Graduate Teaching Showcase

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April 15, 2021
GTS 2O21

Rising to meet the significant barriers to learning this pandemic year presented, UT’s graduate student instructors found innovative ways to create community and address issues of equity to keep students engaged in the learning process, even in the most difficult of times. The Center for Teaching and Learning, in partnership with the Graduate School and UT Libraries, was proud to celebrate some of these stand-out innovations at the 6th annual Graduate Teaching Showcase, held virtually this year for the very first time.

Each year, the Graduate Teaching showcase features a small group of graduate students who competed for an opportunity to give a short TED talk-type presentation on a teaching topic close to their hearts. The five presenters this year encompassed pedagogical innovations from all across campus—from the Humanities to Architecture—and the 40+ attendees ranged from Deans to faculty to students, and even family members. We would like to extend a special thank you to Dr. Jim Cox, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Jane and Roland Blumberg Centennial Professor of English, for opening the event with a reflection on his family’s deep roots in teaching, and a teaser of each of the upcoming student presentations.

The presentations were grouped into two clusters, with a 15-minute break-out room discussion period following each. At the end of their talks, each speaker posed a probing question that invited attendees to reflect on their own practices. In the breakout rooms, participants had the opportunity to share these reflections and discuss potential implementation strategies with other attendees, and in some cases, the speakers themselves.

Although we all missed the breakfast tacos and side-conversations that can be shared with in-person events, the synchronous online format this year afforded some excellent benefits: our presenters’ family members, friends, colleagues, and mentors were able to join from across the country, something that would not have been possible in a different format. We are so grateful for their presence.

The event wrapped with a virtual version of exit cards (see, asking participants to note one thing that they were still thinking about after the presentation. One participant noted a moment from Jaden Yanak’s presentation in which the difference between charity and solidarity was summed up: “Our liberations are yoked together,”while others pondered the importance of maintaining community.

As we reflect on what we’ve learned during the pandemic and how to carry those lessons forward, these extraordinary educators remind us that successful learning experiences are about both curating materials and being intentional about the cultivation and care of the humans in our classrooms.

Virtual exit cards from participants at the 2021 Graduate Teaching Showcase


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Best Laid Plans: How Flexibility in Lesson Planning Enhances Student Learning

Serena Brandler | Psychology

Lesson plans are an important tool for educators, but it is often a balancing act to efficiently cover the material while responding to students’ needs in real time. This talk covers a moment in my own teaching where I discovered the power of going off script. I discuss a simple but effective peer instruction activity that came from this experience and introduce a framework for dynamically responding to students’ needs in class.

Morning Meetings: Building Classroom Communities In-Person & Online

Heather Dunham | Curriculum and Instruction

How do we build classroom communities with undergraduate students, especially in a classroom environment that requires us to interact with each other through a screen? One pedagogical practice that I have brought with me from my previous years teaching elementary school is a Morning Meeting—a Responsive Classroom Approach that helps facilitate a strong sense of community in the classroom. In this session, I share how I adapted this strategy during the university’s transition to virtual instruction and why the importance of building a classroom community is still relevant, even in an online setting.

Personalizing Your Teaching Approach

Sydney Landers | School of Architecture

In ARC308, we teach our students to ‘experience’ architecture. By giving them the tools they need to interpret and analyze a wide survey of worldly buildings, students can begin to understand the impact of the designed environment they live in every day.

Balancing Voices in the Classroom

Kate Nelson | French & Italian

This presentation addresses strategies for balancing voices in the classroom between students who feel the privilege to speak out and those who don't feel comfortable contributing to the conversation.

The Consequences of 'The Talk': Confronting Racially Biased Policing in the Classroom

Jaden Janak | African and African Diaspora Studies

This presentation meditates on the necessity of anti-racist curricula within the classroom.  I share my experience as a Black Studies TA navigating deeply personal conversations about police violence with my students via Zoom. Whether in a Biology or Math classroom or an English or Black Studies one, anti-racist conversations within our classrooms are indeed a matter of life or death. It is imperative that all of us across the university, discipline, methodology, and rank, engage deeply with them.