Currently, about six hundred doctoral students at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, serve as Graduate Teaching Fellows, while another eleven hundred teach in CUNY’s undergraduate classrooms as adjunct professors. So when the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) announced a request for proposals regarding “Preparing Future Faculty to Assess Student Learning,” Maureen O’Connor, executive officer of the GC’s Ph.D. Program in Psychology, working with Professor David Olan, chair of the GC’s Learning Outcomes Assessment Committee, and Marie Burrage, director of Institutional Research, was happy to submit one.
“The reality is that our students will be expected to function in a world where assessing learning is something they need to build into their teaching,” says O’Connor, who is also a member of the GC’s Learning Outcomes Assessment Committee, its Curriculum and Degree Committee, and its Academic Review Committee. “With so many of our students teaching their own courses, I want to make sure that we are getting them ready for that.”
Emphasized in the proposal that the team and GC Provost Chase Robinson submitted to the CGS were the steps that the GC is already taking to prepare its students to teach undergraduates. In the psychology program, for example, where almost all 560 doctoral students typically teach one or more courses before completing their degrees, the department hosts an “All-Psychology Conference on the Teaching of Psychology,” initiated in 2010 at the request of students. This annual fall event is followed in the spring by a Teaching of Psychology class, which draws on psychological science’s understanding of the underlying cognitive, developmental, and social/structural bases of student learning and memory. This class culminates in a teaching practicum, in which students collaborate to plan courses that they will be teaching the following academic year.
To build on its already multifaceted pedagogy development program, the Ph.D. Program in Psychology has been working toward establishing a learning community of both faculty and graduate student educators, who will use a collaborative model of teaching preparation. Members of the learning community will be encouraged to individualize their courses while leveraging the knowledge and experience of other educators. In addition, O’Connor says, she looks forward to adding an assessment component, such as the one described in the CGS proposal. “Right now we need additional resources for follow-up,” she admits.
Though not selected to participate in the CGS initiative as a funded research partner, the GC has been asked to join as an affiliate member. As such, the GC will be invited to attend related CGS events, access information generated by other partners and affiliates, and share project-related results at appropriate sessions of CGS annual meetings and summer workshops. Project updates, presentations, and results shared with CGS will also be included on the project website, or in CGS publications and announcements about the project.
O’Connor is encouraged by this new affiliation, and the opportunities to which it could lead. After all, the CGS is the only national organization in the United States dedicated solely to the advancement of graduate education and research. “It’s certainly a good thing to be on their radar,” O’Connor points out. “I’m hoping that just by being connected we’ll find out things we otherwise wouldn’t have known about. Because, unless you know what’s available, you don’t realize that there might be these benefits out there.”
For more about the CGS “Preparing Future Faculty to Assess Student Learning” initiative, see http://www.cgsnet.org/preparing-future-facultypreparing-future-faculty-assess-student-learning. For more about the GC’s Ph.D. Program in Psychology, go to http://www.gc.cuny.edu/Page-Elements/Academics-Research-Centers-Initiatives/Doctoral-Programs/Psychology.