Q&A with 2022 GSTA Leadership
Submitted by: Skyler Mendes and Jackson Pelzner
During these first few months of this new year, the GSTA Corner will be featuring brief interviews with all six members of our committee. This month, we are featuring two of this year’s committee members.
Type of doctoral program, year, & expected graduation:
Skyler: I am in my fourth year in the Developmental Psychology doctoral program at Arizona State University, planning to graduate in 2023.
Jackson: I am a fourth-year doctoral student in the Psychological and Brain Sciences program at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and on track to graduate in Spring 2024.
Classes you have taught and/or been a GTA for (undergraduate or graduate):
Skyler: I am currently teaching two sections of a Research Methods lab course. In the past, I have taught Prevention Organization and Community Change online in a graduate certificate program, Success in HigherEd Learning Environments, Planning for Academic Success, and supervised for-credit independent study, honors thesis work, and internships. As a teaching assistant, I have worked with 2-8 sections each of Introduction to Psychology, Personality, Abnormal Psychology, and Abnormal Child Psychology. Most of these experiences were at Arizona State, but some at University of Rhode Island and Providence College.
Jackson: I am currently the instructor of record for our web-based sections of Introduction to Psychology. Coming into teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic provided the opportunity to understand and improve upon methods of teaching for remote and distance learning.
Experiences you have been able to participate in because of being a part of GSTA:
Skyler: I am the newest member on the GSTA steering committee, so I look forward to the experiences ahead. Thus far, GSTA has provided a unique opportunity to meet graduate colleagues across the country who are similarly interested in the science and practice of teaching, so I appreciate the element of community that it provides.
Jackson: I do not have many experiences yet, as I am new to the association. My time as a member of GSTA so far has given me the chance to work with other graduate students and faculty to provide resources for graduate student instructors.
Benefits of GSTA on your professional development and future as an academic:
Skyler: GSTA’s resources (e.g., How We Teach Now) have been helpful to my own professional development particularly because, as opposed to other more general resources, they are frequently contextualized within our field. Since graduate students are often put in front of a classroom with little-to-no teaching experience or training, I am grateful for the opportunity to work with the GSTA team to continue to support rising graduate students in their development as instructors. I appreciate these opportunities to not only stretch my own teaching but to also dig into how to support others in theirs.
Jackson: Networking is an important component of navigating graduate school, which is why I feel so fortunate to be a member of the association. The outreach goals outlined by the committee for this upcoming year will put us in contact with a range of outstanding academics and professionals and I cannot wait to collaborate with them all.
Impact of GSTA on you personally:
Skyler: I am looking forward to making personal connections with the other members of GSTA and Division 2 more broadly. While there is always official network growth in professional organizations, I have found the connections are often deeper and more personal with people who are passionate about similar aspects of psychology, such as its teaching.
Jackson: GSTA has been a great opportunity so far to connect with other graduate students. I think it is important that more students reach out to their local organizations and associations to build a stronger community. I hope GSTA can be a support system for other graduate students who either need resources from outside their department or simply advice and guidance as graduate student instructors.
Advice (teaching and/or research tips) for other graduate students:
Skyler: Some of the most broadly valuable things I’d like to share aren’t so much quick tips but really the “bigger picture” perspectives I’ve developed on teaching. I’ve learned from excellent colleagues (and continually re-teach myself) that while I might enter the classroom with the vision to teach a specific set of content, it has been crucial to remember what I really teach, regardless of subject matter, is students. Students come to the classroom with all kinds of intersecting identities, interests, and experiences, and to the extent you can get to know them and empower them as active participants in their learning, it improves the experience on both ends of teaching and learning. The second thing that has helped me is reflecting on my teaching values. Who do you want to be as an instructor and what do you want students to be able to say about their experience in your class when it’s done? For me, I want students to walk away from the semester feeling like I genuinely cared about them and their learning. This guides all of my actions, from how I give assignment feedback to how I celebrate their successes, and even how I use a developmental lens to approach conversations about tough issues like academic integrity.
Jackson: The best advice I can give to graduate student instructors is “optimization and efficiency.” For example, each semester I have students asking roughly the same questions when it comes to class structure and setting up their online platform. To me, this indicated either poor communication on my part or that students have a harder time with ambiguities than anticipated. What I decided to do was create a Frequently Asked Questions page for students as a reference and a way to avoid answering redundant emails. Prior to this, I could lose up to 3 or more hours each week just answering emails alone. This is one method to free up some time so that you can focus on what is most important: teaching and research.