The Joys of Guest-Lecturing as a Graduate Student

By Adrian Taylor, MSc

‘I need you to teach my class.’

That was the phrase that I heard as a graduate student at the University of Guelph a couple of Januarys ago. It can be a scary sentence to hear as a graduate student. This is particularly true for someone without a lot of experience at the front of a room leading lectures. Looking back though, it was a fantastic learning experience.

‘So…these are the topics that I need you to talk about. Feel free to cover them how you wish.’

Wait…you’re not giving me any slideshows to work with?! The first time you prepare slides for a class can feel awkward, largely because people often want more direction about what they’re supposed to do. However, this ended up being a blessing in disguise because I got to teach how I wanted and I was able to put my own spin on things!

Great…but how does one go about creating lectures that cover the required material while still also being creative?

A great way to spice things up is to incorporate your own research into lectures. You’ll naturally have a deeper connection with the content you’re teaching, and your students will likely feed off this. We have all been in a class with an instructor that doesn’t seem interested in what they’re talking about. That’s no fun and it makes it difficult to be fully engaged. Talking about your research can be quite helpful for incorporating novel content into lectures to give them their own unique flavour.

Including current events in lecture content is also a creative way to make them unique and can also serve as a great vehicle for explaining difficult concepts. What’s great about current events is that there are always new stories that develop throughout the world about a wide variety of topics. That means the possibilities are endless in terms of how they can be integrated into lectures. Current events can also be a way of incorporating a hobby or passion into lecture, introducing a personable element into your teaching, which many students like. Current events and scenarios can also be helpful for reinforcing concepts by demonstrating how they’re involved in a real-life setting.

I’ll backtrack to a couple of Februarys ago when I was teaching about the relationship between genetics and environmental factors on athletic performance. Yes, that’s a mouthful and quite a complex concept to cover.

So how did I go about addressing such a topic? Well, football is one of my favourite sports and I knew the Super Bowl was coming up…then it came to me! I used my interest in football to develop a relevant scenario linking genetics, environmental factors and athletic performance to use in my teaching.

In speaking with my students afterwards, they were appreciative of the current events and scenarios that I incorporated into lectures as they reinforced the concepts being taught. They also thought it was cool that I incorporated my non-academic interests into lectures because it showed that I’m more than just some guy teaching at the front of the class.

And that’s really it. Practice delivering your lecture before you get up there for real. Be yourself when you teach by incorporating your own experiences. Lastly, be open to having a dialogue with your students to improve your teaching for the future. Happy teaching!

Adrian is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Guelph. 


Are you interested in submitting a guest-blog to TAGSA? Email us at, or DM us on Twitter @TAGSA_SIG


A Q&A with 2018 TAGSA Award winner Michelle Ogrodnik

Head shot of Michelle Ogrodnik

On June 22, 2018, on the last day of the STLHE conference in Sherbrooke, QC, the TAGSA award for outstanding conference session led by a graduate student was given to Michelle Ogrodnik for her “My research in 300 seconds” session, titled “The era of screens, sitting, and studying: Harnessing the benefits of exercise to promote learning in higher education.”

Michelle just completed her MSc this summer at McMaster University and will start PhD Level I in the fall.  She will continue to work with McMaster’s NeuroFit Lab and Western’s WEBB Lab, where their program of research takes an interdisciplinary approach, combining fields of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour, Kinesiology, and Education. Specifically, Michelle will continue exploring the relation between exercise and learning.  She’s interested in understanding ways that optimize teaching to improve student satisfaction and learning outcomes.  Additionally, Michelle works as a Student Educational Developer at McMaster’s MacPherson Institute for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching and Learning where she has an opportunity to further explore her passions of teaching and knowledge translation.

We recently asked Michelle a series of questions for this blog post to help us get to know her better.

Question 1: What is the most important aspect of the research you presented at STLHE that you would like to share?

With all the hustle and bustle of today’s society, we’re under increasing societal pressure to spend more time studying or working…leaving less time for exercise. Exercise isn’t just good for our bodies—it’s also important for our brains. Participating in exercise may improve your executive functioning, which is the cognitive functions responsible for our goal oriented planned behaviour, including learning. I want to share with students and instructors that it’s okay to take some time in their day to be physically active in whatever way works best for their body. Taking the time to exercise may benefit their physical health, mental health, AND the learning process.

Question 2:  What kind of support have you received for this research project?

I’m mentored by some amazing researchers, particularly some incredible women in science. My current supervisors, Dr. Jennifer Heisz (Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University) and Dr. Barbara Fenesi (Department of Education, University of Western Ontario) have been instrumental in this program of research. I’m incredibly thankful. We’ve also had support from McMaster’s MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Excellence in Teaching as well as SSHRC, which we are grateful for.

Question 3: How did you first get involved in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)?

In undergrad, I specialized from Life Sciences into McMaster’s Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour program because I fell in love with what I was learning during my Introductory Psychology courses. The instructor, Dr. Joe Kim, encouraged me to pursue a position in his Applied Cognition in Education lab where I first learned about pedagogy. From there I was connected into the world of SoTL and I’ve been hooked ever since! I’m thankful to get the opportunity to pursue these interests both within my own research and through working as a student partner at the MacPherson Institute.

Question 4: What did you learn from the STLHE conference?

On top of the interesting research, as this was my first time at STLHE, my biggest take away is the sense of community with this conference. I had the pleasure of chatting with some remarkable researchers, and everyone was kind and approachable. There’s a real sense of passion among the STLHE community.

Question 5: Finally, what advice do you have for other graduate students interested in the scholarship of teaching and learning?

If you’re interested go for it—because your perspectives, experiences, and questions matter.

Rethinking Why and How I Attend Conferences

By Amelia Horsburgh PhD

Let’s get something straight: I don’t like attending conferences. Over the years I’ve found them overly-pretentious, stress-inducing, and mentally exhausting. Not to mention the financial cost. I’ve been a graduate student most of my adult life and scraping together little bits of funding to attend conferences has been soul-sucking and made me rethink my life choices.


Now that we’ve cleared that up, I want to tell you why I may be rethinking conferences. You see, at the end of May, I had the very good fortune of traveling to Vancouver to attend the Festival of Learning: Celebrating Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. The theme this year was “Higher Education: Handle with Care.” Our host, BC Campus, had us consider the following questions: How does care manifest – or fail to manifest – in our practices, policies, structures, spaces, technologies and pedagogies? How could we be better caretakers and caregivers in the context of post-secondary education and in service of student learning?

If you’ve ever been in my classroom, you know that I’m a nurturer, a helper, someone who takes inclusivity and accessibility to heart, and tries to weave universal instructional design into every element of my teaching practice. I’m a promotor and advocate for my undergraduate and graduate students and their success in and outside the classroom. You could say this conference was right up my alley. That still didn’t mean I was going to like it. Or was I?

How to conference the right way #1: Stay where the conference is being held

For the first time, I stayed at the hotel where the conference was being held. This was one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made regarding conferences. It was a game changer for me. I was able to roll out of bed at a leisurely 7am, shower, get dressed, and take the elevator downstairs for breakfast. So relaxing and felt somehow decadent! As a side note, I have low expectations for conference food, but at this conference, the food was amazing, which is a sentence I never thought I would write about conference food. Even the fruit platter was wonderful; none of that tasteless filler-fruit like green melon (who likes that stuff)?

How to conference the right way #2: Don’t present anything

Shocking, I know. Honestly, without that monkey on my back I was able to relax, breath, and just enjoy the sessions without all that stress and anxiety eating away at my insides. That said, if you’re wanting any kind of funding to attend a conference, you usually must be presenting something. For that reason, this might not be an option for most academics, especially graduate students, early-career academics, adjuncts, and sessionals.

How to conference the right way #3: Volunteer

I don’t like talking to people. I especially hate “networking.” But when I registered way back when there was an option to volunteer and I clicked on it. I offered to lead fitness breaks outside and an appreciation station where folks could pen thank-you notes, colour, have a cup of tea, and just relax. I figured there would be minimal talking on my part and it would be good for my own self-care to get outside every day and walk along the waterfront and to find time to practice some gratitude at the appreciation station.

How to conference the right way #4: Have keynotes that are down-to-earth and awesome

On the first day, the keynote speaker Jesse Stommel spoke compellingly about the importance of empathy for our students, and on the last day the keynote speaker Monique Gray Smith emphasized that educators’ words can be medicine in lifting our students and the importance of naming our students’ gifts. I’m down with all those ideas, but it did my soul good to hear that other educators feel similarly and have a room full of folks nodding their heads in agreement.

How to conference the right way #5: Have BC Campus host the event

BC Campus made me a believer in conferences. I have never experienced such an inclusive conference. Just a few of the ways they made everyone feel welcomed and appreciated: Free childcare (yes, you read that right), all-gender washrooms, accessible spaces, nutritious and delicious food, yoga and meditations sessions, pronoun ribbons for your conference badge, and that awesome-sauce appreciation station mentioned earlier. These folks went above and beyond, and I wouldn’t hesitate to attend another one of their events.

From now on, I will attend conference that feed my soul, recharge my teaching spirit, and provide ample opportunity for me to practice good self-care. I suggest you do too.

Amelia has just accepted an instructor position with the English Department at Vancouver Island University. She begins August 1st, 2018.

It’s election season at TAGSA! Apply to join the Executive.

The TAGSA SIG invites nominations for the following Executive Positions for the period of 2018-2020:

Chair: Term of office shall be two years, with a maximum of two consecutive terms. Responsible for providing overall leadership, administering the SIG and ensuring the by-laws are followed, liaising with the STLHE, raising the profile of educational developers working with teaching assistants and graduate students, presiding over meetings, providing regular reports to the STLHE and coordinating special educational development initiatives.

Vice-Chair: Term of office shall be two years, with a maximum of two consecutive terms. Responsible for supporting the Chair, assists with regular reports to the STLHE, helps coordinate professional development opportunities and organize regular meetings.

Secretary (Treasurer): Term of office shall be two years, with a maximum of two consecutive terms. Duties will be to record the minutes of meetings and to maintain membership records and other records of the SIG as directed by the Executive. Responsible for outreach and communication to members via the SIG website and listserv. If/when a SIG budget is established, responsible for managing and reporting on the financial accounts of the SIG and the safe keeping of all financial documents of the SIG.

Secrétaire français: Term of office shall be two years, with a maximum of two consecutive terms. Responsible for transmitting all major communications in French, for recruiting francophone members and for outreach to francophone communities and institutions across Canada.


Six (6) Regional Members-at-large, who represent regions of Canada (and international regions as necessary) and who act as liaisons between the Executive and the SIG general membership, and vice versa. Areas requiring
representation include the following:

  1. Eastern MAL (Nova Scotia, PEI, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador)
    2. Québec MAL
    3. Ontario MAL
    4. Central MAL (Saskatchewan, Manitoba)
    5. Western MAL (Alberta, BC)
    6. Northern MAL (Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut)

Two (2) Student Members-at-large, who represent the concerns of graduate students and teaching assistants, and who act as liaisons between the Executive and the SIG general membership.

Webmaster: Duties include the maintenance and updating of the TAGSA web page and all related matters.


The time commitment for each position is very flexible, and will vary depending on the time of year and the amount of work the SIG decides to generate for itself! Ideally, the SIG Executive will meet as follows:

* One face-to-face meeting annually at the STLHE Conference
* When possible, one face-to-face meeting at EDC Winter Conference
* Eight virtual (i.e. web conference) meetings per year


You can either volunteer yourself or nominate a colleague for any of the positions. If you are nominating someone, please ensure the individual is a member of STLHE, is committed to the SIG’s goals and has agreed to stand for election to a specific position. Please also note ALL positions are open to all members-in-good-standing of TAGSA (i.e., your membership in STLHE has been paid and is up-to-date).

Please volunteer for a position or nominate a colleague by emailing the following information to Nominations Chair for TAGSA, Lianne Fisher (

* Name of nominee
* Institution
* Email address
* Position of interest and why you would like this position
* Short bio (100-150 words)
* Digital photo (minimum 300 dpi, head and shoulders shot)

The submissions can be written in your preferred language of either French or English. Candidates do not campaign and so the written expression of interest, its translation (which will be done by STLHE), and photo posted on the STLHE website are the only ballot information available to members.

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS OF NOMINATIONS: This call for nominations will close on Monday, April 30, 2018

For more information, please visit the TAGSA elections site. You can review all the elections information en français. Or contact Lianne Fisher (at, the Nominations Chair for TAGSA Elections. 





Presenting at STLHE 2018? Apply for the TAGSA Award

STLHE 2018 meeting

If you are presenting at the Annual Conference of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE), which will be held in Sherbrooke, Québec from the 19th to the 22nd of June of 2018, you can apply for the TAGSA Award for Outstanding Conference Session Led by a Graduate Student. Established in 2013, the Award recognizes a graduate student who facilitates an outstanding conference student-led session at the annual STLHE conference. You can a blog post about the 2017 winners of the Award:  Alyona Koulanova and AryelMaharaj of the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC), for their presentation “Fit-Breaks: A Physical Activity-Based Intervention for the University Classroom.”

The award, which is sponsored by the STLHE and the conference organizers, includes a certificate, reimbursement of all conference registration fees, acknowledgement on the STLHE website and in the STLHE newsletter, a one-year complimentary membership to TAGSA and STLHE.

Who is eligible?

Graduate students (including TAGSA members) who are currently enrolled in a Master’s or Doctoral program at a post-secondary institution or who are enrolled in a Master’s or Doctoral program at a post-secondary institution in the most recent academic year (2017-2018).

How to apply?

Graduate students (including but not limited to TAGSA members) who have had a proposal accepted to the STLHE conference and who are interested in being considered for the TAGSA Award must submit an application to the Chairs of the TAGSA SIG via email. For details, please visit the Award website which outlines the application process.

When is the application due?

Candidate applications must be submitted by email with “TAGSA Award” in the subject line no later than 11 May 2018 to

For enquiries about the award, please contact





Congratulations to the 2017 Winners of the TAGSA Award for Outstanding Conference Session Led by a Graduate Student

This June, over 770 individuals gathered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, at the 2017 meeting of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) conference. Hosted by Dalhousie University, Mount Saint Vincent University, Nova Scotia Community College, Saint Mary’s University, and NSCAD University, the conference provided educators from across Canada the opportunity to engage in exciting discussion about many topics related to teaching, learning, and higher education.

For the fourth consecutive year, the Teaching Assistant and Graduate Student Advancement (TAGSA) Special Interest Group was delighted to stage the TAGSA Award for Outstanding Conference Session Led by a Graduate Student. This year there were 13 candidates from ten universities across Canada, covering topics such as communities of practice, e-learning, student engagement, and inequity in the university environment. On Friday morning, the TAGSA Executive was very pleased to announce the 2017 winners: Alyona Koulanova and Aryel Maharaj of the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC), for their presentation “Fit-Breaks: A Physical Activity-Based Intervention for the University Classroom.” TAGSA caught up with Alyona and Aryel to discuss their work and what the Award means to them.


2017 TAGSA Award winners: Alyona Koulanova (on the right) and Aryel Maharaj

TAGSA: Congratulations on winning the 2017 TAGSA Award for Outstanding Conference Session Led by a Graduate Student! Before we talk about the Award, could you tell us a bit about yourselves?

We both earned our Honours Bachelor of Science degrees (specialized in Neuroscience) from the University of Toronto in 2015. Since then, we have been contributing to the Healthy Campus Initiative at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) by creating the Fit-Breaks program, which has been implemented across several academic departments at UTSC. Promoting healthy-active-living through this actionable program has led to a research project titled “Fit-Breaks: A Physical Activity-Based Intervention for the University Classroom.” Through this project, we have focused on implementation of classroom interventions: working with the student population to decrease stress and sedentary behavior to promote well-being, life balance, and academic performance.

TAGSA: What gave you the idea for this research project? Can you tell us about your findings?

Our personal experience during our undergraduate career is what drives our passion for this project. Like so many other students, we experienced a great amount of stress adjusting to post-secondary education. Luckily, we discovered how to get physically active on campus, which was key to us finding a healthy life balance, providing us the ability to excel in our studies. We felt like we had unlocked a giant secret: the secret to success.

Tragically, however, we know so many students still suffocate in their studies. To try and understand why more students were not getting physically active we held some focus groups and learned from students that the most common reason was “not enough time.” With that, we thought, “if we can’t bring the students to the physical activity, we have to bring the physical activity to the students.” By incorporating physical activity in the classroom setting, we help students make the link between physical activity, mental health, and academic performance as well as teach them a valuable life skill that they will hopefully carry forward post-graduation.

TAGSA: What kind of support did you have throughout this project?

We had support from two wonderful faculty members: Dr. Brian Harrington, Department of Computer Science, and Dr. Jessica Dere, Department of Psychology, as well as the Fitness Program Coordinator at the Department of Athletics and Recreation, Laurie Wright. Moreover, we had support from the Principal of the University of Toronto Scarborough, Dr. Bruce Kidd. They were all integral to our successful implementation of Fit-Breaks, and we’re extremely grateful for their mentorship.

TAGSA: What’s next for your educational research?

When we started this project coming out of undergrad, neither of us had much interest in conducting research. However, now that we’ve completed this project, we can truly say that research will likely be something we’ll always be doing: asking questions and trying to find answers. To this end, Ary will continue to engage in a couple of projects specific to mental health research in higher education as he finishes up his M.Ed. in Counselling and Psychotherapy at OISE (U of T), while Alyona is looking forward to continuing research on Fit-Breaks in her Masters program with the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education at the University of Toronto starting this Fall.

TAGSA: Do you have any advice for graduate students who are interested in conducting educational research?

Don’t look for research projects, instead look for questions you can’t find the answers to. Be the change that you want to see made. 

Teaching Development of Grad Students: A TAGSA Roundtable on Challenges and Opportunities at the STLHE Annual Meeting

We are pleased to announce that at the upcoming 2017 annual meeting of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education in Halifax, TAGSA will be hosting a panel dedicated to discussing the issue of graduate student teaching development: “Teaching Development of Grad Students: Challenges and Opportunities”. The event is sponsored by University Affairs/Affaires universitaires. Over the last two decades, research has shown the importance of teaching advancement for graduate student development and its’ benefit to higher education as a whole. In recent years, conversations have focused on how faculty mentor graduate students, employable for academic and non-academic careers, and/or the barriers for graduate students seeking teaching development. TAGSA has been fortunate to bring together a collection of inspiring, dedicated, and enthusiastic speakers that can provide a range of experience and perspectives on how graduate student development is situated within the current context of higher education and provide a platform for this discussion. Let us introduce you to the panel!

Carol Berenson holds a faculty position in educational development at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning at University of Calgary.  Carol’s experience teaching in sociology and women’s studies informs her approach to collaboration, consultation, research, and program development in teaching and learning.  Her educational development interests and activities include graduate student teaching development, peer observation of teaching programs, teaching controversial issues, and diversity and inclusion in teaching and learning. Carol has recently lead the development and approval process for Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Scholar Certificates in University Teaching and Learning that will be launched in the fall of 2017 at the University of Calgary.

Fiona A. Black is the Associate Vice-President Academic and a Professor in the School of Information Management, Faculty of Management at Dalhousie University. Fiona’s first degree was in Education from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland; she earned an MLIS from Dal, and then a PhD in print culture history and information science from Loughborough University in England. Her research has been consistently funded by SSHRC and is in the area of print culture and book trade history. She has mentored and hired graduate students at the University of Regina and the University of South Florida as well as at Dal. In her academic leadership roles, from 2003 to date, she has mentored and supported faculty colleagues, as well as graduate students, regarding their career development. One of her passions is Work-Integrated Learning, be this for teaching, research or employment outside the university. Her current mandate includes academic program development, academic leadership development, and teaching and learning (through the superb leaders and other colleagues in the Centre for Learning and Teaching).

Junfang Fu is a graduate student in the MAEd Lifelong Learning program at Mount Saint Vincent University. Junfang came to study at MSVU from China in 2015. Her research focuses on international students’ informal and non-formal learning experiences through community engagement, volunteer service, and other extracurricular activities. Prior to her graduate studies, Junfang earned her B.A. in English Language and Literature from Beijing Language and Culture University, and then embarked on a 7-year career in international education consultancy and cooperation in Beijing. Enjoying life and study in Halifax, Junfang also works as an enrolment support specialist in the school and a coordinator of the Mount International Student Volunteer Program. She wants to explore international students’ learning obstacles in Canadian universities, and assist them adapt to Canadian education and ultimately integrate into the society. Besides, Junfang is a planning team member of the Interfaith Harmony Halifax, and she is passionate about volunteering, travelling and photography.

We encourage you to come to the panel ready to engage in lively and deep conversation about this topic. Please bring your own comments, questions, and experiences to share!

The panel will take place on June 21, from 11am-12pm at Dalhousie University (Rowe 1007). For more information, visit the main conference website at 

An Interview with Cynthia Korpan, Past Chair of TAGSA


Cynthia Korpan served as chair of the Teaching Assistant and Graduate Student Advancement (TAGSA) special interest group (SIG) for four years but has been involved in the group since its inception. She is currently the Professional Development Programs and TA Training Manager at the Learning and Teaching Centre, University of Victoria, and is also a PhD Candidate. As a new executive board transitions into TAGSA, our goal is to build on the strong foundation that has been created by the previous executive. For this reason, hearing about Cynthia’s insights from her time on the Board and what she envisions might be next for TAGSA is an important stepping stone. She recently took some time to answer a few questions about TAGSA and broader trends in TA and GS advancement.

 TAGSA: Previous TAGSA board members took a considerable amount of time to prepare resources that are now available on the STLHE website. What led to the development of these resources and what can students, scholars and practitioners learn from them?

 Cynthia Korpan (CK): I wanted to develop resources that would facilitate building the community (including graduate students) and encourage collaboration. TAGSA already had the community that supported the formation of the SIG but I felt that the SIG needed some material artifacts that could represent and be useful to the community. In my role as vice-chair, I initiated the Key People Directory to help build TAGSA. This resource has created an essential link for the community to use to access information about the institutions and individuals involved in TA and graduate student educational development so that the community can easily share ideas, collaborate, and contribute to the growing SIG. The directory also represents the depth and breadth of graduate student programming in the field of educational development. This directory is updated annually.

I then embarked on compiling a report about the state of TA professional development in Canada. I contacted all universities that potentially had TA programming in order to create a snapshot of the work being done. The final report is divided into the following sections: new initiatives, latest research, program revisions, campus collaborations, conferences/TA days, and ongoing successes. The report is an efficient and valuable mechanism to share information and highlight current programming initiatives and research undertaken about TAs.

TAGSA: Cynthia spoke about other resources that were developed for the TAGSA during her time on the Board. One report, Preparing Teaching Assistants (TAs): A National Survey of Canadian Postsecondary Institutions’ TA Orientations (2013) stemmed from an investigation of centralized TA orientations at higher education institutions in Canada. This resource can be used when designing or re-designing TA orientations. In addition to this orientation project, the previous Board also published a special issue called “Quality Enhancement: Teaching Preparation for Graduate Teaching Assistants.” This was published in a 2015 issue of the Canadian Journal of Higher Education.

TAGSA: What effect did  TAGSA have on creating a community of practice?

CK: One of the goals of TAGSA is to increase graduate student involvement in educational development. The establishment of two awards for graduate students was one of the first initiatives proposed by the TAGSA group. The TAGSA Award for Best Conference Session Led by a Graduate Student [recently renamed to the TAGSA Award for Outstanding Conference Session Led by a Graduate Student] was developed to recognize and bring attention to those graduate students presenting at the STLHE annual conference. The hope was that it would encourage more graduate students to engage with the STLHE conference. The other award proposed was about recognizing graduate student leaders and due to the diligent pursuit of this idea and the generous support of other TAGSA committee members (in particular Roselynn Verwoord), I prepared a proposal to the STLHE board to have graduate students included in the 3M National Student Fellowship Award. The proposal was accepted by the STLHE board (and by 3M) who then worked hard to modify the existing award to ensure that undergraduates, graduates, and college students were eligible for the award, for which I am extremely grateful.

To encourage more graduate students to present at the STLHE conference meant that there had to be minimal barriers to attend the conference. My own attendance at STLHE each year prompted me to think about how to best bring TAGSA members and those interested in graduate student development together more often. At each session related to TAs or graduate student professional development, the same people would be present. This initiated a suggestion that I made to the TAGSA members to create a TAGSA stream during the pre-conference. This initiative was very successful and saw the pre-conference stream expand into two streams the following year with double the amount of graduate students presenting. The TAGSA stream initiative has now grown into a full regular stream at the annual STLHE conference (I am extremely thankful to Denise Stockley and Robert Lapp for suggesting). Having a TAGSA devoted stream provided more opportunities for TAGSA members and others interested in collaborating.

TAGSA: How do you think TAGSA can further expand its membership and its presence?

CK: I think continuing to involve grad students is great but it would also be nice to have some educational development emerita involved. Those who have been in the field a long time and have a lot of experience to contribute.  I think grad student professional development (ProD) is sometimes viewed as the little sister of faculty development and everyone involved in grad ProD, one day grows up! I see grad students as future faculty. Many faculty begin learning how to teach in higher education as a grad student. I think we can view grad ProD to be equivalent to the levels associated with courses, and all of us realize how important those foundational courses are. Others have advocated for a TA/grad student curriculum about learning to teach, which I am currently actively working on. So instead of seeing grad ProD as the little sister, it is viewed as the development of one person that begins in the first year of a Masters programs (or as an undergrad for those institutions/departments that hire undergrads as TAs).

One of the big issues I find is that we need one trusted internet resource for grad students learning how to teach. I think TAGSA should be that one-stop trusted resource that all of us can promote at our institutions. I find that too many times, TAs rely on google (despite centres having resources on their institutional website) as their resource and therefore, are not always accessing the best resources. TAGSA could develop a comprehensive resource on the internet that would allow a platform that could be eventually expanded. Maybe forums, instructional videos, webinars? All kinds of possibilities could grow from there.

The first step to growth is recognizing and acknowledging historical foundations. TAGSA would not exist if it weren’t for a community getting together to start building this group. The current executive can now build on the success of its past executive, but only with the help of its membership. As we relaunch the TAGSA website, we want to invite you to consider the following questions and leave a response.

What do you think are the most important trends or issues in Teaching Assistant and Grad Student advancement? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section.

[Image by Flickr user stevebustin and used under Creative Commons licensing.]

TAGSA Canada

Welcome to the TAGSA Canada web resource!

This site aims to:

  • raise awareness of graduate student development in Canada
  • provide a forum for the sharing of resources between TA developers
  • build community amongst TA developers
  • mentor graduate students to the field of educational development