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Oregon State trains graduate students to be better TAs
Date:2/17/2010

CORVALLIS, Ore. Oregon State University graduate students teaching introductory biology labs are being mentored on how to be more effective teachers, engage their students in critical thinking, and even craft their own curriculum.

The students are part of a Graduate Teacher Training Program supported by a portion of a four-year Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant the university has received. The training program is operated by members of the Biology Program and the College of Education.

When professor Bob Mason was a graduate student, he remembers being assigned to teach a course with no preparation.

"They said, 'Here's your section, knock 'em dead,'" he recalled. "That's not really an exaggeration."

Now chair of the Biology Program in OSU's College of Science, he recognized a strong need to better prepare graduate students who are teaching a class or leading a lab section for the first time.

"Not just anybody can get up in front of a class and teach effectively," he said. And better preparing graduate students to be teaching assistants doesn't just benefit the graduates. It also benefits the undergraduate students, many of whom are not science majors but are taking introductory courses because they're part of the baccalaureate core requirements.

Mason said that across the country, interest in pursuing science as a career is lagging. He suggested that students who are taught by innovative, enthusiastic TAs might encourage more of them to become interested in science.

At American universities, training for TAs varies from thorough to not-at-all. Other recipients of HHMI grants are also looking at new ways to offer TAs the support they need to be successful instructors, and at OSU, the Graduate Teacher Training Program could serve as a model for other departments and colleges.

For the last five years, College of Education assistant professor Jessica White has been looking at the gra
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Contact: Theresa Hogue
theresa.hogue@oregonstate.edu
541-737-0786
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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