Faculty-GSI Teaching Teams: Strategies for Success

Molecule structureAs winter term gets underway, many U-M instructors are teaching in new GSI-faculty teams. How can you build productive collaborations from the start? 

The CRLT Occasional Paper on "Teaching Effectively with GSI-Faculty Teams" highlights many benefits--for professor, GSIs, and students--of effective relationships among professors and grad students who teach together. As the literature on GSI-faculty relationships makes clear, though, such teamwork can sometimes pose significant challenges. U-M faculty have reported, among other issues, grappling with how to coordinate the work of all members of a teaching team, handle student complaints, and respond to various challenges to instructor authority.

It's probably obvious but bears repeating: Establishing clear team guidelines and routine communication patterns early in the term can help prevent such problems--as well as provide structures for addressing them productively if they do arise later in the semester.

In facing any of these situations, the challenge for the team generally boils down to achieving a productive balance between professorial control and GSI autonomy. The Occasional Paper highlights the ways this balance--and therefore the team's problem-solving strategies--might change depending on each graduate student's level of experience and development as a teacher. But whether GSIs are just beginning to teach or experienced enough to have a "junior colleague" relationship to the professor, teams will benefit from:

  • Regular contact
  • The faculty member's commitment to mentoring graduate students as future professionals
  • Frequent communication about the class that includes student input about instruction, whether through GSI feedback, faculty observation, or facilitated student feedback sessions (available upon request through CRLT).

Many U-M faculty have also found that visiting each GSI's section at least once can help facilitate coordination among sections and between faculty and GSI work. 

You can read the full Occasional Paper here. As always, CRLT consultants are available to meet with faculty members, GSIs, or both together to help plan and coordinate your particular team's teaching strategies. We can also collect student feedback, and we offer a range of workshops and seminars to facilitate the professional development of teachers at all levels.  

Photo Credit: kennysarmy via Compfight cc

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