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Associates in Teaching Program Benefits Everyone Involved

February 4, 2013

Student instructors, faculty partners, and undergraduates all profit from the Associates in Teaching (AT) Program.

Yale Teaching Center Director and Graduate School Assistant Dean Bill Rando, who runs the program, says that he is “thrilled, but not surprised at its success.When it works, co­teaching a course can be a powerful experience and a great way to expand as a teacher.

“This experience allowed me, as a graduate student, to learn what it will take to make the professional move from assistant and Teaching Fellow to lead instructor and, eventually, professor,” saysCourtney Thompson (History of Science and Medicine), who team­taught “History of the Body: Science, Medicine, and the Arts” with Paola Bertucci this fall. “I feel much more confident in my abilities to both design and lead a class. It was a truly rewarding experience, personally and professionally, and I'm fortunate to have had the opportunity, and to have worked with a professor so willing to approach the course as partners.”

Italian Professor Millicent (“Penny”) Marcus and Giulia Cardillo (Italian) are co­teaching “Boccaccio, Chaucer and the Art of Medieval Storytelling” this semester, focused on The Decameron and Canterbury Tales. “I chose to apply to the AT program because it has the twofold advantage of preparing graduate students like me to become both scholars and teachers,” Giulia says.

Graduate students enhance their skills while working closely with talented veteran teachers. Sierra Bell (Anthropology) and Kathryn Dudley, professor of Anthropology and American Studies, areteaching “The Anthropology of Inequality in America,” this term. “Our course has not been taught before, and was conceived jointly by both Professor Dudley and myself,” Sierra says. “It is the product of many conversations, brainstorm sessions, and syllabus draft revisions. I am most looking forward to two things: engaging with the students to explore this timely and important issue from new, exciting angles, and honing my pedagogical skills alongside Professor Dudley, who is a master at the craft.”

For Dudley, the collaboration is a way to alter the format of one of her courses and open it to more undergraduates. She says, “We have designed this course as a hybrid lecture/seminar.I have long offered seminars on topics of social inequality but have never been able to accommodate the many students interested in studying this subject ethnographically.Sierra and I are using the AT opportunity as a way to develop a lecture course on this subject.” She adds, “I am looking forward to learning from Sierra's approach to this material – she is writing her dissertation on the contemporary Tea Party movement – and to making the pedagogical transition to a lecture format without losing the interactive aspects of a seminar.”

An added plus is the way the experience can strengthen the relationship between graduate students and their faculty mentors. “I was teaching in tandem with my primary dissertation adviser, Katerina Clark, which translated into many hours of productive and rewarding conversation about my dissertation and tips on teaching and research from a distinguished scholar,” says Roman Utkin (Slavic Languages & Literatures). He and Clark co­taught “Modernist Berlin, Petersburg, Moscow.” “Thanks tothe AT Program,the relationship with my adviser elevated the academic apprenticeship to a level of collegiality, which is a very empowering feeling for a young academic.Overall, the AT Program offeredme an invaluable academic training opportunity.”

Since the best way to learn a subject is to teach it, another benefit of these courses is that they facilitate in­depth learning for their instructors. Ksenia Sidorenko (Comparative Literature) is collaborating on a seminar on the graphic novel with Katie Trumpener, the Emily Sanford Professor of Comparative Literature and English, this semester. “I was very keen to co­teach this course with Katie, because it will give me the opportunity to delve deeper into my chosen research topic, to develop my ideas through group discussion with the students, and to learn from Katie, whose pedagogical style I have always admired and aspired to emulate,” Ksenia says.

Christopher Brody (Music) taught “Tonal Counterpoint” with Daniel Harrison, the Allen Forte Professor of Music Theory and chair of the Music Department, last semester. The course analyzed the music of J. S. Bach and showed students how to compose in his style. “I'm very likely to teach a course like this in the future, and to have my first time out be a collaborative experience has built my confidence and given me a bag of pedagogical tricks I'll surely draw on,” Chris says. “Professor Harrison also told me he enjoyed getting to know the repertoire that is my specialty — Bach's dance suites — and so hopefully the benefits of our collaboration went both ways.”

That proved to be the case in more than one collaboration. The students provided areas of expertise that the professors lacked, and sharing the responsibility of teaching enabled faculty members to stretch themselves.

Trumpener admits that although she has had a lot of experience teaching film, she “wouldn't ever have dared” to tackle a course on the films of Scandinavia on her own. Soren Forsberg (Comparative Literature), who is Danish, approached her with the idea of team­teaching after “Katie and I discovered our shared interest in Scandinavian literatureand cinema by coincidence a few years ago.”

They encountered some logistical and pedagogical challenges, Trumpener says, “partly just trying to mesh different styles and different expectations” and figuring out “how to find the best films and construct the best syllabus,” since neither of them had worked on the topic before. “What we came up with proved pretty sure­fire, as it turned out. The class was so wonderful (one of the best and most responsive groups I've ever taught) that I'd love to do some or all of it again.”

This term, Trumpener is co­teaching the graphic novel with Ksenia. “I've worked on the picture book before; Ksenia, on the graphic novel. I'd noticed that students had a lot of trouble talking analytically about the fusion of image and text in the picture book, so had resolved to teach a separate course, perhaps involving comics and graphic novels. I lost my nerve about plunging into the graphic novel side of things, where I didn't have too many pedagogical ideas. Ksenia suggested we try this together, and I said yes. I'm hoping not least to learn from her how to teach the graphic novel, even as she figures out something more about teaching the picture book.”

“Fellini, Antonioni, Pasolini”was co­taught last year by Professor Marcus and Michael Meadows (Italian), and thanks to his input, they were able to add a creative project to the syllabus that she couldn't have done on her own. “The course involved studying the works of three great Italian filmmakers (“auteurs”), and then having students make their own films 'in the manner of' the three,” Marcus explains.“I had never incorporated 'hands­on' filmmaking in any of my courses, but collaborating with Michael gave me the confidence and the skill to do so. It was a very enriching and liberating experience. Michael and I made an effective team, I think, because we brought complementary styles and talents to the teaching of the course.”

Michael found the experience deeply satisfying. “Professor Marcus always made me feel that wewere colleagues teaching the course together, never adviser and advisee. I found it an incredible learning experience to teach a class where I held the critical reigns, and I found it extremely gratifying to put my experience as a Graduate Teaching Fellow into practice while still at Yale.” Michael is one of two coordinators at the Yale Teaching Center, an expansion of the Graduate Teaching Center (GTC) announced in November by Provost Peter Salovey.

Michael R. Dove, the Margaret K. Musser Professor of Social Ecology, wanted to work with an AT because he was teaching a new course on “The Anthropology of Climate Change” for the first time while completing what will be the required textbook for future iterations of the course. “The format andcontent of the course were still open for development, and I wanted a co­instructor who would bring some new ideas to the table and also push my own thinking about the subject matter (obviously a very timely topic given last year’s drought, hurricane Sandy, and so on),” he says.“My co­instructor, Catherine (Annie) Claus, one of my most talented doctoral students (she’s in the joint Anthropology/F&ES PhD program), is doing doctoral research on nature, culture, and marine environments in Okinawa.Annie brought to each class in­depth ethnographic notes from her fieldwork as well as novel theoretical contributions, making each class much more free­wheeling and stimulating – for students and instructors alike – than would otherwise be the case.”

And for Annie, “The AT program provided the opportunity to learn simultaneously by example – from my adviser, who has taught some of my favorite classes – and through experience. The way that we organized our co­teaching allowed me to reflect on the many ways the material could be taught and allowed for a safe space to try out my ideas. This was a very gentle introduction to a lifetime of teaching. Working alongside someone whose work I value so much was an incredible learning experience.