Thursday, November 19, 2009

Anatomy of a S.D.I.

There are several teaching requirements that I need to complete in order to get my degree.  The first of which is known as Supervised Direct Instruction (S.D.I.).  Essentially this is the same as a normal T.A. assignment but with some additional responsibilities.  Principle amongst these is that I have to do about a weeks worth of lecturing under the supervision and guidance of a faculty member.

I was planning on doing my S.D.I. next semester with my advisor and then doing my other requirements next fall (which would put me right on track to graduate on time).  However, my advisor and the professor I T.A. for colluded to convince me to do it this semester, for a class on hormones and behavior.  I didn't really object to this as normally the lecturing done by the T.A. is from the professor's notes.  Generally the professor and the T.A. work together extensively to ensure that the T.A. is ready and that the lectures go as smoothly as possible.

Well, I've just finished two weeks of teaching without any supervision whatsoever and I think it went pretty well.  I had to build three lectures from scratch, write a quiz, assign a reading assignment (from an academic journal), and write a set of open response questions.  All this without a textbook or anything resembling guidance.  Oh, and I was also expressly prohibited from using powerpoint (though I generally prefer to lecture unplugged anyways).  I'm griping here, and I was complaining to anyone that would listen earlier in the week, but mostly I'm just amazed it didn't turn into a complete disaster.

As far as the lectures themselves... I still need to work on some basic teaching things like talking slower and giving time for student questions.  Also, I need to work on not leaning back on the blackboard when I'm wearing a black shirt.  I finished each lecture a little early but no earlier than five or so minutes before the end of the class period.  I got stuck a few times with student questions, but it turns out saying "I don't actually know that, thats a good question." generally satisfies undergraduate students.

Overall, I think I managed to do alright.  Given how helpful she was during the rest of the process, I probably won't get any feedback from the professor so I won't know anything for sure until I get the teaching evaluations back from the students.  The one benefit of all this is that my advisor went to bat for me and had it out with this professor about making me do so much work without any direction.  This didn't really help the situation per se, but its good to know that she'll do that for me.

In terms of the students, the quiz and reading assignment grades are higher than normal despite numerous complaints about their difficulty.  No one came to my office hours while I was teaching, which I'm taking as a sign that my lectures were at least comprehensible.  And now, after months, everyone recognizes me as the T.A.

Like seemingly everything else in grad school I'm learning by jumping into the deep end.  Next semester I'm teaching a section of a research methods class.  Thankfully, I get to choose my own textbook and there will be a faculty member overseeing my progress.  My S.D.I was probably good preparation for this, but mostly I'm just thankful I don't have to explain the hormone changes that occur with aging to a bunch of undergrads again.

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