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 200203.
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 years 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.
Ive 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 Im 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
years pilot program as well as wrote the proposal to the Wabash
Were 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.