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Teaching Conferences

WELCOME TO THE 2017 CALTECH TEACHING CONFERENCE

Date: Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Time:  9:00 AM-4:00 PM

Enjoy concurrent sessions throughout the day, led by Caltech colleagues and invited guests. Sessions are designed for beginning TAs all the way through experienced instructors, and include discussions of effective strategies, student motivation, inclusive teaching, careers, and more.

  • First year-graduate students (G1s): G1s are automatically registered for the Teaching Conference as part of their orientation week. 
  • Pre-registration is closed, but you can still register on-site at Dabney Garden on September 20.

Print materials distributed at the conference:

  • Print program and flyers.
  • TA Handbook: an official guide.
  • Session materials and handouts are linked to session descriptions below.
Session Themes Essential TA Skills (TAs)
Teaching Development (TD)
Professional Development (PD)

* indicates a session that is offered twice 

8-8:50am Continental Breakfast and Check-In, Dabney Garden
9-10:00am Opening Session - Creating Inclusive Classrooms: You Belong Here!
Baxter Lecture Hall
Session Locations Baxter
Lecture
Hall
Dabney
Lounge
Beckman
Behav Bio
B180
Baxter
Basement
B125
Baxter
125
Baxter
127
Baxter
128
10:15-11:15am
BLOCK A SESSIONS
Fair Grading & Effective Feedback*
(TAs)
Responding to Student Writing in STEM
(TD)
Leading Successful Office Hours*
(TAs)
Classroom Communication for International TAs & Others
(TD)
How Teaching Can Make You a Better Student
(TAs)
Squeaky Chalk and Other Common Challenges
(TD)
 
11:30-12:30pm
BLOCK B SESSIONS
Effective Recitations: Helping Your Students Learn*
(TAs)
Accessibility in the Classroom
(TD)
Your First Class: Getting Off to a Great Start
(TAs)
Caltech Honor Code: Preventing Problems, Handling Issues
(TAs)
Teaching the Global Classroom
(TD)
PMA TAs: Teaching Problem Solving
(TD)
Copyright and Plagiarism Considerations for the Classroom
(PD)
12:30-1:30pm
LUNCH
Lunch, Dabney Garden
1:30-2:30pm
BLOCK C SESSIONS
Leading Successful 
Office Hours*
(TAs)
Fun and Games in Class
(TD)
Effective Recitations: Helping Your Students Learn*
(TAs)
Motivating Yourself and Your Students
(TD)
Building a Teaching Portfolio
(PD)
Life as a
Lab TA
(TAs)
Authoring Problem Sets and Exams
(TD)
2:45-3:45pm
BLOCK D SESSIONS
Caltech 101: Teaching Undergrads
(TAs)
Storytelling/ Improvisation Techniques for Better Teaching (until 4:15)
(PD)
Fair Grading and Effective Feedback*
(TAs)
The ABCs of Course and Lesson Design
(TD)
Mentoring Outside the Classroom
(PD)
Introduction to Chemistry TA-ing
(TD)
 

Guidance on choosing sessions:

Caltech instructors and TAs with a wide variety of prior experience participate in the Teaching Conference. First and foremost, please choose sessions according to your interests and upcoming teaching.

  • If you've never taught before or you're new to teaching at Caltech, choose mainly from the Essential TA Skills (TA) and Teaching Development (TD) tracks. Please be sure to come to the Opening Session as well.

  • If you already have some teaching experience, you may choose from any track, but the Teaching Development (TD) and Professional Development (PD) tracks may be of special interest to you.

  • If you're not sure whether you are going to teach or not, the Professional Development (PD) track is for you! Also take a look at Teaching Development (TD) choices, some of which are broadly applicable to  a wide range of settings, now or later in your career.

SESSION DESCRIPTIONS

Opening Session                                                  
9:00 - 10:00AM

Creating Inclusive Classrooms: You Belong Here!
Baxter Lecture Hall

9:00 - 10:00AM

Jenn Weaver, Assistant Director, Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach
Erin-Kate Escobar, Assistant Director, Caltech Center for Diversity

In this opening session, we will offer you strategies for creating a welcoming classroom environement such that you give all of your students, with different backgrounds and experiences, the opportunity to excel in your course. By the end of this session you will be able to:

1). Understand the effects of unconscious biases;

2). Define, understand, and mitigate the presence of stereotype threat in the classroom; and

3). Implement active learning strategies to engage every student in the classroom.

Block A Sessions                                               
10:15 - 11:15AM

Fair Grading and Effective Feedback
Baxter Lecture Hall

Kelsey Boyle, Graduate Student, Chemistry
Joshua Brake, Graduate Student, Electrical Engineering

It can be difficult to balance your research and your own courses with the responsibility of being a fair and effective TA for your students. In this session, we will address these issues by covering three main topics: grading efficiently, grading fairly, and providing effective feedback. Here, you will become familiar with communicating expectations with students, making and using grading rubrics, and techniques for giving effective feedback that wont take up all of your time!

This session will also be offered during Block D in Beckman Behavioral Biology B180.

Session Materials


Responding to Student Writing in STEM
Dabney Lounge

Susane Hall, Campus Writing Coordinator in the Hixon Writing Center and Lecturer in Writing

One of the most important ways we learn to write is by getting feedback on our work from thoughtful readers. As instructors in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), though, responding to the many kinds of writing students produce (e.g. papers, proposals, abstracts, reports, lit reviews, response papers, proofs) can be time-consuming and draining. This session will introduce you to research-based findings about the kinds of feedback that are most likely to help studetns improve as writers and thinkers. Some of these findings are likely to surprise you, as they contradict some very common teaching practices. We will talk together about how to implement response strategies in the real world, where our time and energy for responding to student writers is not limitless.

Session Materials


How Teaching Can make You A Better Student
Baxter 125

Annelise Thompson, Graduate Student Chemistry
Scott Dawson, Postdoctoral Scholar, Aerospace

Teaching can be hard work! Sometimes a teaching assistant just wants to know, "What's in it for me?" At the end of the day, how can learning to be a good teacher make you a better student? Come to this session to find out about evidence-based teaching techniques that can help you ace your graduate classes or just improve your ability to learn and retain information..

Session Materials | Worksheet


Classroom Communication For International TAs and Others
Baxter B125

Voon Lai, Graduate Student, Geophysics
Stephanie Kong, Graduate Student, Chemical Engineering

Want to break the sound barrier in your classroom? In this session, we will introduce techniques on communicating your course material well and enhancing your spoken English efficiency. We will also discuss simple facilitating steps to create active participation in the classroom, enriching both your teaching experience and your students' learning experience.

Session Materials


Leading Successful Office Hours
Beckman Behavioral Biology B180

Min-Feng Tu, Graduate Student, Physics
Ben Kanevsky, Graduate Student, Chemical Engineering

Office hours are a big part of every TA's job and also a great opportunity for enhancing students' learning. In this session, we will explore the logistics of setting up various types of office hour environemnts and successful teaching strategies for clarifying concepts, guiding completion of assignments, and addressing questions. Furthermore, we will discuss how to inspire students to attend office hours, perhaps one of the most important yet difficult skill for a TA to master.

This session will also be held during Block C in Baxter Lecture Hall

Session Materials | Worksheet


Solving the Physical Problems of Teaching: Squeaky Chalk, Eye Contact, and Other Common Challenges
Baxter 127

Cassandra Horii, Director, Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach

Teaching includes many practical challenges; some of them, like writing on the board while still connecting with students, figuring out where to position yourself in the classroom and deciding how and when to interrupt a small group of students to help or ask a question, are also physical skills we can learn and practice. In this session, we'll identify some of the most common and vexing "classroom choreography" challenges, learn solutions to help you move through the teaching with more confidence and skill, and do some drills to practice implementing them. Get ready for fun, supportive, and lighthearted environment where it's ok to try new moves for both familiar and novel teaching settings.

Session Materials | Worksheet

Block B Sessions                                                                
11:30 - 12:30PM

Effective Recitations: Helping Your Students Learn
Baxter Lecture Hall

Mike Wong, Graduate Student, Planetary Science
Eric Burkholder, Graduate Student, Chemical Engineering

Recitations take on varied forms at Caltech; as a TA you may encounter large groups of freshmen who are required to be there, or a small handful of graduate students who want you to lead a recitation that isn't normally part of the course. This session will help new and contnuing TAs deliver effective recitations to a variety of different audiences. The session will begin with some general strategies -- including planning, time management, and teaching philosophy -- and will then break into smaller groups to discuss specific strategies that can be applied to different classroom environments.

This session will also be held during Block C in Beckman Behavioral Biology B180

Session Materials | Worksheet


Teaching in an Accessible and Inclusive Classroom
Dabney Lounge

Felicia Hunt, Assistant Vice President for Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion and Title IX Coordinator
Red Lhota, Graduate Student, Chemical Engineering

Building an environment where everyone can succeed is the work of all of us at the Institute, including teaching assistants. This doesn't happen by accident; in fact it is an intentional process of creating safe spaces, offering resources and support, and engaging in helpful dialogue. This session will give participants the skills and knowledge or building this classroom environment for students with disabilities.


Your First Class: Getting Off to a Great Start
Beckman Behavioral Biology B180

Jenn Weaver, Assistant Director, Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach

The first day of class can be new and exciting but also a little nervewracking. In this session, we'll discuss some of the things that you can do to prepare. We'll go through two checklists: 1). what you can do to prepare for your first class, and 2). what to do during your first class to set you up for a great quarter with your students. Finally, we'll discuss strategies for dealing with some common dreaded scenarios (e.g. problem students and what to say when you don't know the anwer).

Session Materials


The Honor Code: Preventing Problems, Handling Issues
Baxter Basement B125

Denise Schmitz, Graduate Student, Astronomy
Stephanie Kong, Graduate Student, Chemical Engineering

This session will provide a more detailed honor code training for TAs. It will include proactive tips to help avoid honor code issues, instruction on proper reporting procedures, and a run-through of what to expect (both as a reporter and for your student) if you make a report. Leadership from both the GHC and BoC will be present for an ample Q&A and discussion session.

Session Materials | Worksheet


Teaching the Global Classroom: Understanding Your Students' Perspective
Baxter 127

Valére Lambert, Graduate Student, Geophysics

 

International learning environments, such as Caltech, host students from an array of global educational systems and cultures. As an instructor, understanding the classroom from your students' perspectives is important for effectively communicating your own expectations and minimizing potential barriers for learning. In this session, we will discuss common challenges international students may face coming from different educational systems and how one may adapt as an instructor to minimize these hurdles.

Session Materials


 

 Strategies for Guiding Student Problem Solving in PMA (Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy)
Baxter 127


Cassandra Horii, Director, Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach


This session is specifically designed for PMA TAs to help you guide students toward learning to be independent problem-solvers, and avoid simply showing or telling them what to do all the time. We will explore some fundamental principles of learning that explain how students gain problem-solving expertise, develop a problem-solving process specific to your discipline that you can use to guide students, and apply strategies to common settings like recitation sections and office hours.
Note: this session is required for all PMA G1s, and additional PMA TAs as identified by the Division.

 

Session Materials


Copyright and Plagiarism: Considerations for the Classroom

Baxter 128


Donna Wrublewski, Chemistry and Biology Librarian at Caltech
Kathy Johnson, Author Services Librarian at Caltech


Instructors and students frequently reuse and redistribute other people's work in their own presentations, lectures, assignments, and other projects. When is this ok and when does this require permission? Is there a difference in using copyrighted materials vs. those distributed under Creative Commons licenses? What is Fair Use and when does it apply in teaching? This session covers the most common misconceptions about copyright in the classroom and provides tips and tools for reusing others' work effectively and appropriately.

Session Materials

Block C Sessions                                                                     
1:30 - 2:30PM

Leading Successful Office Hours
Baxter Lecture Hall

Min-Feng Tu, Graduate Student, Physics
Ben Kanevsky, Graduate Student, Chemical Engineering

Office hours are a big part of every TA's job and also a great opportunity for enhancing students' learning. In this session, we will explore the logistics of setting up various types of office hour environemnts and successful teaching strategies for clarifying concepts, guiding completion of assignments, and addressing questions. Furthermore, we will discuss how to insipre students to attend office hours, perhaps one of the most important yet difficult skill for a TA to master.

This session will also be held in Block A in Beckman Behavioral Biology B180

Session Materials | Worksheet


Fun and Games: Creating Enjoyable and Memorable Learning Experiences in a Comfortable Setting
Dabney Lounge

Dylan Freas, Graduate Student, Chemistry

We've all been in a classroom that was painfully boring at some point in our lives. However, as an instructor or a TA, you will have the unique opportunity to create an educational experience that is fun, personal, and memorable. In this session, we will discuss different ways that you can create a fun and enjoyable learning experience in a classroom setting. Specific topics will include how to establish a comfortable learning environment on the first day, how to employ games and other interactive teaching strategies throughout the quarter, and how your relationship with your students can impact their learning.

Session Materials | Worksheet


 

Effective Recitations: Helping Your Students Learn
Beckman Behavioral Biology B180

Mike Wong, Graduate Student, Planetary Science
Eric Burkholder, Graduate Student, Chemical Engineering

Recitations take on varied forms at Caltech; as a TA you may encounter large groups of freshmen who are required to be there, or a small handful of graduate students who want you to lead a recitation that isn't normally part of the course. This session will help new and contnuing TAs deliver effective recitations to a variety of different audiences. The session will begin with some general strategies -- including planning, time management, and teaching philosophy -- and will then break into smaller groups to discuss specific strategies that can be applied to different classroom environments.

This session will also be held during Block B in Baxter Lecture Hall

Session Materials | Worksheet


Motivating Yourself and Your Students
Baxter Basement B125

Annelise Thompson, Graduate Student, Chemistry

What actually motivates students beyond bribery and sweeping claims of furture success? How can we motivate our students and help them feel like effective learners? We will take you through several strategies of how to motivate your students (and yourself) from day one in the classroom! Examples of motivational theory in practice will be drawn from both popular culture and experience as a teaching assistant at Caltech.

Session Materials | Worksheet


Building a Teaching Portfolio: The What, Why, and How
Baxter 125

Olivia Wilkens, Graduate Student, Chemistry

A teaching portfolio showcases your teaching experiences and ability, and it is a valuable tool whether you are applying for a faculty position or reflecting on your teaching skills and philosophies. In this session, we'll go over the building materials for a teaching portfolio and what this document can do for you. We'll also discuss different approaches to preparing a teaching portfolio and how to tailor it to your needs and to your audience. Finally, we'll look at some of the opportunities and resources available at Caltech, from gaining teaching experience to putting the finishing touches on your teaching portfolio.

Session Materials | Worksheet


LIfe as a Lab TA
Baxter 127

Kelsey Boyle, Graduate Student, Chemistry
Rebekah Silva, Graduate Student Chemistry

This session will be an introduction to the various duties of being a lab TA, which can be one of the most fulfilling and intellectually engaging teaching opportunities. We will cover the major responsibilities of a lab TA, with emphasis on in-class duties and interactions with students. We will cover how to communicate effectively in lab, how to facilitate lab sessions, and how to handle tricky situations with your students, including examples of common, challenging situations and strategies on how to handle them.

Session Materials


Authoring Problem Sets and Exams
Baxter 128

Voon Lai, Graduate Student, Geophysics
Allegra Liberman-Martin, Postdoctoral Scholar, Chemistry

This session will focus on methods of authoring homework and exam problems that use assessment as a teaching tool to maximize student learning. We will present step-by-step guidelines on designing effective problems and we will discuss practical issues associated with authoring problem sets, including scaffolding and logistics.

Session Materials

Block D Sessions                                                                     
2:45 - 3:45PM

Caltech 101: What You Need to Know if You're Going to Teach Undergraduates
Baxter Lecture Hall

Valére Lambert, Graduate Student, Geophysics
Kavya Sreedhar, Undergraduate Student
Adrian Huang, Undergraduate Student
Alejandro Lopez, Undergraduate Student

In order to effectively teach students, it is crucial to understand your population and how they learn. In this session, we will present the "need to know" facts about undergraduate students at Caltech. We will profile the typical life of a Caltech Student based on student experiences shared by current undergraduates. Session facilitators will also share their thoughts on what they belive makes a successful mentor and effective TA. This session will be interactive. Groups will be paired with undergraduates to learn about undergraduate life and brainstorm techniques to connect with students in the classroom.

Session Materials


Storytelling/Improvisation Techniques for Better Teaching
Dabney Lounge (Note: This sessin runs until 4:15)

Brian Brophy, Lecturer in Theatre and Performing Arts at Caltech
Rebekah Silva, Graduate Student Chemistry

Come learn and practice the foundations improvisation and storytelling with the goal of improving your teacing. Skills such as listening, being in the moment, and building off of students' responses with "yes and" will help future teaching assistants learn how to work with students and each other in creative and productive ways. This workshop will start with several warmup games, after which we will identify participants' potential teaching concerns and issues and play them back in a collaborative and safe environment.


Fair Grading and Effective Feedback
Baxter Lecture Hall

Kelsey Boyle, Graduate Student, ChemistryJoshua Brake, Graduate Student, Electrical Engineering

Session Description: It can be difficult to balance your research and your own courses with the responsibility of being a fair and effective TA for your students. In this session, we will address these issues by covering three main topics: grading efficiently, grading fairly, and providing effective feedback. Here, you will become familiar with communicating expectations with students, making and using grading rubrics, and techniques for giving effective feedback that wont take up all of your time!

This session will also be held during Block A in Baxter Lectuer Hall

Session Materials


The ABCs of Course and Lesson Design
Baxter Basement B125

Jenn Weaver, Assistant Director, Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach

Are you interested in one day becoming a course instructor or designing a guest lecture? This session explores the fundamentals of designing a course or lesson (the pedagogical strategies and methods for both are essentially the same!). I'll walk you through the process of Backwards Design, how to write learning outcomes, assessing your students through engagment and designing active learning activities. We'll also discuss the tricky situations of weighing breadth versus depth, what to do when you don't cover everything you wanted to and pacing your lesson or course.

 


Teaching Outside the Classroom: Considerations for Effective Mentoring
Baxter 125

Olivia Wilkens, Graduate Student, Chemistry

The strategies and techniques used for great teaching are very similar (and often the same!) as those used for mentoring. Whether your mentees seem to learn faster than you can teach them or aren't quite up to the speed you'd like, it is important to help them stay motivated and engaged. In this session, we will discuss what makes for effective mentoring, from working with SURF students to advising graduate students and beyond, whether for 10 weeks, 10 months, or a lifetime. This session will give you ideas for how to interact with your mentees (regardless of where they are in their own careers) in contexts such as teaching research skills, helping students resolve conflict, and how to continue (or end) your mentoring relationship after your "official" role as mentor has come to a close. Throughout this session, I will also highlight how mentoring mirrors teaching in the clasroom and how you can adapt your teaching skills to working with your mentees.

Session Materials | Worksheet


Introdution to Chemistry TA-ing
Baxter 127

Sara Weaver, Graduate Student, Chemistry
Jeremy Tran, Graduate Student, Chemistry
Dylan Freas, Graduate Student, Chemistry

Join us if you are a TA for a chemistry class this year. We will introduce the Chemistry TA SharePoint site as well as hold a panel discussion on preparing for and being a recitation grader, or lab TA. Our panel consists of experienced and passionate TAs, and we are eager to hear your questions and share our experiences.

Session Materials | Worksheet