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Teaching course and article on OpenCourseWare

by Eva Amsen

I took a fantastic course this semester: Teaching in Higher Education (THE500).  It’s a balloted non-credit course for final year PhD students, and it used to show up on your transcripts, but the school of graduate studies decided that it wasn’t academic enough so it’s no longer on the official transcripts. (I thought the “no credit” part already showed that it wasn’t part of anyone’s required course load…) Rumour has it that the future of the course is in danger, but I fall in the camp of people who think a course like this should be required for PhD students rather than phased out.
I don’t want to use this post to veer into one of my long rants about how we’re all supposed to be trained only as researchers and nobody values teaching quality. All you need to know is: I love teaching, and I am not meant for research.

The THE500 course is taught by several expert guest lecturers who come in to talk about topics such as plagiarism, teaching technology, dealing with classroom disruption, assignment design, making a course outline, etc. On top of that, there are two microteaching sessions, in which you have to teach a 10 minute class for your fellow students (who are all from different departments) and you’re evaluated by a teaching expert. I taught my two mini classes on restriction enzymes and PCR, linking it with forensics.

We also had to write four assignments: The first was a course outline for a proposed course. The second assignment was to write your teaching philosophy as part of your teaching dossier. The third assignment was a group assignment, where you had to pretend you were a hiring committee and prepare a job ad and interview day for potential faculty (I didn’t really like this assignment. I think it was meant to show what the interview process is like, but we had already had a panel discussion with new faculty who explained it in detail).

The fourth assignment was to discuss a paper on any topic related to teaching in higher education, OR you were allowed to substitute this assignment with something else if you had a better idea. I substituted my paper discussion for an article about MIT’s OpenCourseWare program.

Upon reading my article, my course coordinator recommended that I submit it to The Bulletin – UofT’s newspaper for faculty. I did, and they asked me to add a little paragraph to make it UofT-specific, and it was published in the current issue. Pick one up if you’re at UofT! It’s the May 13 issue, and my article takes up the entire back cover.

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