Find Events Find People Find Jobs Find Sites Find Help Index


November 5, 2001

GDR gets $50K grant for mentors

By Michael Terrazas



Building on the established success of the Teaching Assistant Training and Teaching Opportunity (TATTO) program, which helps train Emory graduate students to become better teachers, the Graduate Division of Religion (GDR) is in the second year of a new Teaching Mentor Program that gives even more help to its doctoral students.

The program, which selects gifted and experienced doctoral students to serve as teaching mentors for their second-year peers, recently received a $50,000 grant from the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning that will enable it to expand in 2002–03.

TATTO spans the entire Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, and one of its implications for GDR is a required seminar, Teaching Religion, that all religion doctoral students must take in the fall of their second year. The new teaching mentor serves as a research and teaching associate for that seminar, assisting the professor who teaches the course but also sitting in on the second-year students’ own classes, observing and then offering guidance to help improve their teaching techniques.

“We just wanted to make the program stronger,” said Gary Laderman, assistant professor of religion and associate director of GDR. Laderman and Theodore Brelsford, assistant professor of religion, are administering the program this year, and Brelsford is running the Teaching Religion seminar. This year’s mentor is Lynn Huber, a sixth-year doctoral student finishing her dissertation.

“It is a great opportunity for me,” Huber said. “The way I look at or understand my position as teaching mentor is really to serve as a tool for the other students. At first, people are a little hesitant about the idea of having someone observe their teaching, but I think they start to get a sense that it can be a helpful experience.”

Huber also is developing a workshop for the second-year students to help them build their own teaching portfolios to use when they hit the job market. Thinking back to when she first began her doctoral work, Huber said a teaching mentor would have been a big help.

“I’ve actually not had a peer observe me in a teaching context, and I think that would be really valuable, especially now,” she said. “A lot of the jobs I’m applying for want some sort of documentation about teaching and teaching effectiveness. [Peer observations] would be a valuable component to my teaching portfolio.”

Last year, Laderman said he was able to get funding from the graduate school to start the program, and the Wabash grant will enable it to expand to two mentors for next academic year. Both Laderman and Brelsford said they are quite satisfied with how the program has progressed.

“Students generally have positive things to say about the experience of being observed and having the conversations about their teaching,” Brelsford said. “There are a lot of pedagogical concerns about ‘teaching’ religion and ‘advocating’ a particluar religious position. A lot of things we are doing in the seminar have to do with negotiating religous and theological differences, appropriate boundaries for the academic study of religion.”

The original idea for the mentor program, Brelsford and Laderman said, came from retired professor Charles Foster, who handled the Teaching Religion seminar for several years. Laderman liked the idea, and developed last year’s pilot program as well as wrote the proposal to the Wabash Center.

“We’re delighted and grateful to the Wabash Center for its grant,” said GDR Director Steve Tipton. “It will enable us to enrich this program, which enables pedagogically gifted and experienced doctoral students to join faculty instructors and second-year students in a community of practice and reflection, designed to enrich their formation as fluently disciplined, responsive and creative teachers of theology.”


Back to Emory Report November 5, 2001