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Services of the CFT: Offerings for Graduate Students

This article was originally published in the Spring 2002 issue of the CFT’s newsletter, Teaching Forum.

by Deborah Schussler

As part of its mission to advance teaching excellence throughout the university, the Center for Teaching offers a number of services specific to graduate student Teaching Assistants (TAs). These include annual workshops and events as well as consultations for classes that TAs currently teach.

Annual Orientations and Workshops

The Center for Teaching conducts an orientation for TAs every year the week before fall classes begin. TA Orientation is designed for new and returning TAs with sessions covering a range of teaching and learning topics including general expectations by faculty and students, instructional policies like grading and office hours, and university resources. Additional sessions for international TAs during this time cover cultural teaching issues, videotaped microteaching, SPEAK tests, and consultations.

GradSTEP (Graduate Student Teaching Event for Professional Development) is hosted by the Center for Teaching in January of each year. This day-long conference focuses on a broad spectrum of teaching and professional development issues. Attendees may select from numerous sessions.

International Teaching Assistant Program (ITAP)

International students can benefit from the International Teaching Assistant Program (ITAP). ITAP is a comprehensive program that provides support and practice in teaching, conversational English, and cultural adjustment. ITAP offers international TAs a variety of services throughout the academic year, including a range of teaching and English courses, as well as the opportunity to meet with an undergraduate student consultant to develop skills in teaching, become more comfortable with English language, and learn about American culture.


TAs teaching their own classes, leading discussion sections, or supervising labs can utilize the Center’s consultation services. Consultations are conducted by one of the Center’s Master Teaching Fellows (MTF). MTFs are advanced graduate students who have experience teaching at Vanderbilt and have been trained by the Center’s directors. All information is confidential and is not used for evaluative purposes. Consultations can be arranged by calling the Center at 322-7290. Different types of consultations provide graduate students with feedback about their teaching. One of the most popular types of consultation is a Small Group Analysis (SGA). For an SGA, an MTF gathers feedback from students about the course and the instructor’s teaching. The MTF shares the composite results with the instructor and engages in a discussion with the TA about the instruction in the course. A benefit of the small group analysis is that it offers feedback early in the semester when there is still time for adjustments. Classroom videotapings or observations are among the other available consultations. TAs can arrange to have their classes videotaped or set up a time for an MTF to observe the class. During the ensuing consultation, the MTF will provide feedback and engage in dialogue on strategies for becoming a more effective teacher.

Other Resources

The Center for Teaching, located in Calhoun 116, has an extensive library that includes several hundred books, periodicals, and videotapes on a range of issues related to teaching and learning in higher education.

For Additional Information please call the Center for Teaching at 322-7290