GSI Guidebook

The various schools and colleges of the University have different academic policies and procedures, so it is important to be aware of what differences exist. What an instructor also needs to keep in mind is that policies that apply to a given student are determined by that student's unit, not by the school or college in which the course is offered.

Policies for the College of LS&A

There are several sources to which teaching assistants can turn for information on academic policies and procedures. These sources are indicated in the sections that follow.

Handbook for Faculty and Instructional Staff

The Office of Student Academic Affairs (764-7297), located at 1255 Angell Hall, distributes a Handbook for Faculty and Instructional Staff, which outlines instructional policies and procedures within the College. The information contained in the Handbook comes from the Faculty Code, the governing document created by the LS&A faculty. The Handbook covers policies regarding examinations, grading, incompletes, etc. and explains the various forms used by instructors. The Handbook concludes with a list of offices to which an instructor might need to refer.

Reference Manual for Department/Program Advising Staff Read more »

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Portions adapted from Black, Gach, and Kotzian (1996) and edited by Jon Lillemoen, Manager, Research Health & Safety (2013)


As an instructor, you have the responsibility to ensure a safe learning environment for you and your students. Laboratories present many more potential hazards than the conventional classroom, and it makes sense from everyone's standpoint to prepare for situations you will hopefully never have to handle.  The classroom situation is often unpredictable and you are expected to provide basic written safety precautions to your students.

Within the University of Michigan, the Department of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) (734-647-1143) offers safety resources for University employees, including GSIs. Laboratory safety guidelines are available that detail University policy on laboratory rules and maintenance, hazardous waste management, electrical safety, chemical spill procedures, and emergency and first-aid procedures (ehs.umich.edu/). Read more »

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Adapted from Allen, O’Connell, Percha, Erickson,

Nord, Harper, Bialek & Nam (2009)


As a GSI you are transitioning from a student to an instructor, from someone whose responsibility was to learn in the lab class to someone who now helps others learn in the lab class. You will need to develop your own teaching style, your own way of interacting with students, and your own set of actions that determine the learning atmosphere of the classroom.  Use these do’s and don’ts to help you think about what you can do to be a successful new instructor:

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Adapted from Black, Gach, and Kotzian (1996)


It is essential that you put in careful thought and planning for the first lab class. This is the time to set the tone for the rest of the term. It is a time for you to get acquainted with the students and for the students to get acquainted with you and each other. For instance, you may want to know students' majors, math background, computer expertise, and similar courses taken previously, including in high school. If both lecture and lab are not connected as one course, you will want to know which students are taking the lecture course concurrently. You could have students put this information on an index card.

If you plan to have the students work in groups it is important to form the groups and have some way for them to get acquainted with each other. The first day's experiment may be simple but require group members to work together so they begin to get to know each other as collaborators and resources in a learning context. Read more »

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Adapted from Allen et al. (2009) and Black et al. (1996)


This article describes what to do in advance to prepare for each lab class so that you can run the lab section effectively. These suggestions are meant to be applicable to laboratory classes in most disciplines. When in doubt about how to best support your laboratory class, check with your departments Graduate Student Mentor (GSM) or laboratory supervisor for more specific and detailed information.

Preparing for the Laboratory Class

Use this strategy list to think about your preparation for teaching in the laboratory class. It is a good idea to check with experience GSIs on these issues for each lab. Read more »

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