UT planning to have more graduate students teach

I don't think this is a bad idea, although some of the comments to the article express disgust.  Is a graduate student really that much worse of a teacher than a new faculty hire might be?  At the the student probably has faculty mentor to help him or her.  I taught my first college English class with zero training but had the support to help me through.  It was a simpler time...From The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Grad Students Take the Podium in More Undergraduate Courses
Indeed, settling into the role of teaching assistant can be an adjustment. Nick Lopes, a graduate student in the department of biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, recalls times when he felt "a little bit unprepared" to stand in front of a class. During the first lab class he taught, Biology 101, Mr. Lopes and other teaching assistants met weekly with experienced graduate-student teachers to get inside knowledge of how various experiments might play out in the lab, among other things. But his second lab class, human physiology, had no such meetings.

Mr. Lopes taught three human-physiology lab sections each week this spring. "The first section is like your guinea pig," he says. "You just have to figure out what works."

"The first section is like your guinea pig," Mr. Lopes says. "You just have to figure out what works." Graduate students are considered more approachable than typical professors, he says.

"The first section is like your guinea pig," Mr. Lopes says. "You just have to figure out what works." Graduate students are considered more approachable than typical professors, he says.

Graduate students like Mr. Lopes play a key role in the university's plan to move more biology majors through first-year courses that once had waiting lists teeming with names.

"The number of students majoring in biology is growing, and there was a growing demand for freshman and sophomore biology classes," says Cynthia Peterson, chair of Knoxville's department of biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology. "But there wasn't anything that we could do about it with the level of staffing that we had."

Some of the core courses that biology majors have to take before advancing to higher-level studies had waiting lists of about 100 students last year. The division had enough faculty members to add sections to its biodiversity and cell-biology courses but not enough people to teach the lab sections each lecture course required, says Beth Schussler, director of biology teaching and learning.

Ms. Schussler and the heads of the university's three biology departments put together a plan last year for administrators that detailed student demand for biology courses and asked for six more graduate teaching assistants. Senior officials at the institution, whose strategic plan to become a top-25 research university includes a focus on graduating more students in four years, gave $185,000 to the biology departments to hire the teaching assistants they requested. The money for the new graduate students came from $1.7-million in revenue from tuition increases that was set aside for efforts to improve retention and graduation rates.

"There are going to be persistent bottlenecks in these classes," says Susan Martin, provost at Tennessee. "It makes sense to invest long term here."

Comments

CB said…
I am enrolled in a doctorate program in adult ed and higher learning. We are currently involved in an assignment that involves blogging in our field of interest or adult education. This post was interesting to me as a current graduate student. I know that I am knowledgeable in my field but I am not sure that I would have had the skills to step into a classroom of adult learners and been effective. I think with mentoring and proper support these students would be alright but if they are not invested in adult education is the university serving the students in the best possible way by using them in the classroom?

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