June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.237.1 - 13.237.11
Assessment of a Prestigious Engineering Graduate Teaching Fellowship Program Abstract
A traditional hierarchy exists in graduate education in which research assistantships are more desirable than workshop leaderships. Unfortunately, this means that some of the best and brightest doctoral students who go on to be faculty never gain teaching experience before they become assistant professors. To counteract these effects, a prestigious graduate teaching fellowship program has been developed at a large state university on the east coast. Incoming doctoral students compete for these coveted assistantships, which award students with a tablet PC, augmented stipend, and increasing teaching responsibility over three years. As this program is in its second year, the quantitative data to support its success in attracting and preparing top graduate students for faculty positions is yet unavailable. In the meantime, we collected and analyzed qualitative data about the students’ experience as workshop leaders in College of Engineering first-year courses to determine whether the goal of high-quality mentored teaching experiences is being met. We found that the workload in the freshman courses is similar to teaching assistant workloads in other departments, but that workshop leaders have (and enjoy) more responsibility. Workshop leaders found far greater value in weekly meetings than in training at the beginning of the semester. To varying degrees, these weekly meetings also serve as peer mentoring and community building activities among the teaching teams assigned to each course. There is little communication between graduate students assigned to different courses, even among Graduate Teaching Fellows. Written, qualitative faculty evaluations were very useful to workshop leaders, while quantitative student evaluations using a standardized form were not reflective of the responsibilities of workshop leaders. Recommendations include expanding the faculty teaching mentor role, redesigning the student feedback form, and adding social activities across course assignments.
Those holding academic faculty positions within a college or university are expected to be active in teaching, research, scholarly publication, and outreach. Doctoral education programs have historically emphasized preparation for research and scholarly publications and perhaps to a somewhat lesser extent for outreach. However, the vast majority of candidates who complete a doctoral program in engineering have minimal preparation and experience in being an educator in the classroom. In this paper, we describe one program designed to directly address this deficiency in doctoral student preparation: the College of Engineering Graduate Teaching Fellow (GTF) Program at a large state university on the east coast. The primary objective of the GTF program is to better prepare interested doctoral students for the rewarding lifetime career of an academic in a university setting, with central programmatic focus on the instructional aspects of being a faculty member. As this program is in its second year, the quantitative data to support its success in attracting and preparing top graduate students for faculty positions is yet unavailable. In the meantime, we can collect and analyze qualitative data about the students’ experience in the program to determine whether its goal of high-quality mentored teaching experiences is being met. Graduate Teaching Fellows (GTFs) spend their first year teaching in the common first-year engineering courses, which is the focus of this assessment.
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