DCAL Graduate Fellow, Julie Skinner

On January 17, 2014 by Grad Forum

julie_skinner_thumbnailExciting things have been happening in the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL) this year, including the appointment of Julie Skinner, a PhD candidate in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, as the graduate fellow for professional development programs. For the past few months, Skinner has been working hard improving and designing professional development programs for graduate students and postdocs.

When Skinner first saw the posting for a position at DCAL, it struck her as the ideal position in which to combine the things that were important to her: coupling education and outreach, as well as the opportunity to stay local. She decided that having this experience would be invaluable, as it would allow her to pursue her commitment to research and teaching, and prepare her for a future academic position in astronomy. Skinner had spent many years focusing on the research aspect of her CV, so this position was a good opportunity to nurture her teaching interests.

As a graduate student, Skinner has been a participant in the GK-12 program; GK-12 is dedicated to improving STEM curriculum in local middle schools. Skinner is seeking to broaden her experiences and improve her knowledge of the foundations of what makes a great teacher through her position at DCAL. She looks at this position as an opportunity to encourage graduate students and postdocs to try out new teaching methods in order to improve the experiences and effectiveness of their TA and teaching duties.

Starting next fall, graduate students will have the option of participating in a pilot TA orientation workshop offered by DCAL. This workshop will most likely be led by experienced graduate students and will be open to all arts and sciences graduate students. Some important topics likely covered will be how to communicate with students and faculty, difficult situations a TA might encounter, and teaching techniques. The goal will be for participants to learn useful skills designed to improve their TA experience, as well as have the opportunity to practice these techniques on their peers via microteaching lessons.

Skinner not only works with graduate students and postdocs on professional development at Dartmouth, but is also partnering with the Office of Academic Outreach to bring these new methods to the surrounding area. This two-part system involves learning these skills at DCAL and then gaining real experience through outreach, such as at School Science Cafes.

Of all of the professional development aspects that she is focusing on, Skinner is most excited about setting an example as a peer teacher. As a senior graduate student, she will be working with other graduate students and postdocs and encouraging active learning, peer collaborations, and open discussions. She looks forward to being a valuable resource and is available by appointment for anyone wanting to talk about program ideas and teaching.

by Mackenzie Jones

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