Introduction to the GSI Guidebook

Being a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) at the University of Michigan (U-M) can be a very exciting and sometimes challenging experience.  The purpose of this Guidebook is to serve as a compass by helping GSIs navigate through these experiences and directing new and experienced GSIs to practical teaching strategies and resources.  Many of the articles were specifically selected to support your endeavors and were written by U-M faculty, GSIs, staff, and scholars in the field of teaching and learning.  As a former U-M GSI, I remember navigating through my various instructional roles and responsibilities and using an earlier version of this Guidebook as a resource. I encourage you to review the contents and discover the various articles, including several new documents included in this edition.  Further, I believe you should seek out additional teaching resources and mentors from your department, school, or college who can support you further.

Each section of the Guidebook offers GSIs strategies to prepare you for your various teaching-related responsibilities. To learn more about teaching U-M students, Part One: Getting Started contains background information about our students, an explanation of U-M acronyms, and a listing of U-M offices that can support your role as a GSI. In addition, this section provides helpful suggestions on how to teach U-M students if you did not receive your undergraduate degree from U-M and strategies to work within GSI- faculty teams.  Creating a syllabus and lesson plans for a course, discussion, or lab section is the focus of Part Two: Preparing to Teach. In this section, you will find detailed articles and examples for both of these subjects in a variety of disciplinary contexts. Part Three: Diversity in the U-M Classroom provides GSIs with information on how to engage the social diversity of students in your classes and teaching methods that help to retain students underrepresented in technical fields. For students to become active participants in the learning process, the topics in Part Four: Getting Students Involved in Learning highlight several strategies for class participation, using instructional technology, asking meaningful questions, extending student writing, and engaging in one-on-one problem solving. For those GSIs who are teaching discussion sections, Part Five: Leading Discussions suggests ways to promote fruitful conversations among students and with you, their GSI. Similarly, Part Six: Leading Laboratory Sections supports GSIs who are teaching in the laboratory context, while Part Seven: Giving Lectures and Explanations will aid those GSIs who are preparing and delivering lectures. For those GSIs with grading responsibilities, Part Eight: Testing and Grading will be helpful.  This section provides guidelines for creating multiple choice and essay questions, grading a variety of assignments, commenting on student work, submitting grades, and dealing with academic dishonesty.  Part Nine: Improving Your Teaching offers techniques to gain feedback from students, peers, and consultants to enhance your teaching skills. The final section, Part Ten: Policies Related to Teaching includes important information about some of the policies that detail your responsibilities as a GSI, including religious-academic conflicts and sexual harassment.

While I believe all topics within this Guidebook can serve as a resource to all GSIs, you may want to strategically focus on particular sections.  I would recommend that new GSIs read Parts One:  Getting Started, Two:  Preparing to Teach, and Ten:  Policies Related to Teaching.  For more experienced GSIs, consider reading Part Nine:  Improving your Teaching.  Depending on your responsibilities, background, and experience, I would encourage you to read the sections that would best enhance your role as a GSI.

At CRLT, we are interested in your feedback. Please let me know how this Guidebook has helped your teaching, which sections were the most useful, and what suggestions you have for future revisions.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Tershia Pinder-Grover, Assistant Director
Center for Research on Learning and Teaching