GSI Guidebook

Giving students clear guidelines for what is expected in a lab report or how lab reports are evaluated will make your job of grading much easier. On the next few pages are examples showing a generic laboratory report format that can be adapted to fit your class needs and a disciplinary-specific guideline for a lab report.

GSI Tip: While it may take you additional time up front to create a grading rubric, the time you save when grading is worth the extra effort.

Example #1 – Generic Formal Laboratory Report

Adapted from Black, Gach, & Kotzian, 1996

This example provides some general comments that apply to many kinds of laboratory reports. Use this as a template for creating your own checklist or grading rubric to meet your laboratory needs. Note that it represents a score for the organization of the report as well as the inclusion of the correct science content and the mechanics of writing (e.g., style, grammar, spelling). Read more »

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CRLT has two publications specifically for GSIs: A Guidebook for University of Michigan Graduate Student Instructors and the Handbook for Faculty and GSMs who Work with GSIs. Additionally, CRLT provides guidelines for classroom discussions on campus and national issues that affect teaching and learning at UM (such as September 11th and affirmative action). CRLT also publishes a series of Occasional Papers that apply the research on teaching and learning to the practical concerns of instructors on campus.

Additional print and web resources can be found under Publications & Links and Teaching Strategies.

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Mary Wright
Center for Research on Learning and Teaching

The relationship between the Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) and the professor plays an important role in the success of a course.  At its most effective, the relationship serves as a key conduit, with the GSI helping to clarify and apply ideas presented by faculty in lecture and then bring students’ questions and feedback to the faculty. A positive instructional role model is also an important contribution to GSIs’ professional socialization (Austin, 2002).  However, the relationship also can be difficult to negotiate.

This Guidebook article summarizes the literature on GSI-faculty relationships in order to offer GSIs proactive strategies for constructing effective working partnerships. (For a fuller treatment of this subject, including strategies for faculty and possible solutions to common problems that arise, please see Wright, 2005). The nature of GSI-faculty teams varies widely across the University of Michigan, by factors such as size (some faculty supervise many GSIs, while others work with only one GSI), GSI responsibilities (such as grading, holding office hours, leading discussion sections, and studio or clinical work), discipline, and instructor identity. Therefore, this research should be adapted to your own teaching context.

Stages of GSI Development & Implications for the GSI-Faculty Relationship

As GSIs gain more experience, research finds that they progress through several developmental stages. Read more »

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Adapted from Black, Gach, & Kotzian (1996)


Most laboratory classes include some form of graded report that is generated by the students to summarize their work. Having students write up a lab serves several purposes. First, producing a report gives students the opportunity to collect their observations and interpretations into a cohesive and coherent format. Second, it helps students prepare for their future careers, illustrating the process of conducting research and documenting results. Some classes have students just turn in the analyzed results from their collected data. Other classes have students present oral reports of their data, analyzed findings, and implications. In other classes, students conduct individual research projects where they design and report out their original results. With any of these approaches, it is import to be clear about the assignment expectations (using checklists or assignment descriptions) and to provide consistency for how the work is graded (using some form of grading sheet like a rubric). This section will address grading issues specific to the laboratory classroom. For more information on grading, see Part 8, “Testing and Grading” on page 145 in the GSI guidebook. Read more »

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Elizabeth Axelson and Pamela Bogart

English Language Institute, University of Michigan

Everyone taking on the role of a GSI for the first time is embarking on a journey into new territory, with many challenges and opportunities along the way. You may be both excited and a little apprehensive about this chance to interact intensively with American and other students in the classes you teach. Your students also may be feeling something similar about taking a class from you. In what follows, we will identify some common concerns we have heard from GSIs and students and offer some practical tips for addressing them in ways that provide opportunities for success. We are confident that by working with you, your students will develop a more sophisticated skill set for communicating with a diverse range of people throughout their lives, and will gain new ways of looking at the material in your course

  1. Communication
    You may be concerned that your students will have trouble understanding you, or that you will have trouble understanding them, perhaps because

    • English is not your native language
    • you’re fluent but your variety of English is different than that of most of your students
    • undergrads may speak too quickly and sound like they’re mumbling and be hard to understand
    • people may not use English in the way that you’ve learned.

Suggestions Read more »

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