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Certificate in the Foundations of College Instruction - Overview

It is well established that graduate students and postdocs are usually not properly trained to teach at the college level.  Being an expert on a topic, and effectively communicating that expertise to others require different skills. Typically, graduate students are given a teaching orientation in their department, which may be as little as a few hours, and are not adequately exposed to techniques and pedagogy of teaching.  Through trial and error, some students develop into effective teachers, while others do not.  This causes stress for the graduate student instructor, their students, and the lead instructor of the course. The courses that make up this certificate provide the background needed in order for the student to develop into an effective teacher, and are meant to meet the following goals.

  1. Introducing student engagement approaches consistent with the campus mission
  2. Meeting the occupational and student demand for knowledge, skills and competencies for the role of a college educator
  3. Serving the undergraduate mission by providing graduate students approaches and tools they can use in the classroom
  4. Setting a standard of preparation graduate students may use in future professional contexts, especially for obtaining tenure-track faculty positions
  5. Establishing graduate student teaching as a priority on campus
  6. Providing practical opportunities that benefit all departments where participating graduate students are teaching

Graduate certificates such as this one permit candidates an added set of professional skills not found in their regular studies. Limited state revenue and larger pools of younger and older students will require skilled teachers to lead and facilitate multiple courses of various sizes in face-to-face and online formats (Center on Budget and Policy Studies, 2014). This certificate provides the opportunity for graduate students to learn skills to help them diversify their capabilities, and will enable them to seize opportunities for a career in higher education or in the private sector.

Most 100-level courses utilize graduate teaching assistants, either to lead discussion sections in smaller groups from the larger lecture section, or with being responsible for the whole delivery of the course.  Frequently assistants also teach 200-400 level courses. The impact on the undergraduate student body is not inconsequential.

Graduates of PhD programs desiring a position within the academy face an increasingly competitive job market.  Many graduates will be applying for tenure-track and non-tenure positions at teaching institutions where research is less a priority. In addition, candidates for positions at research universities are increasingly required to show teaching experience.

The majority of tenured and tenure-track professors will state that they never received training on how to teach at the college level while in graduate school. The courses under this certificate will provide the necessary background for teaching assistants, and even postdoctoral trainees, to develop into excellent educators.

This certificate will enhance a candidate’s CV/resume and make them more competitive candidates for the dwindling numbers of university and college faculty positions. Teaching experience has become very important in hiring new professors, and completion of this certificate will provide an advantage in this area.

The purpose of this certificate is to provide students with opportunities to develop knowledge and skills useful in their current and future careers as college/adult-learning teaching professionals. The intended learning outcomes of the certificate are to:

  1. Define learning objectives, outcomes and the teaching, learning and assessment processes to achieve them.
  2. Relate appropriate learning theories, models and frameworks to specific learning objectives and outcomes.
  3. Recognize the minimum requirements for implementing a quality college course (College Education Quality, 2015).
  4. Explain the roles and responsibilities of a college teacher.
  5. Construct a college course that uses evidence-based practices principles to instruct, teach and assess learning.
  6. Demonstrate ability to instruct in both face-to-face and online formats.
  7. Demonstrate ability to integrate technology into teaching, learning and assessment.
  8. Demonstrate educational approaches to help individuals and groups learn independently and interdependently.
  9. Demonstrate reflective practice to improve teaching, learning and assessment.
  10. Demonstrate an ability to engage diverse student populations.

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