Through the Lead Network, the GTP supports discipline-specific teacher training activities in seven schools and colleges and in over 45 graduate programs on the Boulder campus. The Director of the Graduate Teacher Program supervises the Lead Network and the Lead Coordinators. The Lead Coordinators supervise the Leads.
During the training, leads from related disciplines form small working teams which meet and work together throughout the year. The teams provide an interdisciplinary context to TA training activities throughout the year and promote the sharing of useful and interesting ideas between departments.
Leads are graduate student instructors who have a strong interest in teaching at the college or university level, and have had some college-level teaching experience (three to six semesters of teaching experience is preferable, but accommodations can be made for applicants whose teaching opportunities in their home departments or programs are limited). Leads are hired and paid a stipend by the Graduate Teacher Program. They serve as liaisons between the GTP and their home departments and assist with teacher training and professional development in their home departments. Leads generally serve from two to four semesters.
Leads are selected by their departmental faculty and are trained by and report to the director of the Graduate Teacher Program.
The first goal of the Lead Network is to develop the leads themselves as future professionals by providing them with an understanding of and experience in:
Effective pedagogy and assessment in the college classroom
Collegiality and interdisciplinary team work
Consultation on teaching
The second goal of the program is to help leads improve the environment and training for teaching assistants in their home departments in order to improve classroom teaching in undergraduate courses.
Leads serve as a liaison of the Graduate Teacher Program in the home department and assist faculty with departmental training of new teaching assistants.
As GTP liaisons, leads forward GTP information to the department, encourage graduate students to continue to pursue their professional development throughout their graduate programs, assist other graduate students with the completion of requirements for the Graduate Teacher Program's certificates, and work on their interdisciplinary teams.
They may help faculty conduct a pre-semester teaching orientation, provide a microteaching session, observe or videotape and consult with teaching assistants about their actual classroom teaching, design mentoring activities to link incoming graduate students with students who have been in the program for a while ; facilitate or organize workshops or brown bags on teaching for the department, and have the liberty to develop a small original project related to classroom teaching for the department.
Leads undergo a comprehensive training for one week in May in preparation for the following academic year.
The training introduces aspects of academic management, academic leadership, pedagogy, consultation on teaching, and teamwork at the university level. Leads learn to facilitate consultative microteaching sessions, perform one-on-one consultations, carry out classroom videotape consultation, and to do non-evaluative classroom observations. Leads make an academic year plan, carry out required activities, chose a leadership activity, and receives a Lead Graduate Teacher Manual which contains the basic materials to be used in their home department work.
The Graduate Teacher Program conducts a yearly evaluation of the Lead Network and pays close attention to the comments received. Recently, a survey of past leads showed a high degree of satisfaction with the lead experience, as well as a positive correlation between the skills gained as a lead and subsequent success on the job market either as faculty or outside academe.
As one previous lead puts it, "I am currently employed as an assistant professor and the lead training that I received from the GTP helped me in many ways. It provided me with an edge when competing with a large number of candidates for a few positions. The skills that I obtained were invaluable in making the transition from graduate student to faculty member."
The contribution of the Lead Network exists on several levels.
First of all, its focus is on discipline-specific activities within each department, as a complement to the more generalized, campus-wide activities offered by the Graduate Teacher Program. Leads are encouraged to articulate the special knowledge and skills that teachers in their disciplines need to bring to the experience of teaching to facilitate deep learning in their classes.
Second, the Lead Network provides an important resource within each department to assist with departmental TA training activities; it also provides an important peer resource for graduate instructors, and helps build a sense of community and commitment to teaching, both within the department and campus-wide.
Further, it helps to ensure a high quality of undergraduate teaching on the part of graduate instructors and provides a forum for the exchange of worthwhile ideas on teaching across the campus. And most importantly, it is means of preparing future faculty and future academic administrators. The leads themselves gain considerable administrative and organizational experience, making the experience an invaluable step in their professional development, regardless of the direction taken after graduation.