Fall 2014 Cohort

Preparation for Teaching

Teaching is an important dimension of your academic career and our department is committed to train and mentor our students in the art of teaching. This occurs in a number of ways:

  • Practice in Teaching. Throughout your graduate career, you gain experience in teaching, moving through a sequence of teaching roles. In your first year of the PhD program, you work with a professor as a grader for his or her course, attending the class, holding office hours to help students, and grading assignments. In the second year, you progress to leading discussion sections on the course material, and grading assignments. Subsequently, you move on to teach your own course—developing the syllabus, planning activities and taking full responsibility for the class.
  • Faculty Mentorship. As a Teaching Assistant (TA), which includes both the grader and the discussion leader role, you are mentored by the professor in charge of the class, often meeting to brainstorm teaching ideas or discuss how assignments should be graded. As a first-time Teaching Associate (TO) with your own class, you select a faculty mentor who supports you through the process of developing your syllabus, planning class activities, and implementing them during the semester. We encourage mentors to visit your class once or twice to give you constructive feedback.
  • Teaching Sociology Seminar. We require all students to take a seminar called Teaching Sociology, which is designed to help students articulate a teaching philosophy, learn about available resources, produce a syllabus, practice interactive teaching, and learn how to gauge the effectiveness of their teaching. It’s a chance to share experiences and develop new skills in a collaborative atmosphere.
  • Proseminar. In the first year Proseminar, advanced graduate students and representatives of the UMass Center for Teaching and Faculty Development make presentations about how to think about grading, and share tips about running your own discussion section.
  • TO Plunge. New TOs also attend a series of discussions during their first semester of teaching, called the TO Plunge. Topics vary according to the interests of the students, but past discussions have included: stimulating discussion, strengthening students’ writing skills, identifying and responding to micro-aggressions, addressing disciplinary issues, supporting students with disabilities etc.
  • Teaching Awards. Every year we celebrate the accomplishments of our graduate student teachers by giving an award for the best TA and TO in the department.
  • Other Presentations. Teaching is also sometimes the subject of colloquia and other department presentations and discussions.
  • Sociology Wiki. We keep a long list of resources to use in teaching on our department wiki to which all currently enrolled students have access.
  • UMass Resources. The university has a number of resources to support teaching:
    • TA Orientation - Held at the end of August, and required for all graduate students entering the university.
    • Office of Professional Development - Offers presentations, panel discussions, seminars and workshops on a wide variety of subjects related to teaching.
    • Center for Teaching and Faculty Development - Offers the Midterm Assessment Process (MAP), an opportunity for instructors to get student feedback on a course while the course is in progress, and workshops which help graduate students learn how to present their teaching when on the academic job market. The Teaching Documentation Program guides them through the process of producing evidence of their teaching abilities while they are in graduate school.
    • Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL) - An initiative that includes 23 Research-1 institutions and aims to improve the preparation of STEM (includes Sociology) graduate students and postdocs for careers that include college and university teaching. CIRTL has free online courses hosted by CIRTL Central at UW Madison, for which credit can be arranged here at UMass. They also offer on-campus events every semester, including short workshops and longer series. You may attend occasional events or become a CIRTL Associate.