Highlights of Fall Conference 2014

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“Did a great job to prepare me for first day and what to expect.” — Economics GSI

“The section facilitators were both extremely knowledgeable and experienced, and I benefitted greatly from their experience and design of the session.” — Art History GSI

“I feel much more confident about my job as a GSI now.” — History GSI

Over 800 graduate students gathered for the fall 2014 teaching conference on August 21 and 22. Day 1 of the conference focused on cultural, institutional, and linguistic issues for international GSIs. Day 2, for all first-time GSIs, featured talks and workshops on the nuts and bolts of teaching as a GSI at Berkeley.

Day 1: Teaching Conference for International First-Time GSIs

“I feel more prepared for the first day of teaching and have resources to fall back on.” — Integrative Biology GSI“Extremely useful for a first-time GSI.” — Public Health GSI

Plenary Session

Susan Muller, Associate Dean of the Graduate Division, along with Linda von Hoene, director of the GSI Center, welcomed the participants. In addition to introducing resources and support available to them through the Graduate Division, GSIs received useful suggestions for soliciting feedback on their teaching from students.

In the keynote address, Ani Adhikari, senior lecturer in the Department of Statistics, spoke about the essential role GSIs play at UC Berkeley and some cultural and linguistic issues they will need to navigate in order to engage with students. In Dr. Adhikari’s view, teaching is a collaboration. “Teaching happens when there is communication between the student and you. … Your job is not so much to speak as it is to listen, and then to respond to what you are listening to.” Dr. Adhikari suggested several interesting ways international GSIs can develop an ear for their students.

The plenary session was rounded out by a panel of international GSIs sharing their experiences teaching at UC Berkeley.

Focus Sessions

The focus sessions included Pronunciation for Teaching, Supporting Student Inclusion and Well-Being, The Language of the Classroom, and Undergraduate Perspectives.

Teaching Practice

Participants crafted and delivered one- to two-minute presentations such as they might give on the first day leading their discussion section or lab and received friendly feedback.

Day 2: Teaching Conference for All First-Time GSIs

“I thought the conference did a good job of allowing students to seek the kind of help that would be useful to them and provided many opportunities to gain insight from experienced teachers.” — Physics GSI

Morning Plenary Session

Alison Gopnik, professor of psychology and plenary speaker at the GSI Teaching Conference, August 2014
Alison Gopnik

In her keynote presentation, Alison Gopnic, professor of psychology and author of the bestselling books The Scientist in the Crib and The Philosophical Baby, encouraged GSIs to create learning environments in their classrooms that promote student curiosity and exploration. Professor Gopnik drew on her research, which explores how children — and adults — learn and problem-solve more effectively through actively exploring than through passively receiving instruction from a teacher. More about Professor Gopnik’s approach is available in her Ted talk “What Do Babies Think?”

photo of Cory Antonakos
Cory Antonakos (Chemistry)

Discipline-Cluster Workshops

“My discipline workshop provided a good overview of how to prepare for the first day and issues I may encounter.” — Astronomy GSI

The discipline-cluster workshops group GSIs who teach in similar teaching assignments. The workshops are led by experienced GSIs in a broad variety of disciplines, addressing core topics such as getting started as a GSI, conducting the first day of class, strategies to enhance learning, and time management.

Focus Sessions

GSIs chose from a variety of sessions including GSI Reflections on Teaching, Facilitating Discussion Sections, Giving Oral Presentations, Strategies for Effective and Efficient Grading, and more.

“The break-away sessions were very helpful in that they addressed questions and concerns I had as a first-time GSI at UC Berkeley.” — Spanish and Portuguese GSI

The GSI Center sponsors a campuswide teaching conference each semester to prepare first-time GSIs for teaching. The next conference is scheduled for January 16, 2015.