Becoming a Teacher

This Snapshot describes how the doctoral program in the KU History Department helps new teachers develop a professional identity, a sense of their roles and responsibilities within a community of teachers.

Teaching encompasses a variety of roles and responsibilities that doctoral students may not have the opportunity to experience while in graduate school, but are expected to perform in their first faculty appointment or as a practicing professional outside the academy. When students develop a sense of confidence and excitement about their teaching, it contributes to a richer understanding of the professional identity of an effective teacher.

Summary Description

The primary market for historians is as teachers, and our PhD students gain extensive teaching experience within our program.

Our goal is to become purposeful in integrating pedagogical training & experience into overall professionalization.

Tools and Resources

Abundant models in departmental syllabus file

Formal training in pedagogy (see links below)

Extensive informal mutual assistance among grad students

Department Teaching Exchange: an ongoing conversation

Student-selected faculty teaching mentors

Pedagogy Course
Our department offers a course that introduces students to scholarship in higher education history teaching, while giving them the opportunity to develop a course of their own

Commendation in Teaching Preparedness
We created a "certificate-lite" in college history teaching, piggy-backing on our pedagogy course and the many sessions offered by our university's Center for Teaching Excellence

Contact Information

Contact person(s) Professor Eve Levin, Director of Graduate Studies

Email address

Goals for Students

Scope of Teaching

  • Experienced at designing & teaching own courses
  • Prepared to teach all levels (freshmen to graduate students)
  • Survey courses (US History, Western Civ, World History)
  • Multiple areas of specialization - defined geographically, thematically & temporally
  • Experienced at teaching historical methodology, analytical & communication skills
  • Pedagogical Skills

  • Self-reflective about teaching practices & willing to adapt
  • Array of teaching styles for different courses & levels
  • Skilled in crafting formal lectures & informal discussions
  • Experienced at designing & using assignments & evaluative tools
  • Mentoring skills

  • Role model as a researcher, teacher & community leader
  • Experienced at guiding students through their courses
  • Concerned about the wellbeing of the "whole" student
  • Comfortable providing career guidance

  • GTAs as Financial Aid

    The Challenge: Funding for All Students:

  • GTAs are our department's only means of support
  • We have fewer GTA slots than graduate students
  • Success! All Students Funded:

  • Funding for our students in other units (Humanities, Area Studies)
  • "Overbooking" GTAs, calculating in attrition
  • Increasing undergraduate enrollments, justifying more GTA slots
  • Favoring graduate student AIs over adjunct lecturers
  • Urging application for fellowships
  • Welcoming non-traditional students (esp. military) who come externally funded
  • Results:

  • Reduced anxiety connected with GTA renewal process
  • Better applicant pool, now that we promise funding to all who are admitted
  • More varied teaching experience

  • How Do We Know?

    Evidence of Success

  • 58 percent of KU PhD's hold teaching positions vs. 43 percentof Ph.D.'s from the top 25 departments according to the National Research Council rankings.
  • Placement process

  • KU teaching portfolios show impressive array of experience
  • Job candidates are prepared to talk about teaching
  • Evaluating GTA's in the Classroom

  • Student evaluations every semester (numeric & discursive)
  • Faculty teaching mentors

  • Reflections of a faculty mentor

    Universities structure faculty duties so that teaching and research are in tension, and even in conflict. But I see them both as essential aspects of faculty life. It is necessary for professors to do both, and it is possible for us to enjoy both and even to excel at both. I try to inculcate this perspective amongst the graduate students I advise in two ways: First, I model a healthy balance between my roles as teacher and as scholar, and I let them see how my teaching informs my research, and vice versa. Second, I help students to negotiate their own balance between their work as GTA's and their progress toward the degree.

    I notice the imbalance between research and teaching inherent in the graduate curriculum. Training for research occupies 2-3 years of coursework; formal training to teach takes the form of a couple of 2-hour workshops. Faculty select the "best" students to receive fellowships so that they can pursue research singlemindedly, while they give "okay" students GTA positions primarily to pay their bills.

    If we want our graduate students to develop into the kinds of teachers most departments want, we need to change how we train them and how we advise the. We should view GTA's as a sort of apprenticeship--a means for them to develop their professional personae, and not as a distraction from the "real" work of the program. We need to integrate pedagogical training into our curriculum, so that students learn to teach material as well as to use it in their research. And we should expect students to demonstrate the ability to teach successfully just as we expect them to show that they produce scholarly works.

    Eve Levin

    This electronic portfolio was created using the KML Snapshot Tool™, a part of the KEEP Toolkit™,
    developed at the Knowledge Media Lab of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
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