic career; prepare a resume (or dossier or professional portfolio); prepare for a job interview. The need for such preparation is particularly acute for students who wish to pursue an academic career.
• Getting a faculty career off to a good start. Define research projects, write successful proposals to fund them, attract graduate students to work on them, plan new courses, teach them effectively, manage the time demands imposed by research, teaching, and personal life, and integrate into the local campus culture. Some universities provide guidance on these tasks to new faculty members, but most do not.
All academic programs of the 16-campus University of North Carolina system that use graduate teaching assistants are required to provide the TAs with preliminary training. For many years, the North Carolina State University (NCSU) College of Engineering met this requirement by sending its new TAs to a day-long campus-wide workshop. Many of the graduate students complained that the workshop was too general to be of much value—their perception was that the things they needed to know to be TAs in engineering were different from what TAs in humanities and social science and business and management courses needed.
Ronkowski1 presents a number of strong arguments supporting that perception. She notes that the structure of knowledge and appropriate strategies for conveying that knowledge vary considerably from one discipline to another, and suggests that development programs for graduate students (and faculty) are best presented in a disciplinary context. A number of engineering schools have published descriptions of their graduate student training programs. The program topics fall into two somewhat overlapping categories: (1) common TA responsibilities, such as grading and assisting in laboratories2 and (2) teaching.2–10
The most effective discipline-specific TA training program we know of is one that has been conducted for many years in the College of Engineering at Cornell University.2 Training is
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