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Modifications to a Graduate Pedagogy Course to Promote Active Learning and Inclusive Teaching

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Pedagogy and Teaching Preparation in Graduate Programs

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

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Paper Authors


Kara Danielle Fong University of California, Berkeley

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Kara Fong is a PhD student in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. She earned a bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering from Stanford University as well as a Master of Philosophy in Materials Science and Metallurgy from the University of Cambridge.

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Shannon Ciston Molecular Foundry, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

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Shannon Ciston is the User Program Director at the Molecular Foundry at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She has previously been a Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Education in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and an Assistant Professor at the University of New Haven. Dr. Ciston holds degrees in chemical engineering from Northwestern University (PhD) and Illinois Institute of Technology (BS).

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Graduate student instructors, also known as graduate teaching assistants, have an impactful role in the education of undergraduate and graduate students through their engagement in laboratories, discussion sections, and mentoring activities. It is essential to train graduate students in effective pedagogy, including teaching methods that promote student-centered learning, reflective teaching practices, and engagement of a broad diversity of students. This investment in graduate student training pays dividends in an enhanced learning environment for students now and in the future as graduate students go on to careers that often include teaching and mentoring as core skill sets.

This paper details an instructional improvement project targeting a pedagogy course for first-year graduate students in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at a large, public, research-intensive university. The course is offered each fall semester, and has traditionally presented topical material in theory and application of how people learn engineering, with modules on course design, teaching methods, assessing student learning, evaluating teaching effectiveness, mentoring, logistics of ABET data collection, and trouble-shooting difficult situations. Course modifications emphasized material in active learning and inclusive teaching, implemented through required readings, class discussions and activities, case studies, assignments, and supplemental resources. These materials were drawn from a broad base of education resources encompassing multiple disciplines.

To assess the impact of the course improvement project, a pre- and post-survey instrument measured student attitudes about active learning, inclusive teaching, and other aspects of teaching practice. The survey tool was developed using best practices, including literature review, construct validation, expert input, and pilot testing of the instrument. This paper reviews patterns in student comfort with using various active learning methods in their teaching, and attitudes towards creating an inclusive climate for learning within engineering. We use the insights gained from this work to develop suggestions for others looking to implement similar improvements in graduate pedagogy courses or seminars.

The implementation of this course project is situated within efforts of continuous improvement in diversity, equity, and inclusion at the large, public, research-intensive institution with a strong teaching mission. This project was informed by other efforts across campus, and the outcomes from this phase of the project will likewise inform further work in this area. Promoting effective teaching that invites all students to enter into a safe space to take intellectual risks can have lasting impacts, as an engineering degree is a gateway into stable employment and meaningful work that advances the human condition for us all.

Fong, K. D., & Ciston, S. (2020, June), Modifications to a Graduate Pedagogy Course to Promote Active Learning and Inclusive Teaching Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34984

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