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Teaching Conferences

2018 Teaching Conference

WELCOME TO THE 2018 CALTECH TEACHING CONFERENCE

Organized by the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach (CTLO)

Date: Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Time:  10:00 AM-3:30 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 as part of their orientation week. Attendance at the opening session and all four concurrent blocks is required for all G1s.
  • Returning graduate students, undergraduates, postdocs, instructors, staff, and faculty: Please RSVP and attend any session(s) of your choice.

Teaching Assistant Materials:

Schedule

Session Themes Essential TA Skills (E)
Teaching Development (T)
Professional Development (P)
*Indicates a session that is offered twice

Opening Session 10:00am

Opening Session 10am: The Essential Toolkit for Teaching at Caltech

Session Locations

Baxter
Lecture
Hall

Dabney
Lounge

Beckman
Behav Bio
B180

Baxter
Basement
B125

Baxter
125

Baxter
127

Baxter
128

Block A Sessions

11am -11:45am

*Fair Grading and Effective Feedback
(E)



(no session)

*Leading Successful
(and Popular!)
Office Hours
(E)

 Classroom Communication For International TAs and Others
(T)
Introduction to Chemistry TAing
(T)

Starting Small with Active Learning
(T)

 Time Management: Focusing on Meaningful Activity
(P)

Block B Sessions

12pm -12:45pm

*Effective Recitations: The Power of Being Prepared
(E)



(no session)
*Fair Grading and Effective Feedback
(E)

Writing Problem Sets and Exams
(T)

 ABCs of Course and Lesson Design
(T)

Classroom Choreography
(T)

Responding to Student Writing in STEM
(T)

LUNCH

12:45pm-1:45pm

Table Talks

 Lunch - Featuring Table Talk Discussions in Dabney Garden

Table 1: Transparent Teaching, Table 2: Copyright & Plagiarism, Table 3: Honor Code,

Table 4: Accessibility, Table 5: Supporting Students in Crisis, Table 6: Ask anything: Caltech Center for Diversity

Block C Sessions

1:45pm-2:30pm

    

Your
First
Class
(E)

Giving Voice: Dealing with Unconscious Bias
(T)

*Effective Recitations: The Power of Being Prepared
(E)

 Motivating Yourself and Your Students
(T)
Inclusive Classrooms
(T)

Fun and Games: Creating Memorable Learning Experiences
(T)

 

Teaching Outside the Classroom: Considerations for Effective Mentoring
(P)

Block D Sessions

2:45pm-3:30pm

*Leading Successful
(and Popular!) Office Hours
(E)

Improvisation
for TAs
(P)

 

Caltech 101: What You Need to Know if You're Going to Teach Undergraduates
(E)

How Teaching Can Make You a Better Student
(T)

Drafting a Teaching Portfolio
(P)

Life as a
Lab TA
(E)

 Outreach: Good for the CV, Good for the Soul!
(P)


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. Participation in the Opening Session is required for all G1s; experienced TAs and instructors are more than welcome to attend!

  • If you've never taught before or you're new to teaching at Caltech, choose mainly from the Essential Skills and Teaching Development tracks.

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

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

SESSION DESCRIPTIONS

Opening Session                                                  
10:00 - 10:45AM

The Essential Toolkit for Teaching at Caltech
Baxter Lecture Hall

Jenn Weaver, Lecturer and Associate Director, Center for Teaching, Learning and Outreach
Cassandra Horii, Director, Center for Teaching, Learning and Outreach
Olivia Wilkins, Graduate Student, Chemistry, CPET Co-Director
Daniel Martin, Graduate Student, Electrical Engineering, CPET Co-Director

Block A Sessions                                               
11:00 - 11:45AM

Fair Grading and Effective Feedback
Baxter Lecture Hall

Kelsey Boyle, Graduate Student, Chemistry
Kevin Yang, Graduate Student, Chemical 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 discuss three main topics: communicating expectations to students about assignments, grading efficiently and fairly, and providing effective feedback. You will become familiar with best practices for grading and feedback that won't take up all of your time!

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

Session Materials | Handouts


Leading Successful (and Popular!) Office Hours
Beckman Behavioral Biology B180

Joshua Brake, Graduate Student, Electrical Engineering
Daniel Martin, Graduate Student, Electrical Engineering, CPET Co-Director

Office hours are a great opportunity for students to enhance their learning and thus are a major responsibility for every TA. In this session, we will explore how to prepare for office hours, guide students through problems, and address questions. Lastly, and most importantly, we will discuss strategies to inspire students to attend and use office hours effectively.

This session will also be offered during Block D in Baxter Lecture Hall.

Session Materials 


Classroom Communication For International TAs and Others
Baxter B125

Voon Hui Lai, Graduate Student, Geophysics
Nadia Volovich, Graduate Student, Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics

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

Session Materials


Introduction to Chemistry TAing
Baxter 125

Karli Holman, Graduate Student, Chemistry
Ellen Yan, Graduate Student, Chemistry
Michael Mazza, 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  a recitation, and being a 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 | Handouts


Starting Small with Active Learning
Baxter 127

Olivia Wilkins, Graduate Student, Chemistry, CPET Co-Director
Cassandra Horii, Lecturer and Director, Center for Teaching, Learning and Outreach

Research has shown that "active learning" techniques improve student learning and retention compared to lecture alone. But how can you get started with these methods, especially if you hve linited experience with them yourself? In this session, you'll gain experience with active learning techniques that are relatively easy to incorporate in recitations and labs, explore what makes them work well, and plan for how you can start using them in your teaching.

Session Materials | Handout


 Time Management: Focusing on Meaningful Activity

Baxter 128

Grace Ho, Student Wellness Services, Occupational Therapist

Get off to a good start to the term with our time management workshop! With an approach tailored to Caltech graduate students and postdocs, we’ll take time in this session to define success and holistic well-being, plan an ideal week, and begin setting goals for success. Participants will also learn strategies for reducing barriers to productivity and will leave the session with goals set for the month.

Session Materials | Handouts

Block B Sessions                                                                
12:00 - 12:45PM

Effective Recitations: The Power of Being Prepared 
Baxter Lecture Hall

Tal Einav, Graduate Student, Physics
Paul Kempler, Graduate Student, Chemical Engineering

“A wizard can do amazing things if they have time to prepare.” -Harry Dresden
Teaching is simultaneously thrilling, rewarding, terrifying and enjoyable. One of the most intriguing aspects of teaching is that you can always get better, and this workshop will show some of the secret sauce that can transform you from a good to great recitation TA.

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

Session Materials | Handouts


Fair Grading and Effective Feedback
Beckman Behavioral Biology B180

Kelsey Boyle, Graduate Student, Chemistry
Kevin Yang, Graduate Student, Chemical 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 discuss three main topics: communicating expectations to students about assignments, grading efficiently and fairly, and providing effective feedback. You will become familiar with best practices for grading and feedback that won't take up all of your time!

This session will also be offered during Block A in Baxter Lecture Hall.

Session Materials | Handouts


Writing Problem Sets and Exams
Baxter Basement B125

Heidi Klumpe, Graduate Student, Chemical Engineering
Voon Hui Lai, Graduate Student, Geophysics

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

Session Materials | Handouts


ABCs of Course Design
Baxter 125

Jennifer Weaver, Lecturer and Associate Director, Center for Teaching, Learning and Outreach

Are you interested in 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!). We’ll discuss the process of Backwards Design, how to write learning outcomes, assessing your students and designing active learning activitiesto engage your students.

Session Materials 


Classroom Choreography

Baxter 127


Cassandra Horii, Lecturer and 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 gracefully interrupting students to help or move the class along, are also physical skills we can learn and practice. In this session, we'll identify some of the most common "classroom choreography" challenges, learn solutions to help you teach 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 teaching “moves".

 

Session Materials and Handouts


Responding to Student Writing in STEM

Baxter 128

Susanne 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 students 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 | Handouts 

Lunch-Time Table Talk Discussions                                               
12:45 - 1:45PM
Grab lunch, find a topic of interest and join the conversation!

Table #1 - Transparent Teaching

Olivia Wilkins, Graduate Student, Chemistry, CPET Co-Director

Keep the conversation going over lunch with a chat about what transparent teaching is, how it can benefit your students, and how you can start implementing transparent methods in your classroom.


Table #2 - Copyright and Plagiarism: Considerations for the Classroom

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

When can you reuse and redistribute other people's work in your own presentations and lectures?  Is there a difference in using copyrighted materials vs. those distributed under Creative Commons licenses? What is Fair Use? Come chat about the most common misconceptions about copyright in the classroom and get tips and tools for reusing others' work effectively and appropriately.


Table #3 - The Honor Code at Caltech

Denise Schmitz, Graduate Student, Astronomy, Graduate Honor Council Co-Chair
Julie Hofstra, Graduate Student, Chemistry, Graduate Honor Council Co-Chair
 
What is the honor code and how does it affect TAs? We'll give you proactive tips to help avoid honor code issues, discuss proper reporting procedures, and let you know what to expect if you make a report.

Session Materials 

Table #4 - Caltech Accesibility Services for Students (CASS)

Kate McAnulty, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies

Join the round table to learn about CASS (also referred to as Disability Services), and discuss the support that's available to you and the students you will teach.


Table #5 - Connecting Student in Crisis to CARE Support

Charisma Bartlett, Counseling Center, Staff Psychologist

TAs are often in a position to encounter students that are struggling for various rasons. Learn more about the Caltech Care team which helps TAs refer and connect student to appropriate resources.


Table #6 - Ask anything: Caltech Center for Diversity

Erin-Kate Escobar, Assistant Director, Caltech Center for Diversity

Ask anything! Join the Center for Diversity to discuss any topic you would like about student and TA diversity at Caltech.

Block C Sessions                                                                     
1:45 - 2:30PM

Your First Class
Baxter Lecture Hall

Jennifer Weaver, Lecturer and Associate 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 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 answer).

Session Materials 


Giving Voice: Dealing with Unconscious Bias
Dabney Lounge

Brian Brophy, Director of Caltech Theatre, Performing and Visual Arts 
Melany Hunt, Dotty and Dick Hayman Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Daniel Martin, Graduate Student, Electrical Engineering, CPET Co-Director

If one of your students was being unfairly treated due to unconscious bias, would you be able to recognize it? If so, how would you handle that situation? In this session, the presenters will reenact a common scenario in the classroom and attendees will learn to recognize examples of unconscious bias and their options in resolving it.


Effective Recitations: The Power of Being Prepared 
Beckman Behavioral Biology B180

Tal Einav, Graduate Student, Physics
Paul Kempler, Graduate Student, Chemical Engineering

“A wizard can do amazing things if they have time to prepare.” -Harry Dresden
Teaching is simultaneously thrilling, rewarding, terrifying and enjoyable. One of the most intriguing aspects of teaching is that you can always get better, and this workshop will show some of the secret sauce that can transform you from a good to great recitation TA.

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

Session Materials | Handouts


Motivating Yourself and Your Students
Baxter Basement B125

Annelise Thompson, Graduate Student, Chemistry
Brendon McNicholas, Graduate Student, Chemistry

What actually motivates students beyond bribery and sweeping claims of future  success? How do we motivate our students and help them feel like effective learners? We will take you through several strategies on how to motivate your students (and yourself) from day one in the classroom! Examples of motivational theory in practice will be drawn from the movies Star Wars and Mean Girls and our experience as teaching assistants at Caltech.

Session Materials | Handouts


Inclusive Classrooms
Baxter 125

Erin-Kate Escobar, Assistant Director, Caltech Center for Diversity

This session will introduce you to the key concepts of stereotype threat, unconscious bias and microaggressions, and how they manifest in the classroom. Through the use of common classroom scenarios, we will identify pedagogical practices for creating inclusive classrooms. By the end of this session, participants will be able to: define, understand, and mitigate the presence of stereotype threat, unconscious bias and microaggressions in their classroom and implement creative solutions to common challenges in creating equitable and inclusive classrooms


Fun and Games: Creating Enjoyable and Memorable Learning Experiences in a Comfortable Setting
Baxter 127

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 early on, 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 | Handouts


Teaching Outside the Classroom: Considerations for Effective Mentoring
Baxter 128

Alex Barth, Graduate Student, Chemistry
Valère Lambert, Graduate Student, Geophysics


The strategies and techniques used for teaching are typically identical to those used for great mentoring. In this session, we will discuss what makes for effective  mentoring, from working with undergraduate students to advising graduate students and beyond, whether for 10 weeks, 10 months, or a lifetime. This session will discuss strategies for evaluating students’ prior knowledge, effective communication with your mentee,
establishing research and learning goals, and adapting goals throughout the term of your mentorship. Throughout this session, we will also highlight how mentoring mirrors teaching in the classroom and how you can adapt your teaching skills to working with your mentees.

Session Materials | Handouts

Block D Sessions                                                                     
2:45 - 3:30PM

Leading Successful (and Popular!) Office Hours 
Baxter Lecture Hall

Joshua Brake, Graduate Student, Electrical Engineering
Daniel Martin, Graduate Student, Electrical Engineering, CPET Co-Director

Office hours are a great opportunity for students to enhance their learning and thus are a major responsibility for every TA. In this session, we will explore how to prepare for office hours, guide students through problems, and address questions. Lastly, and most importantly, we will discuss strategies to inspire students to attend and use office hours effectively.

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

Session Materials 


Improvisation for TAs
Dabney Lounge (Note: This session runs until 4:00PM)

Brian Brophy, Director of Caltech Theatre, Performing and Visual Arts 

By the end of this session, participants wil be able to improvise with a deeper awareness of non-verbal behavior; practice acting learning strategies, and recognize how the flow of teaching depends on the ability to stay in the moment, flexible in the power of not knowing all the anwers. The session includes game playing while learning essential skills within the social dynamic of their TA community.


Caltech 101: What You Need To Know if You're Going to Teach Undergraduates
Beckman Behavioral Biology B180

Valère Lambert, Graduate Student, Geophysics
Erika Salzman, Undergraduate Student, Chemical Engineering
Alejandro Lopez, Undergraduate Student, Chemical Engineering

In order to effectively teach students, it is crucial to understand your population and how they learn. In this session, we will provide an overview of key aspects of undergraduate life at Caltech and their relevance to being a teaching assistant for the undergraduate student body. The session format will be an open discussion, in which session facilitators will share their thoughts on what undergraduates hope for in terms of an effective TA.

Session Materials 


How Teaching Can Make You a Better Student
Baxter Basement B125

Annelise Thompson, Graduate Student, Chemistry
Heidi Klumpe, Graduate Student, Chemical Engineering

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 how research-supported teaching techniques that can help you ace your graduate classes or just improve your ability to learn and retain information!

Session Materials | Handouts


Drafting a Teaching Portfolio
Baxter 125

Olivia Wilkins, Graduate Student, Chemistry, CPET Co-Director
Kelsey Boyle, 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 different components of a teaching portfolio, discuss different approaches to preparing this document, and draft a plan for how to write or revise their portfolio by identifying strengths and weaknesses of your current set of teaching experiences. We will also introduce different teaching opportunities and resources and how you might incorporate effective teaching  strategies that will in turn strengthen your portfolio.

Session Materials | Handouts


Life as a Lab TA
Baxter 127

Karli Holman, 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 also discuss 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 | Handouts


Outreach: Good for the CV, Good for the Soul!
Baxter 128

Alex Phillips, Graduate Student, Geochemistry
Mitch Aiken, Associate Director, Center for Teaching, Learning and Outreach
Kitty Cahalan, Outreach Programs Coordinator, Center for Teacing, Learning and Outreach

What is outreach, and how can participating in outreach activities improve one’s teaching ability, or even one’s own understanding of a topic? How do we effectively reach different types of audiences, from young or new to a topic to the well-informed looking to experts to deepen their understanding? And what role does outreach play in the broader community? Attendees of this workshop will learn about outreach opportunities at Caltech and in the LA community and practice creating an activity that communicates a specific scientific principle to various types of audiences.