Fall 2014 Cohort

Preparation for Teaching

Teaching is an important dimension of each student’s 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 a student’s graduate career, they gain experience in teaching, moving through a sequence of teaching roles. In the first year of the PhD program, they work with a professor as a grader, attending the class, holding office hours to help students, and grading assignments. In the second year, they progress to leading discussion sections on the course material, and grading assignments. Subsequently, they move on to teach their 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, students are mentored by the professor in charge of the class, meeting to brainstorm teaching ideas or discuss how assignments should be graded. As a first-time Teaching Associate (TO) with their own class, students select a faculty mentor who supports them through the process of developing their syllabus, planning class activities, and implementing them during the semester. We encourage mentors to visit students’ classes once or twice to provide constructive feedback.
  • Proseminar. In the first year Proseminar, advanced graduate students and other campus representatives make presentations about how to think about grading, and share tips about running discussion sections.
  • 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. This course is a chance to share experiences and develop new skills in a collaborative atmosphere.
  • 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.
  • 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 Amherst Resources. The university has a number of resources to support teaching:
    • Graduate Student Orientation - Held at the end of August, and required for all graduate students entering the university, this orientation includes many panels devoted to effective teaching.
    • 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. Students may attend occasional events or become a CIRTL Associate.
  • Teaching Awards. Every year we celebrate the accomplishments of our graduate student teachers by giving an award for the best Teaching Assistant (TA) and Teaching Associate (TO) in the department. Some recent winners are listed here:
TA Award:
Sonny Nordmarken (2016-17)
Lucius Couloute (2014-15
Brandi Perri (2014-15)
Ragini Malhotra (2013-14)
Rodrigo Dominguez (2012-13)
Jill Crocker (2011-12)
Jenny Folsom (2010-11)
Aurora Figueroa Vergara (2009-10)
Chris Smith (2008-09)
Kathryn Worley (2007-08)
TO Award:
Jenny Folsom (2014-15)
Cassaundra Rodriguez (2013-14)
Sarah Miller (2012-13)
Kyla Walters (2012-13)
Mary Scherer (2011-12)
Chris Smith (2011-12)
Shawn Trivette (2010-11)
Kathryn Worley (2009-10)
Ted Thornhill (2008-09)
Rachel Rybaczuk (2007-08)