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.

Career Services

Walk-In Wednesdays with Career Services
Show dates

If you have a quick, career-related question, or want feedback on a CV, resume, or any job/internship application materials, then take this opportunity to meet with a Career Services graduate student/postdoc career advisor at the Graduate Student Center (room 303) every Wednesday from 12-2pm. We are looking forward to speaking with you! To find other walk-in hours offered at Career Services, visit:, and to schedule a 30-minute appointment with a career advisor specific to your School, visit

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.

Fall University-Wide Teaching Workshops, Center for Teaching and Learning

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 to Wednesday, November 01, 2017
Center for Teaching and Learning, room 134, Van Pelt Library

Students’ Identities In The Classroom – Shantee Rosado, CTL Senior Graduate Fellow, Sociology

Tuesday, September 26, 5:00-6:30pm

Teaching advice often emphasizes getting to know your students as a way to increase class participation and reach course learning goals. But, what exactly does it mean to get to know one’s students? And how might doing this improve students’ learning? This workshop will cover practices instructors can use to increase their knowledge of students’ identities and encourage students to bring their entire selves into the classroom. Workshop participants will work on ways to get to know their students professionally, both early on and throughout the semester. We will also discuss how knowing about your students’ identities can help you improve students’ overall performance in your class. Lastly, we will discuss ways for TAs to use recitation time creatively to increase their knowledge of students’ identities


Managing Time In Class – Welton Chang, CTL Graduate Fellow, Psychology

                Friday, September 29, 12-1:30pm

Running out of time in class is frustrating for you and your students, but time management can be a real challenge when contending with an agenda over which you may not have full control. This session will equip you with some tried-and-true tactics such as rehearsals, backwards planning, and contingencies, that will help you stay on track while ensuring that your students get the most out of their in-class experience.


How To Get Students To Prepare For Class – Elaine LaFay, CTL Graduate Fellow, History & Sociology of Science

                Monday, October 2, 12:00-1:30pm

This workshop explores strategies and tactics to encourage student preparation for class. From in-class assessments to communicating clear expectations, we will discuss how to ensure students grasp the meaning behind course preparation and more broadly how to meet students where they are. 


Teaching Outside Your Area Of Expertise – Danielle Hanley, CTL Graduate Fellow, Political Science

                Monday, October 3, 12-1:30pm

It is common for graduate students to be asked to teach outside of our particular specialization. We might be asked to TA an introductory course that covers a much wider range of subjects than our dissertations, or teach a class that falls completely outside of our comfort zones. This workshop is designed to help new TAs meet this challenge, premised on the idea that a good teacher does not have to be an expert, but instead has many tools to help students learn. We will explore different tactics and strategies for instruction that take advantage of skills all graduate students possess.


Lesson Planning: From Goals To Execution – Maria Ryan, CTL Graduate Fellow, Music

                Monday, October 9, 5-6:30pm

Although spontaneous flashes of inspiration may form some of the most memorable moments in your teaching, consistent successful teaching requires preparation outside of class. This workshop discusses different ways to prepare for recitations and classes and what a successful lesson plan might look like. We will discuss how to successfully execute our plans, different techniques to communicate class structure and goals effectively to students, and how lesson planning can help with improving classroom dynamics and time efficiency. This workshop also acknowledges that even the best laid plans may go awry, and so we will also investigate the value of flexibility in lesson plans, how to adapt in the moment if unexpected issues arise, and how planning may be streamlined over the semester.


Making Group Work Work – Steve Renette, CTL Graduate Fellow, Art & Archaeology of the Mediterranean World

                Wednesday, October 11, 12-1:30pm

Assigning group work during class time can serve many functions, but it requires careful planning. In this workshop we will discuss reasons to implement group work and concrete strategies to make sure the group work accomplishes your goals.  We will consider timing, social dynamics, how to organize groups and how to return to class after group work. This discussion of these practical elements of group work will focus on giving participants a variety of different ideas about how to use groups within their overarching teaching strategy.


Grading & Feedback as Teaching – Santiago Paternain, CTL Graduate Fellow, Electrical & Systems Engineering

                Tuesday, October 17, 5-6:30pm

While it may be easy to think of grading as what comes after teaching – an evaluation of what students learned – most of what we grade is in fact a continuation of our teaching. In this workshop we will discuss strategies for grading and commenting which are most conducive to having students learn from that quiz, test, paper or project, such that our grades and feedback are formative, not merely summative.


Making Class Discussions More Dynamic And Productive – Mark Lewis, CTL Graduate Fellow, Education

                Friday, October 20, 12-1:30pm

What happens in recitation when no one says anything? Or only a few people do? Even when discussions are engaging, how do we make sure real learning is taking place? Attendees at this workshop will consider how to improve class discussions by planning for specific goals and identifying strategies for effective discussion facilitation and student participation.


Giving Your Best Guest Lecture – Howie Tan, CTL Graduate Fellow, English

                Monday, October 23, 12-1:30pm

This workshop explores the components of a good lecture in a large class setting alongside the challenges faced by an instructor called on to meet a particular lesson’s goals while sometimes unfamiliar with the syllabus and students. In such a situation, lecturers have to be concerned with both what makes a good lecture and where their lecture fits into the class. How can a lecturer make sure that the lecture will be clear and useful for the students?  What other learning goals beyond content might guest lecturers help students achieve? How can a lecturer make sure that the class is in sync with the rest of the semester? How can a guest lecturer take advantage of their individual perspectives in ways that support the goals of the main instructor? These questions will guide participants discussion.


Communicating Expectations – And Teaching Students How To Succeed in Your Class – Chelsea Chamberlain, CTL Graduate Fellow, History

                Tuesday, October 24, 5-6:30pm

This workshop will address setting expectations at multiple levels, with regard to: the course as a whole;  individual class sessions; and assignments. We will discuss not only how to communicate expectations effectively and positively, but also how to offer support to your students that helps them meet and exceed those expectations.


Approachable & Professional: Establishing Your Relationship With Your Students – Diego Arispe-Bazán, CTL Graduate Fellow, Anthropology

                Monday, October 30, 5-6:30pm

Approaching teaching as a working collaboration with students allows for instructors to develop clear incentives and goals, encouraging students to feel like they are part of the course narrative and progression. This workshop will help instructors reflect on tools for building these working relationships with students both in the classroom and out. Topics will include in-class and office-hour interpersonal strategies, giving direction and guidance, and developing positive rapport in order to identify students’ challenges and work habits.


Helping Students Succeed In A Stressful Environment – Kathryn Hasz, CTL Graduate Fellow, Mechanical Engineering & Applied Mechanics

                Wednesday, November 1, 12:00-1:30pm

Penn can be a stressful environment. Classes are challenging, and that challenge is intentional. Some stress can motivate students to finish assignments, study for exams, and participate in classes, but too much can be detrimental. In this workshop we will discuss ways to build an environment in which students can succeed while maintaining the academic rigor expected with a high-quality education. We will also discuss ways to help students who are suffering because of too much negative stress. We want all students to live up to their academic potential, and keeping students’ stress from being distress is a healthy component in allowing that.

Common Room Hours

Monday-Thursday: 9AM - 8PM
Friday: 9AM - 6PM
Saturday-Sunday: 12PM - 6PM

Graduate Student Center

3615 Locust Walk
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia PA 19104-6221