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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

October 21, 2005

Teaching center adds grad student programming

by Linda Charles

Staff at the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) have expanded their programming this year to help graduate students become better teachers.

Donna Kienzler, CELT assistant director, said center staff have developed a series of teaching seminars aimed at graduate students. The new program complements the Preparing Future Faculty program, also under the CELT umbrella. While the future faculty program requires a multi-semester commitment and covers various aspects of higher education careers, the graduate teaching seminars are one-time commitments that focus strictly on teaching.

"The university is emphasizing the teaching portion of its mission," Kienzler said, "and a significant part of the teaching here is done by TAs. Many of them are very new. Some are new to the country, and others are new to graduate work. It's very difficult to learn a discipline at the graduate level and teach, too."

The CELT seminars are aimed at helping graduate students better manage the two. This semester, seminars have included hints on how to get the most out of the TA handbook, classroom management and different aspects of grading, Kienzler said. A Nov. 2 seminar will address leading classroom discussions.

Next semester, seminars will include information on balancing teaching with graduate careers, active learning and a panel discussion on "turning points in my graduate teaching career."

Each seminar offers graduate students tips on how to teach more effectively. For example, the seminar this semester on grading included tips on how to save time, be fair and accurate, grade work that students have collaborated on, and grade such things as lab reports, problem sets and essays, she said. The seminar also covered how to handle complaints about grades.

Unlike the PFF program, the seminars are not graded. "There's lots of sharing of ideas and questions," Kienzler said. "The seminars are a safe place for graduate students to brush up on the basics of teaching."

So far, the results have been positive, she noted. "Many of the students are very passionate about their discipline, and this helps them when they teach. They want to be good teachers; they want their students to learn. We give them a few tips and they catch on fast. It's fantastic how much they care about their teaching."

Graduate students can find out where and when seminars will be held, as well as how to register, on the CELT Web page at


A new series of seminars aims to help graduate students become better teachers.


"The seminars are a safe place for graduate students to brush up on the basics of teaching."

Donna Kienzler, assistant director, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching