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Pedagogical Training for PhD Students

The English Department gives continuing attention to the pedagogical training of Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs); this training includes courses on pedagogy and an extensive system of mentoring. Teaching assignments will vary according to the student's degree program, his/her progress within the program, the availability of courses, and enrollment patterns in undergraduate courses. Language and Literature PhD students usually teach first-and second-year writing courses (124, 125, 225) and other language or literature courses. English and Women's Studies students usually teach introductory courses for both the English and Women's Studies Department. English and Education students teach first-year writing courses (125) and, if appropriate and available, other writing and literature courses.

In making these assignments, administrators attempt to consider the preferences and academic preparation of GSIs as well as the current needs of the curriculum. English and Education PhD students teach English 125, "Writing and Academic Inquiry," during their first year in the Ph.D. program.  Language and Literature PhD students teach English 125 during their second year and English and Women's Studies students teach English 125,  during their third year in the PhD program. A required pedagogy course, taught by one member of the Faculty, accompanies this initial teaching assignment; the course provides professional preparation for teaching undergraduate courses, including tips for designing courses and syllabi, strategies for facilitating discussion, best practices for grading and responding to students' work, and advice for negotiating complex interpersonal dynamics in the classroom. The Faculty member teaching the pedagogy course also visits each GSI's classroom to provide feedback about his/her teaching.

Before any GSI teaches independently, he or she participates in two required training sessions offered by the English Department Writing Program. The first training session is a three-day workshop that takes place in early May, prior to the Fall term in which GSIs will begin teaching. This mandatory workshop introduces GSIs to the learning goals and the central concepts and skills for teaching first-year writing, and it provides several forms of support for GSIs to design their English 125 course syllabi over the summer. Just before the Fall term begins, GSIs participate in one more day of training that focuses on practical strategies for teaching during the first days and weeks of the term. Throughout each academic year, the English Department Writing Program also offers colloquia and brown bag lunches that serve as ongoing professional development opportunities for GSIs at all stages of their teaching careers. When GSIs enter their second year of independent teaching, they are supervised primarily by members of the Faculty who are supervising their exams and dissertation. These Faculty members guide the GSIs' professional development as scholars and teachers.

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