GSI Workshop for EE / CS / Engineering IDS
Workshop Leader: Dan Garcia
UC Berkeley : 121 Wheeler
1999-08-20 @ 10:15am - noon and 1:00pm - 2:30pm
This is an online version of notes for a workshop for the Fall
1999 Orientation and Teaching Conference for GSIs at UC Berkeley.
(NB: Students may also find my EECS301 notes
useful.) The URL for this page is:
No Matter what our attempts to inform, it is our ability
to inspire that will turn the tides.
-- Syracuse Cultural Workers
After the session, the students were asked to fill in an anonymous
conference evaluation form. One of the questions was: "Please
comment on the format of the workshop and the workshop leader's presentation
style". I compiled every answer and placed them online.
First Section - CS GSI Issues
- Welcome, my background
- Dan Garcia
- GSI Level IV, two-time Outstanding GSI
- MIT Undergrad
- Computer Graphics
- Why are you here?
- GSIs are critical to Undergraduate education
- The University wants GSIs to succeed
- Name whip, where Undergrad, area of EE / CS / IDS
- Spectrum (students stand up and position themselves along a continuum whose boundaries are given below, one at a time):
- Experience: Lots / None
- Teaching: Enthusiasm / Dread
- Career: Teaching / Research
Fears and Preparations Exercise (5-10 min)
- Break into small groups of 4-5 GSIs
- Each group should introduce themselves to each other once again, briefly
- Each group is given an index card
- On one side, write two things they are planning to do to prepare for
teaching before the semester begins
- On the other side, write three things they are most afraid will happen
in their classrooms
- Reconvene, summarize lists, draw connections
- Go over the fears not covered, and ask for suggestions from group
Post-mortem : Preparations summary
- Review material
- Talk to professor
- Write up notes
- Practice using chalkboard
- Go to classes
- Do lab & look over projects
- Develop a plan and set goals
- Develop a style
- Encourage students to talk
- Prepare new and interesting things
Post-mortem : Fears summary (with suggestions)
- Students might be smarter than me
- Possible... Push the smartest students with optional problems you've worked out beforehand.
- Students will hate me
- Students begin with no assumptions of the GSI, generally. This isn't one of those high-probability issues to worry yourself over.
- Students won't attend section
- If attendance is a problem, do some problems in section and have very similar ones in the exam. Or make attendance mandatory.
- Students may fall asleep during section
- A 3-min break usually wakes folks up and lets them stretch. Don't let a quiet, unobtrusive sleeping student in the back row bother you, it's bound to happen. But don't feel guilty if you wake a snoring student.
- Students won't respond. I get dead silence when I ask a question.
- Don't panic. It may be that some students are still thinking about it. Give them time. Failing that, create an easier question, give them a hint, or (worst case), answer it yourself.
- What if there's a needy student who asks too many questions, or one person won't let a point die?
- "Let's finish this in office hours. We're getting off track." - KW
- What if I'm asked to work more than the 10/20 hours a week I signed up for?
- There will probably be quite a few weeks when your workload is high (especially near project deadlines). However, if you feel you're being unfairly put-upon, speak to the professor, other TAs, and if that doesn't work, the chair of the department. One way to prevent a course from consuming your life is to limit it certain hours / days in your schedule.
- What if I solve a problem incorrectly?
- Correct it as soon as possible, tell the students you were wrong (via newsgroup, mailing lists, etc) and correct it online or in the next section.
- What if I don't know the answer?
- "Don't try to fool anyone. Say you're not sure, but you'll have the answer the next time you see them" - KW
- What if there are unexpected circumstances (power outage, earthquake)?
- Prepare! Know the exit routes and what to do in each case (get under desks, evacuate, etc). Do not panic - students will look to you as a model of behavior.
- What do I do about educational differences of the students?
- Teach to the middle, but point students toward support services (e.g., tutoring)
- What if there are legibility / audibility issues?
- In theory, all your notes can be typed and available via overheads, handouts or online. Just remember to speak loudly and slowly.
- How do I know how I'm doing?
- Ask for anonymous feedback forms with specific questions.
What basic components to expect (? = maybe)
- Group meetings
- Teaching section
- Online presence
- Section notes and handouts, before or after (?)
- WWW page
- Answering email questions
- Office hours -- see article in Orientation and Teaching (O&T) on
- Writing course sw (?)
- Writing assignment questions (?)
- Grading assignments (?)
- Exam review sections (?)
- Writing exam questions / Taking exams beforehand to debug
- Grading exam questions
- Grading projects (?)
- Determining grades (?)
Before the semester begins
- Review the course syllabus and brush up if needed
- Discuss expectations with Profs / GSIs
- Some classes have head GSIs
- How to optimally make use of experienced GSIs and new GSIs
- Do you have to attend lectures?
- Can you share the load? (You teach n sections/week, off for
- Does professor need you to fill in for him / her?
- What gets covered in discussion sections?
- New material
- Review of lecture
- Do problems
- Q & A Free-for-all
- Make schedule for yourself of all your time commitments, use this to
plan office hours
- Know locations of resources
- Borrowing textbooks from department
- EE: 231 Cory; CS: 395 Soda
- Scheduling rooms for review sessions
- EE: 231 Cory; CS: 379 Soda
- You can move discussion sections to AV-equipped rooms
- Copy machines and budget
- Computer / equipment repair and services
- O&T Handbook has many others
- Decide how much time you are willing to give to this, think of your
own pedagogical philosophy. Reflect on questions raised in this workshop.
- Sensitize yourself to issues of diversity, codes of conduct
- Read essays in O&T, p. 43, 107, & 153
During the semester
- Keep up, time management
- Prepare well for your discussion sections
- Maintain online presence
- Hand them a midterm evaluation about the course and your teaching
- Learn their names
- Develop community
- Encourage them to learn each others' name, meet each other
- Have them work in small groups
- Have them work on assignments with partners
- Relevant articles in O&T: p. 71, 77, 91, 99, 115, 157
- Here you can perfect your public speaking skills
- Project your voice - face the class, not the board
- Eye contact. If that's difficult, look above crowd
- Let your personality shine through
- Bring Water, speaking is a tremendous desiccant
- Handouts, handouts, handouts
- Don't make students feel defensive
- Don't be afraid to say you don't know
- Department of redundancy department
- "Tell them what you're gonna tell them, tell them, then tell them
what you told them"
- Share the load with other GSIs
- Get feedback on class comprehension
- Asking "who understands?" is better than "who doesn't
- Motivate students
- Make use of analogies
- Effective teaching to students of different backgrounds
How to be an Outstanding GSI
- Make learning fun
- Provide handouts and empower them with interactive applications
- Teach to the middle, but push the top and support the bottom
- Shower them with genuine, infectious enthusiasm for the material
- Show them why the material is important, put it in context
- Remember what it was like when you first learned it, put yourself in
- Be a GSI multiple times
- Give freely of your time to your students, but maintain balance.
- Be very approachable
- Encourage an atmosphere where asking questions is non-stressful for
- Work at the self-paced center
- This helps you perfect your one-on-one ability
- Don't be afraid to try something creative, like
- Teaching section outside
- Write small apps to explain stuff
- Have students be FSM, data
- Optimize along these axes to increase "overall teaching effectiveness"
- Helpful in understanding material.
- Is well prepared.
- Communicates ideas effectively.
- Appears to have a good knowledge of the subject matter.
- Answers questions accurately.
- Encourages questions and/or class discussion
- Is aware when students are having difficulty.
- Is accessible during office hours.
- Take EECS 301 & 302
- Invite colleagues in to your lectures / sections and ask for critique
(see article on p. 195 of O&T)
- Maintain teaching portfolio (see article on p. 187 of O&T)
- Always look for ways to improve your teaching
- You will spend about 5 min after lunch giving a practice teaching talk
in second section
- We will follow-up your talk with constructive criticism
- Choose a topic (ideally CS-related) you know well that is self-contained
in 5 min
- Use the board. Perhaps write your outline on the board
- Look at the audience
- Speak slowly
- Pause and ask for questions
- Point out key points and write them on the board
- Engage the audience
- Use drawings where appropriate
- My example : Introduction to game of NIM
- Fundamental to all combinatorial game theory
- Play some games
- How to determine a winning / losing position
- Each pile has binary represention
- Nim-sum is non-carrying xor of piles
- Lose is when nim-sum is zero
- How to determine the winning move
- Choose a pile with 1 in left-most column with 1 in nim-sum
- Invert all bits from nim-sum, that's what column must have
- Summary & Cool fact: Every impartial game is a NIM sum
- This conference. Save all the material to use as reference.
- EECS 301 and 302. Not every grad student at every institution gets
to have an entire course devoted to being a better GSI!
- CS Lecturers Brian Harvey & Michael Clancy. Both are Diane S. McEntyre
Award-winners for excellent teaching. Very friendly folks, tremendous resources
for discussing pedagogical issues.
- The Graduate Student Instructor Teaching and Resource Center (301 Sproul
9am-noon,1pm-4pm, (510) 642-4456, email@example.com) sends out a
flyer every once in a while, called "Teaching Perspectives",
which contains several excellent essays. The resource center also holds
mini-lectures which are almost always worthwhile. They provide a great
service to the teaching community. Check out the "Teaching Effectiveness"
- Here are some good books on the topic
- Tools for Teaching by Barbara Gross Davis, assistant vice
chancellor, educational development, at Berkeley! Very
very highly recommended.
- Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher by Steven D. Brookfield
- Improving College Teaching by Maryellen Weimer
- Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardner
- Teaching and the Case Method by C. Roland Christensen
- The Art and Craft of Teaching by Margaret Morganroth Gullette
- Teaching Tips by Wilbert McKeache
- Paulo Friere : A critical encounter by Peter McLaen
- What Good Teachers Say About Teaching (83 essays written by
recipients of the Distinguished Teaching Award) available in 403 Sproul
- Your own teachers. Take ideas from them. Keep a teaching notebook and
whenever a good idea hits, jot it down!
- Academic Dishonesty
- Your professor
- Alex Aiken's MOSS
- B. Davis article in O&T, p. 139
Second section - Practice Teaching
- Each student will give their 5-min talk
- We as a group will offer constructive criticism
- Summarize things GSI had trouble with
Post-mortem : Comments & thoughts after 8 students gave talks
- It is important to label axes on all graphs and charts.
- A clean, descriptive picture can be a great help.
- Watch your time. (Most students ran late.)
- Two students who told relevant anecdotes at the beginning put the entire class at ease and made it more enjoyable.
- Reference the lecture whenever possible.
- One teacher took a survey of the students at the beginning. We (the class) felt this teacher cared about us, and we didn't feel as passive.
- Enthusiasm is infectious.
- It is important to provide motivation at the beginning of every class. One teacher told a quick story at the beginning and tied it in -- this worked quite well.
- When you use "um", "whatever", and "something", you give the impression that you don't care and aren't sure about the material. Try to avoid these words whenever possible.
Pedagogical philosophy discussion (if time permits)
- This is an abbreviated list. The complete list is available from on
my eecs301 page.
- Do you single out students with questions during class?
- Do you teach to the low, middle or high end of the bell curve?
- Do you grade on a curve or on an absolute scale?
- What do you think about grades at all? Do you think rewarding students
fosters grade mongering and undermines intrinsic motivation to learn? Or
is a necessary construction to push them to learn and focus on what you've
deemed important (measured by what is covered on exams)?
- Do you believe students should have knowledge of their grades (and
rank) at all points during the semester? At what level of detail?
- Answer any remaining questions
- Fill out and return evaluation surveys
Post-mortem : Feedback from the students
I compiled every answer to the question of "Please
comment on the format of the workshop and the workshop leader's presentation
style" and placed them online.
Thanks to Kirt Williams "KW" (1996 GSI
Workshop leader) for many of the ideas / notes in this outline
WWW Maven: Dan Garcia (firstname.lastname@example.org) Send me feedback