Communication Through Computers
My Professors for the Future project was designed to improve communication between graduate students and the Office of Graduate Studies and other campus centers. Three avenues were explored in order to achieve this goal:
- I attempted to construct a USTPROC mailing list of all graduate program mailing lists in order to expedite relaying messages to all graduate students
- I conducted a computer access survey to evaluate whether graduate students were experiencing difficulties ac cessing computers with e-mail and Internet capabilities
- I created a web page to assist graduate students in finding teaching, research and reader assistantship appointments
Project 1: I was not able to complete this project because of the need for all program staff to learn and utilize the computer program, LISTPROC. Fortunately, I did find that using the Graduate Student Association LISTPROC mailing list (email@example.com) was an adequate alternative. This system should improve with further encouragement to the GSA representatives to forward messages to their constituents.
Project 2: Using the responses of 611 graduate students, I concluded that overall most graduate students have adequate access to computers. As expected, however, there are some students who are not so fortunate. Using a series of rankings based on the number of respondents and the type of response given, the following groups ranked high with regard to the number of students experiencing difficulties accessing computers: Nutrition(G); Ecology(G); Education(G); Animal Science(D); Eng: Civil and Environmental Engineering(D); Agriculture and Environmental Chemistry(G); Genetics(G); Comparative Pathology(G); Food Science(D); and History(D). Specifically, students in these programs need more or better computers withe-mail and Internet access. The full report of the results of this survey is available in the Office of Graduate Studies.
Project 3: The web page to assist graduate students in finding TAships and RAships can be found at: http://pubweb.ucdavis.edu/documents/gradstudies/TARA/tara1.htm
Appointments are grouped by general area of study which link to the appropriate web pages. For teaching and reader assistantships, links to the UC Davis On-line Catalog are also provided. This resource still needs to be advertised to campus departments with available appointments before it will be ready for use.
Implementation of an Undergraduate Research Internship Program
Like the language/culture exchange programs upon which my project is based, the Graduate Student Exchange Project, was conceived as a mechanism to promote networking and understanding between graduate students and faculty from a variety of academic and intellectual cultures on the UCD campus. In order to better serve undergraduates as well as colleagues from a variety of disciplines it is imperative that academic professionals become accustomed to crossing "cultural" boundaries. It is my premise that the understanding between disciplines will be crucial to the survival of the university of the future.
The core of this project entailed a direct "cultural" and intellectual exchange between graduate students from diverse disciplines. The GSA representative for each UCD graduate program/group was given a postcard with a space for five names and asked to recruit five students who were willing to host a group of students from another discipline. Hosts were asked to invite the "foreign" group for an activity during which they would share their teaching and/or research experiences. The guest group then reciprocated by inviting their former hosts to their territory and sharing their graduate experience. I encouraged all participants to try to include some activity which gave outsiders a sense of their daily working environment such as a department tour. Approximately twenty such exchanges have taken place.
I intend to follow up this program with a second level of exchange continuing into next fall. Having identified five graduate programs which were ranked among the best graduate programs in the country because of their outstanding faculty and graduate students, I approached these programs and asked whether they would be willing to showcase their departments in an open house which would be open to the entire UCD community. In this way graduate and undergraduate students from a variety of disciplines could become better acquainted with the graduate work being done on this campus.
Implementation of an Undergraduate Research Internship Program
"Active research experience is one of the most effective techniques for attracting talented undergraduates and retaining them in careers in mathematics, science, and engineering and too few such experiences are now available". With this statement as my guiding philosophy, I developed a Travel Research Internship Program (TRIP) with three goals in mind:
- To make research internship opportunities more available to community college students planning to transfer to UC
- To further strengthen the ties between UCD and local community colleges
- To get graduate students more involved in undergraduate education.
TRIP was implemented in three phases: (1) A number of UCD faculty were asked to pledge their support for TRIP. Five graduate student volunteers were also appointed to serve as advisors. (2) A series of workshops were held at various community colleges. Students were provided information about research internship opportunities. About twenty students also attended the UCD Undergraduate Research Conference. They were escorted to the conference and given campus tours by myself and two graduate student assistants. (3) Finally, the students submitted to me lists of their research interests and I matched the students with appropriate UCD faculty. Meetings between students and faculty were held and plans for summer internship projects developed. At this point the community college students were each assigned to one of the five graduate student advisors who will be available to provide guidance.
During the summer of 1997, the students will visit UCD and work on their projects. They will work directly with graduate student research mentors. At the end of the summer a colloquium is planned to provide students an opportunity to share their internship experiences.
The rising costs of college education are prompting more and more students to attend community colleges, most of which offer quality education at bargain-basement prices. Programs such as TRIP will help attract these students to UC and to careers in the sciences. The development of TRIP has been one of my most rewarding experiences as a graduate student. I have gained a real working knowledge and appreciation for the rigors involved in implementing an academic program of this magnitude. I have also made many new friends and I plan to continue collaborative efforts with them in the future. I hope that through TRIP I have, in some small way, further strengthened the ties between community colleges and the University of California.
Survival Guide for Graduate Students in Nutrition
The Graduate Group of Nutrition (GGN) has become one of the largest graduate groups on campus, with over 100 students from 15 departments. Nearly ten years ago, a group of students saw the need for a handbook that would include information specifically for students in the GGN. The result was the first Survival Guide for Graduate Students. Encompassing major issues (''What is an Advising Committee?"), minor ones (''Where do I get keys?"), and the monetary ("Does an RA-ship pay my fees?"), the Survival Guide quickly became an indispensable tool for both new and continuing graduate students.
My PFTF project involved the complete revamping and rejuvenation of the 10th Annual 1997-98 GGN Survival Guide.
I surveyed new and continuing students to determine what portions of the current Guide are helpful, what they wish had been included, and what they found unnecessary or confusing. I worked closely with the chair and other faculty of the GGN to increase accuracy and clarity in the Guide's discussions of degree requirements and procedures.
There is a wealth of resources available to graduate students at UCD and in the community. For example, there has been a veritable explosion of services now available to graduate students via the Internet. There are excellent courses on grant-writing and dissertation preparation. Many of these have been included in the revised Guide.
For this project I used the desktop publishing program Quark X-Press, which allowed me to incorporate eye-catching graphics, departmental/University logos, and innovative text displays. In addition to the facility I gained in the use of this software program, I also developed useful skills in publication design, layout, and organization; writing and editing; and collaboration with co-authors.
After final oversight and approval by the chair of the GGN in the summer 1997, the new Guide will be printed and mailed to new students prior to their arrival in Davis for Fall Quarter 1997. The effectiveness of the new Guide will be evaluated by the same questionnaire that had been administered a year earlier. For future revisions, I will furnish the officers of the Nutrition Graduate Student Association with all sources, notes, and diskettes used in the production of the Guide.
Spanish Internet Guide
The goal of my project for Professors for the Future was to provide graduate student teaching assistants of language courses with a resource for incorporating World Wide Web-based materials into their teaching. Under the guidance of my mentor, I have served as co-author and Webmaster for the Spanish Internet Guide (SIG),
http:/ /philo.ucdavis.edu/~askarp/al_corriente/, an online workbook that encourages students to explore authentic texts in Spanish located on websites thematically linked to the topics addressed in intermediate Spanish. The SIG, comprised of fifteen lessons, promotes synthesis of these online readings through guided research tasks on the Web and short composition exercises designed to elicit samples of students' spontaneous writing. The pedagogy underlying the SIG mirrors the approach to reading that TAs employ in the classroom. For example, while working through the SIG, students encounter pre-reading questions designed to activate the background knowledge they bring to the task. Next, students interact with short, annotated passages designed to pique their interest in the topic. Following the reading, students complete comprehension exercises, then engage in guided research tasks on the Web and enter responses to writing prompts in text fields on the Web page. Their work is collected in H1ML form fields, processed by a CGI script on the server, and submitted to their Spanish instructor's e-mail address.
Beginning with the integration of the Spanish Internet Guide into the curriculum of all sections of Spanish 21 in Winter 1997, I coached instructors on how to manage the SIG and other Web activities in their teaching. I solicited feedback from instructors, as well as students, both formally (on surveys) and informally (via e-mail and personal communications) in order to improve the effective ness of the SIG. In addition, for the Spring quarter I was the TA for a graduate seminar entitled "Technology and Second Language Learning." In this capacity, I led two class sessions, demonstrated Internet and software tools, and aided students in creating their own projects.
On a final note, although developed for Spanish, the SIG can be used as a template for similar activities in other languages, and in the future I intend to support TAs from other language departments in their endeavors to adapt my work in order to enhance their teaching.
Improving Graduate Students’ Teaching Through the Program in College Teaching and Active Learning Workshops
My Professors for the Future project had two components:
- Co-administering the Program in College Teaching (PCT).
- Increasing graduate student awareness of student-active teaching methods. As co-administrator for PCT, my primary responsibilities included helping participants improve their teaching and leading bi-weekly roundtable meetings.
To accomplish my second project goal, I worked with PCT participants and the TA Consultant program to develop workshops on active learning.
The Program in College Teaching helps graduate students improve teaching through three sets of activities: mentored teaching, bi-weekly roundtables, and a series of seven activity contracts. To help participants get the most out of their mentored teaching experience, we (Will Davis and I) observed practice lectures, videotaped lectures, conducted mid-quarter interviews, and consulted with participants. I observed 15 of the 21 participants at least once. Learning how to provide effective feedback on graduate students' teaching was a very valuable part of my project.
Roundtable planning involved deciding on topics, contacting speakers, and designing activities to use during the two-hour sessions. As a past participant, I could provide insight into things that had worked well or poorly during the previous year. In addition to planning roundtables, I shared the responsibility for leading them.
My involvement with PCT and the TA consultant program allowed me to work within existing structures to complete the second part of my project. Along with three PCT participants, I planned and implemented a roundtable meeting on active learning. For this meeting, I produced a glossary of active-learning terms, which we also handed out at a subsequent workshop. This subsequent work shop (a collaborative effort with TA Consultants and Teaching Resource Center staff) began a series of brown-bag lunches in which UC Davis professors described their use of active-learning. Next fall, I will be continuing this work by implementing a workshop series that looks more in depth at certain student-active teaching methods.
An Investigation Into How UCD Graduate Programs Prepare Students to Become Effective Teachers
My Professors of the Future project was to develop and administer a questionnaire via e-mail to both faculty and graduate students campuswide to discover what was positive and helpful to graduate students learning how to teach. Since I wanted as many responses as possible, I asked only three questions:
- What have you found to be most helpful in preparing students (faculty) or in learning how (student) to be an effective teacher?
- If there were no constraints, what experiences or resources would you add?
- Do you wish your program provided more, less, or do you think your program provides the right amount of TA training or professional development opportunities for teachers?
One significant result was that, out of 27 faculty responses, two-thirds thought that their departments provided the right amount of training, and one-third thought that more training was needed. In contrast, out of 46 graduate student responses, four-fifths thought that more training was needed, and only one-fifth thought the right amount of training was provided.
Almost all students would like to have more actual experience in both organization of courses and in lecturing, either in class or in the lab. It was suggested that interested students be allowed to lecture at least once in the classes they TA. Many considered confidential and supportive peer and faculty critiques to be desirable and helpful. They also thought regular meetings with faculty where expectations, ideas, and strategies for involving students and learning what is working would be a good idea. Pairing new TAs with more experienced ones would benefit both faculty and graduate student. Students also provided a substantial list of work shop requests which were forwarded to the Teaching Resources Center.
These suggestions and many more will be included in a report to the chairs of departments, the Faculty Committee on Teaching and the Graduate Student Association. Although some of the suggestions would require additional financial resources, most can be incorporated into existing departmental programs with relative ease.
A Handbook of Workshops on Gender Equity in the Classroom
In 1992, the American Association of University Women published a study which raised serious doubts as to whether girls have an equal learning experience to those of boys. These different experiences are manifested as lower achievement levels in math and sciences and an overall loss of self-esteem and intellectual confidence among high school girls. In response to these disturbing findings, Robin Whitmore, the acting director of the UCD Women's Resource Center, convened a workgroup to address gender equity in the classroom at Davis.
The outcome was a workshop which is now offered during the fall and winter quarter orientations for teaching assistants. It is also, and has been, provided on request to any campus group.
The aim of the workshop is to make the participants aware of the subtle ways in which an instructors' unconscious choice of words and patterns of body language discourage women from participating to the same extent as their men counterparts. We also encourage instructors to be aware of a tendency to devalue the abilities of students who use tentative styles of speech, as many women and minority students do. Thus, we do not seek to place value judgments on the behavioral patterns of either sex but rather, we believe that instructors who are more aware of differing styles of communication can create a more equitable and hospitable environment for all students.
Over the last few years, our group has received many requests for information about our workshops from interested parties at other universities. We also needed a way to train new work shop facilitators. Thus, my project for the Professors for the Future Program was to develop a hand book containing a statement of the aims of our group, a detailed description of the workshop along with tips for conducting it, and a selected bibliography. While working on the handbook, I also had the opportunity to give a shortened version of the workshop to the participants in the Program in College Teaching.