Penn Graduate Student Center

Navigating the Classroom

About Navigating the Classroom

Navigating the Classroom seeks to help graduate teaching assistants be successful in the classroom through workshops and resources. This program is cosponsored by Penn Graduate Student Center and GAPSA.

The Center for Teaching and Learning and the Library offer extensive programming to assist graduate student teachers in the classroom.

Teaching Workshops

Center for Teaching and Learning and the Graduate Student Center co-sponsor a series of workshops for graduate students, especially TAs, who are interested in learning and improving their teaching skills.

CTL Workshop: Identifying and Supporting Struggling Students

Monday, September 22, 2014, 01:00 PM - 02:30 PM
Room 305

The difficulties that students encounter in our classes are many and varied, and often opaque to us as teachers. This workshop will address strategies for being actively supportive of students who are struggling: how to train yourself to see struggle in your classroom, how to structure conversations with students you think or know are having a tough time, how to incorporate support structures into your classroom as a routine practice, and how to develop elements of course-design that can help to create an accessible environment for your students before the term even begins.

Led by Bronwyn Wallace.

CTL Workshop: Providing Effective Feedback on Written Assignments

Tuesday, September 23, 2014, 11:30 AM - 01:00 PM
Room 305

As graduate students, we are no strangers to the range of emotions that feedback on our own written work can evoke. As teachers and TAs, we are (or will become) all too familiar with the anxieties and responsibilities that come with written assignments to be graded. How can we strike the best possible balance when it comes not just to grading, but to giving feedback on students’ written work: how can we respond clearly, efficiently, and sufficiently to students’ written work in a way that helps them improve their performance on essays and written work? How can we use feedback on writing to help students better understand course material or general writing skills (or should we)? In this workshop, we will explore the benefits and drawbacks of various methods, types, and mediums of feedback, and will discuss how to tailor them to suit particular types of assignments.

Led by Alice Hu.

Show dates
Course in College Teaching - Center for Teaching and Learning


The Course in College Teaching is a nine-session seminar intended to prepare postdoctoral fellows and graduate students to teach college courses and to help them develop as instructors. The course will provide a structured series of workshops and discussions to help PhD students or postdoctoral fellows with little or no teaching experience. (Note: except in fields like design where a masters is a terminal degree, the Course in College Teaching is not appropriate for masters students.) Each session will use practical, hands-on activities to help students reflect on their own teaching goals and style. Students who complete the course will consider concrete ways of organizing, preparing for and teaching a course. Students will also create a portfolio of teaching materials – from sample assignments to in-class activities to syllabi – that they can use on the job market and to prepare them for their future as teachers.

For more information, please register here.

CTL Workshop: Crafting Questions -- for Homework or Exams

Tuesday, September 30, 2014, 02:30 PM - 04:00 PM
Room 305

Creating questions for student assessment on homework or exams often proves difficult. In this workshop, we will discuss the multiple potential goals of assessment questions and how we can construct questions to achieve those goals.  We will think about the strengths and weaknesses of the different kinds of questions that are often used to assess student comprehension.  We will also consider how the issues of managing grading and giving feedback can influence your construction of homework and exam questions.  In addition to these general discussions, this session will include hands-on question generation.

Led by Colin Smith.

CTL Workshop: Developing Your Teaching Persona

Wednesday, October 01, 2014, 12:00 PM - 01:30 PM
Room 305

Who are you in the classroom?  How can you be an authority in your field without seeming out of touch with your students?  How can you create a comfortable atmosphere in your class while making sure your students take your subject seriously? Even though most of us are some version of ourselves in the classroom, we also know who we are in the classroom can also determine what students get out of class. This interactive workshop will pose a series of questions to help us better understand ourselves, and identify strengths and weaknesses with regards to being an instructor. In doing so, we will explore how to develop a teaching persona that is both genuine and effective in the classroom.

Led by Jacob Nagy.

CTL Workshop: Managing Your Time While Teaching

Thursday, October 02, 2014, 01:00 PM - 02:30 PM
Room 305

How can you balance your own academic goals with your teaching responsibilities? What are the methods for accomplishing short- and long-range tasks while teaching a class or a recitation, holding office hours, and/or grading exams? In this workshop, participants will have an opportunity to explore their own time management styles and take away additional strategies for taking control of their time. Additionally, iOS Apps for time and project management will be introduced.

Led by Myrna Cohen.

CTL Workshop: Teaching as Part of a Team: Working Effectively with Other TAs and the Professor

Monday, October 06, 2014, 03:00 PM - 04:30 PM
Room 305

Whether you are TAing for the class of your dreams or teaching outside your comfort zone, teaching with others can be a challenge. Professors and TAs can have different philosophies and expectations when it comes to the classroom and grading. This workshop will focus on strategies for getting the most out of your teaching experience by building a harmonious and productive relationship with your fellow TAs and professor. We will explore how to set up a good relationship before the class starts, troubleshoot difficult situations, and succeed as a team.  

Led by Ian Hartshorn.

CTL Workshop: Teaching Outside Your Area of Expertise

Tuesday, October 14, 2014, 04:00 PM - 05:30 PM
Room 305

It is common for TAs to be asked to teach topics outside their area of expertise. How do you begin to establish yourself as an authority in the classroom when you don't feel like a master of the content? How can you plan class time to emphasize your strengths? In this workshop, you will be asked to think of a potential topic/course outside your area of expertise that you may be asked to teach now or in the future to help come up with generalized, feasible solutions to these questions and more.

Led by Tanya Singh.

CTL Workshop: Working with Students One-on-One

Wednesday, October 15, 2014, 03:00 PM - 04:30 PM
Room 305

Meeting with students one-on-one offers a chance to expand your teaching beyond what you can do in the classroom. You can learn more about who your students are and how they’re doing in your course, help students who are struggling with key concepts or skills, and provide a space for students to engage more deeply with the fundamental methods of your discipline. Just as one-on-one meetings offer unique opportunities, they also require unique pedagogical skills. How do you ensure that your students feel comfortable asking you for help? How do you figure out what your students really need from you? How do you decide what to say to the student in front of you, and what do you do if the conversation becomes frustrating, tense, or just plain awkward? How do you help struggling students improve without answering their problem sets or writing their papers for them? In this workshop, we’ll address these questions and discuss strategies that will help you get the most out of office hours and other one-on-one meetings.

Led by Peter Collopy.

CTL Workshop: Race, Gender and Class in the Classroom -- Yours and Your Students

Friday, October 17, 2014, 12:30 PM - 02:00 PM
Room 305

Even if they aren't on your course’s syllabus, race, gender, class and a range of other issues including ethnicity and sexual identity inevitably play a role in your classroom, and influence both your interactions with students and their interactions with one another. This workshop will draw upon the classroom experiences of participants to focus on how to recognize potential issues emerging with your students. We will share strategies for forming an inclusive classroom and addressing bias, while at the same time discuss useful campus resources for seeking more information or getting specialized advice.

Led by Ben Chrisinger.

CTL Workshop: Fostering Active Discussion

Tuesday, October 21, 2014, 02:30 PM - 04:00 PM
Room 305

The term 'active discussion' can mean different things across disciplines, across teaching styles, and across learning outcomes. In this workshop we'll discuss what exactly active discussion can look like in your class, and how to get it right (and how to save it from going wrong). Through putting into practice a number of different discussion strategies in the workshop itself, participants will explore how different discussion strategies can reach different learning goals, will share techniques for fostering a 'useful' in-class discussion, and will also consider how to extend active discussions to settings outside of the classroom through different media tools.

Led by Vanessa Williams.

CTL Workshop: Effective Group Work

Wednesday, October 22, 2014, 03:00 PM - 04:30 PM
Room 305

Group work can be a very effective teaching tool. At its best, it allows all students to cooperatively grapple with the material and to take a more active role in their education. But group work can also go awry. The goal of this workshop is to help TAs reap the benefits and avoid the burdens of group work. During the workshop, we will examine the benefits and pitfalls of group work, determine what sorts of classroom goals are amenable to or call for group work, examine different group structures, and assess these structures with an eye to what we hope to achieve.

Led by Justin Bernstein.

CTL Workshop: Teaching Students at Different Levels

Tuesday, October 28, 2014, 01:30 PM - 03:00 PM
Room 305

Many classes, ranging from introductory lectures to advanced seminars, are comprised of students with a wide variety of backgrounds. There may be freshmen sitting next to seniors, and non-majors next to majors. Some students may have taken similar courses that familiarized them with the content already, whereas others might be learning the subject for the first time. The class may be split between students who struggle to grasp basic concepts, and others who breeze through the material easily. How can you, as an instructor, make the content accessible and engaging to everyone in your class? In this workshop we will discuss the challenges to doing so in a heterogeneous classroom and strategies for managing those challenges.

Led by Lili Dworkin.

CTL Workshop: Effective Lecturing

Wednesday, October 29, 2014, 02:00 PM - 03:30 PM
Room 305

What makes a lecture clear, engaging, and effective? What styles, techniques, and tools can be used to enhance a lecture? What are some useful tips for planning and organizing a lecture? When should technology be employed in a lecture? In this workshop, we’ll discuss these questions and more, all with the aim of developing strategies for successfully planning and giving lectures that inspire, engage, and teach. 

Led by Phillip Webster.

CTL Workshop: Guiding Not Giving: Helping Students Figure Things Out Themselves

Thursday, October 30, 2014, 12:00 PM - 01:30 PM
Room 305

Often students come to TAs asking questions like: Is this the correct answer? How do you do this problem? Will I need to know this for the test? This session with help TAs better direct such inquiries toward helping students better grasp course content and think independently. Participants will discuss practical ways to answer these questions so as to prompt student thinking. After the session they will be better able to distinguish between showing students the pathway to solutions from giving them the solutions. They will leave thinking about how their teaching methods can guide students to figure things out for themselves.

Led by Emmabeth Parrish.

Common Room Hours

Monday-Thursday: 9AM-8PM Friday: 9AM-6PM Weekends: 12 NOON-6PM CLOSED Aug 30 - Sept 1 for Labor Day Weekend


Graduate Student Center

3615 Locust Walk
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia PA 19104-6221
215-746-6868
center@gsc.upenn.edu