(The bolded items could be used by students in their first Ay 10/7A sections.)
First off, we promise to never again have a weekend Ay 300 class. The only reason we did it today is because there's so much information that we want you to know and that we want to discuss before your first section that we felt it was necessary to have two full Ay 300 classes before the semester officially begins (which is this coming Wednesday).
- Put name and course on board
- What to call us
- Flashy demo or quick news story
- For a “demo”: Maybe one of Prather's really hard questions that his AY101 students can answer? As a demo of how well AY101 students can do with proper care and feeding. — Peter Williams 2008/08/18 18:00
- Or we just say 'insert demo or new story here' since we're gonna probably be tight on time and this part isn't a huge deal in Ay 300. — Jeffrey Silverman 2008/08/19 13:55
- We don't know everything, but
we haveone of us has lots of experience and hopefully we can pass some of our knowledge on to you.
- Be flexible, things rarely work exactly the way you expect them to.
- We can all learn from experiences, both good and bad.
- Don't be afraid to make a mistake, we will and so will you. However, recognize when you've made one and try to correct it ASAP (and learn from it!).
- Inspirational quote from the first day of one of the first Ay 300 classes ever, circa the late 1990's:
This course will involve you, the GSIs, actively engaging in questions about your teaching, your learning, and your students' learning – what has worked, what hasn't worked, and in some cases speculating about what might work and then trying it out. I find that making mistakes is one of the best ways to make large amounts of progress, so I do hope this class will inspire you to experiment and make mistakes as a teacher and that you'll be willing to let us all learn from what you tried… If you're willing to make mistakes, you'll try try some things that you never would've tried and you'll have some successes you were never going to have.
Jeff suggests using crayons because people find it inexplicably enjoyable.
- Last, First
- Department or Major
- Astronomy Background
- Teaching Experience
- Enrolled in the course and/or section?
- Poll the class to see who's enrolled in Ay 300, Section 003 (CCN: 06987). The number of credits is variable, but technically it's two credits for the course plus one discussion section and three credits for the course plus two discussion sections.
- Reason for taking the course? (“because I need a science course” is a perfectly acceptable answer)
GSIs should probably tell the class this info about themselves as well. It humanizes the GSI, and students don't like it when they have to do something that you don't.
Circle up everyone. Have them step forward if they fall into the category that Jeff (or the GSI running the section) announces. Do teaching, astro, and “other” categories. GSI should step forward (when applicable) as well. This gives you an idea of students' backgrounds in the subject. You could do it sitting, but getting students up and moving and more involved is almost always preferred. However, be careful not to get too far off topic for too long!
- Maybe skip this for Ay 300, but possibly describe it. — Jeffrey Silverman 2008/08/19 14:14
- Break everyone into pairs (with the GSI too if there's an odd number of students)
- Each person must introduce their partner to the entire section:
- Department or Major
- An interesting fact or favorite something (animal, sport, food, breakfast cereal, etc.)
- GSI should always start with themselves.
- This activity is useful because it gets your students used to standing up and speaking to the entire section right from the beginning of the semester. Even though many students might be shy or hesitant to speak in front of people, in this activity:
- everyone in the class (including the GSI) has to do it
- they have their partner that they've just been talking to right next to them
- they're talking about fun and interesting stuff (as opposed to scary science or math stuff)
- We'll discuss more icebreakers later today.
- Hand out the syllabus.
- Go through it (in detail!).
- It (and the other handouts we'll pass out later today) are all online on the course wiki page. It is useful to occasionally check for updates since the syllabus may evolve slightly (e.g., the list and order of topics).
- From here on out, your first section and our first class will likely diverge.
- Discuss designing your own section syllabus (not a lecture syllabus):
- There's no need to be very long or hard-edged.
- The course syllabus should have the key information, but you should emphasize your contact info and any section policies that you want to enforce.
- It's important to be yourself in your syllabus and try to strike the same tone and tenor as section will in general.
- It's going to be something you'll likely go over immediately and so it will significantly impact students' impressions of you and the course as a whole.
- Note that whatever a GSI does in the first section will be par for the course!
- In Ay 300, what do you fear? Want to learn? Want to practice?
- Get answers from the class and list them on the the board.
- Ay 300 instructors should add 1 or 2 things not listed that they'd like to teach (how to deal with disrespectful students, how to engage students, etc.).
- GSIs could do something like this for their first Ay7/10 section but asking for astronomy topics that their students would like to learn about.
- Last year, the Ay 300 instructors did this using bad boardwork skills and showed how to improve things, but save that for later this year.
- Hand out and go over in detail the GSI Basics handout (also online).
- Discuss the distinction between Lectures and Sections.
- The idea of group work vs. individual work and peer learning vs. lecturing. We'll get way more into this later on in the course.
- You're not hired to lecture!!!!
- Sections are for group work and peer learning (mostly).
- Professors and Lecture are for lecturing, GSIs and Sections are for:
- Extra topics.
- Deeper discussions of certain topics.
- Interactive demonstrations.
- Fun/engaging/interesting group projects and worksheets.
- Occasional administrative stuff (dates of tests/homeworks/star parties, where to turn in homework, passing back homework, etc.).
- Sections are NOT for:
- Homework help (we'll talk about where to get homework help later, but homework should basically never be discussed in section unless you're talking about due dates or where to turn it in, etc.).
- Extensive lecturing (on either new topics or ones already discussed in Lecture).
- Hanging out or doing non-class related work.
- Ay 300 will be a little of both Lectures and Sections.
- You're not planning section in a vaccuum! Scores of GSIs have come before you and have archived their contributions to the world of teaching, at Berkeley and elsewhere. Furthermore, if you like demos, there are a wide variety of options to choose from.
- Pass out and go over resource list.
- Arguably the most important resources:
- EBRB (we can't stress this one enough) - Even if you want to design your own worksheets from scratch for each section it's useful to see what's been done in the past for inspiration and ideas.
- To access the EBRB you need a BADGrads wiki account.
- Poll the class to see who hasn't signed up for an account yet (have them sign up after class).
- Physical Demonstrations in Section - Demos take time and effort and always have a risk of failing, and especially in astronomy there is danger in oversimplification by trying to turn a complicated topic into a 50-minute or less activity. However, an appropriate, well-designed demonstration can be extremely effective. In addition, everyone in Ay 300 (in pairs or trios) will be designing their own demo later in the semester.
- Many of the other resources on the handout are for students teaching their own course (as opposed to just sections) and may not be as useful for you this semester. However, we will return to the topic of teaching your own course, as well as some of these resources, later in the semester.
- And of course, peers are always a great resource. In fact, we'll try to end every Ay 300 class by giving you guys a few minutes to talk to one another about ideas for your next section.
There are three basic techniques typically used in section:
Lecture-style review (GSI → student)
- We'll discuss this in detail later today.
Question and answer (GSI ↔ student)
- “Discussion” section means you should be doing at least some of this technique.
- Requires questions.
- Sometimes there simply are none other than logistics or specific/irrelevant questions.
- Minimal effort involved in preparation, although you can come to section prepared with a few questions to ask your students and turn their answers into a section-wide discussion.
- No control over order or level of questions.
- Review sessions are great if run this way but section rarely seems to work like this.
Group activities (student ↔ student)
- We will discuss this technique in more detail tomorrow.
- Consists of numerous independent groups working on the same (or similar) tasks.
- Typically guided by a worksheet or handout.
- The GSI is there to make sure that the groups stay on task and keep moving forward without giving away all the answers and without spending all of their time with one or two groups.
- This pushes students to engage in the material and requires them to think and discuss.
- Students will learn from each other and explain concepts to each other.
- Generally works great but does have flaws:
- Individuals can elect to not participate, endangering the whole idea.
- Groups can get sidetracked or taken over by someone(s) that are doing everything or nothing and leaving out other group members.
- Often these flaws can be corrected or at least improved by the GSI walking around and closely monitoring the progress of all groups.
Each of them has their own advantages and disadvantages.
In general, section can and should involve all three elements.
Typically, you will deal with each in order: e.g., deliver a quick recap of lecture and highlight some confusing points. Then, open the floor to any student questions (about the key points, about other topics from lecture, or about general course questions). Finally, when the questions run dry or when you deem that it's time to move on, pass out the worksheet or handout and use the rest of the time in section for an activity.
We will refer to these three basic techniques individually and repeatedly throughout the course and we will both practice and discuss all of them during the semester. However, always keep in mind that the divisions between them are not real and that creativity can reap great rewards.
Combining the Basic Techniques
With that said, of course it is possible to mix and match styles! Examples:
- The Interactive Lecture
- Like group work but the whole class is one big group you're a group member!
- Can be used with worksheets and/or demos (often with well-defined fill-in-the-blank questions).
- Continuously call on a variety of students to explain answers.
- This style tends to keep all students engaged and on task.
- The Choreographed Group Task
- e.g., Start off doing problems 1 and 2 at the board (with varying amounts of help/feedback from students). Then have students do 3 and 4 in groups. Do 5 at the board by Q and A, taking responses from the class for each step. Then call on a volunteer to explain 6. Students learn in different ways, and variety is always a good thing.
- A “Q&A” part of section can involve a lot of peer learning, if you get good at enabling the students to answer each other's questions. This requires more sophistication than just asking the smartest student to say the right answer; you have to ask the question in a way such that all of the students have a chance to grapple with the question initially posed. We'll discuss more on how to actually accomplish this in later classes.
Also note that section size and objectives influence the best choice of strategy:
- Large sections – More students to ask more and diverse questions, can have different groups do different tasks (or slightly different versions of the same basic worksheet – to build up an H-R Diagram for example).
- Small sections – easier to connect with the class as a whole, can have the whole class act as one medium-sized group (like the Interactive Lecture).
- Lecturing is the old-fashioned style of teaching and has been shown to be relatively ineffective at conveying information that students will retain after the course is over (especially in college science courses for non-scientists), but sometimes you have to do it.
- Yes, we do in fact realize that we are lecturing quite a lot today and will do a fair amount more tomorrow (but less than today hopefully). This is an unavoidable consequence of the type and amount of material that we want to present of these first two Ay 300 classes and we plan to decrease the amount of lecturing quite a bit for the rest of the semester.
- Students usually demand more of this in section on evals! It's usually because they're always scanning for exam hints…
- Unless you genuinely think you're a better lecturer than the professor, go easy on lecturing.
- Lecturing can be useful, but only if done well (which is tough to do).
- A good use of lecturing is the Weekly Recap:
- Recap key points from the last lecture (almost always a good idea to do this for a few minutes in each section).
- Hit the key points only. The ratio of course Lecture/Section time is typically 3:1, so it is hopeless to try to be thorough.
- Address common points of confusion. Anything mathematical often falls in this category - a weekly 'equation review' can be a good idea.
- If the professor botched explaining something, you can do damage control. (But don't undercut him/her.)
- Highlight the fun stuff to try to keep them interested. If you find a particular thing cool from the previous lecture, point that out to them. Genuine enthusiasm is infectious. (But don't drone on beyond the scope of the class.)
- Another sometimes helpful use of lecturing is to demonstrate problem solving:
- Work a problem yourself at the board (usually mathematical).
- Do either an example problem or a previous homework problem.
- This is much more common in non-Ay 10 classes. We recommend against extensive use of it in Ay 10.
- Other uses of lecturing are highly limited and quite discouraged. This is discussion section, not an extra lecture.
Never spend more than half an Ay 10 section on this, and only very rarely more than one-quarter. 5-10 minutes (out of 50) is a good goal.
- Get some from the class and write them on the board while demonstrating the mistake.
- Talking to the board.
- Not explaining/labeling your symbols or drawings.
- Writing too small, or too light.
- Writing too much or too little.
- Erasing too soon.
- Anything else?
- Informal assignment: observe your professors (and Ay 300 instructors) and make note of their faults (and strengths!).
- In intro-level classes the GSI typically does not write much on the board. This means that anything you do write is automatically bolded, highlighted, and surrounded by stars in students' minds.
- If you're going to be spending any significant amount of time writing on the board, think before section starts about what you're going to actually put on the board.
- Write at the top of the board what it is that you're talking about (i.e. a title for that chunk of material).
- Start left of center to give yourself room and proceed to write/draw in an orderly fashion.
- A picture is worth a thousand words, but a bad picture can make things oh-so-much worse. Take time to set up your drawings and clearly label anything that should be labeled.
- When using equations, label the terms. Non-science students may still be uncomfortable with symbolic math and are certainly very unlikely to be familiar with our symbol conventions (λ = wavelength, etc.).
- Use multiple colors. (Sensibly though.)
- Bring your own markers or at least check the markers before section starts.
- Pass out markers now, 2 to each GSI.
- Try to track down a (relatively) clean eraser before section starts.
- There should be a couple erasers in 264 Evans, but they might not be there or they might be disgustingly dirty. If either of these things are true, let your Head GSI know immediately and they should get new ones (probably from Dexter).
- Take time to check the class' understanding before blazing onward, but do it meaningfully (much more on this later).
- When a topic is complete, draw a big line beneath the last line of material or erase the board to signify that you're moving on to something else.
- Don't feel obligated to use the board if you don't need to.
- Speak relatively slowly and carefully.
- When speaking to the entire class or a large group, speak loudly and clearly so that everyone in the room can easily hear you.
- Enunciate important words and phrases (especially astro jargon – of which there's a lot!).
- Always try to be interactive. Stop and check for understanding. (“If I increase this factor, what happens to this other one?”)
- Again, more on this later.
- Make eye-contact, with a number of different students, as you speak.
- Use the whole room when talking to the whole class. You can start on one board and move to the other one. (264 Evans has boards on two walls.)
- Always be yourself!!
- This is almost certainly overkill for section.
- However, laptops can be useful for some demos and activities.
- Unfortunately, there is no screen or projector in 264 Evans.
- The white walls or a whiteboard make an OK screen.
- There is a portable video projector you can rent from the department. Make a reservation well in advance by going to http://astro.berkeley.edu/resources/campbell/reservations/video.html and contact
central@astroif you run into reservation problems.
In at least one paragraph, but not more than one page, describe the best/most memorable (in a good way) teacher you've ever had and why they had such an impact on you. Be prepared to briefly discuss what made them such a great teacher at the beginning of the next class.
Enroll and complete the GSI Resource Center's Online Ethics Course. You are all required to enroll in this course and complete all five online modules during the first 3 weeks of the semester. You can do one module at a time (or all of them at once) and each module will take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes to complete.
- Take a quick poll of who's finished it and who's started it.
IMPORTANT: As soon as you have your class, section, TALC, seminar, etc. schedule pretty securely set, please e-mail it to us so we know when we shouldn't schedule Ay 300 for the rest of the semester. Once again, we promise to never again have a weekend Ay 300 class.
All first time ASEs (Academic Student Employees) must attend the New ASE Orientation, which will include a 30-minute orientation by the university and a 30-minute presentation by UAW Local 2865. The dates, times and locations for the Orientations can be found at http://hrweb.berkeley.edu/labor/ase_orientdate.htm
Poll who has a computer account and who receives
astro.berkeley.edu email (or at least the reminder we sent out Saturday afternoon via the Ay300_f08 email list) in a timely manner.
- Make sure everyone knows that the door code is 1944 – just punch it into the keypad if the door's closed. However, make sure not to open the door too early since there's sections in the room all day everyday during the semester and sometimes GSIs will close the door during their section.
- Remind everyone to see Robert Magtibay (
magtibay@astro) in 601C Campbell so that he can see your student ID and get it coded for entry into Evans after hours.
- Whoever wants to go check out the section room with the Ay 300 instructors can come along.
- We'll point out the basics of the room, but it's all pretty obvious.