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Graduate Student Instructor Training Workshop

COMM 993 -- Winter 2020
Online via Zoom due to COVID-19; Mondays 11:30 a.m. - 12:50 p.m.
Prof. Sandvig, University of Michigan






Prof. Christian Sandvig
Office Phone: 734/763-0861
Office: 5385 North Quad OR 4244 ISR Thompson
I am working from home due to COVID-19. The best way to reach me is via e-mail.
Physical mail: My most frequently-checked physical mailbox is in the Communication Studies 5th floor mailbox room (5334 North Quad)
There may be no office mail pickup due to COVID-19. The best way to reach me is via e-mail  

Office Hours: Drop-In (no appointment) from 1:30-2:30 p.m. Mondays and also by appointment;
Office hours are held online via Zoom due to COVID-19. Click that link to join -- note you must have a UM login with Zoom for this link to work.

Course Description

Teaching is key to your development as a scholar, and your contribution as a teacher is central to the development of the next generation of thinkers.

This workshop provides guidance, advice, and instruction to support Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs) teaching in Communication and Media for the first time at the University of Michigan. The goal is to aid GSIs in becoming effective teachers by attending to practical questions and the broader theoretical issues (pedagogy) pertaining to undergraduate instruction. Toward this end, this seminar will introduce some of the strategies and techniques of expert undergraduate student teaching and assessment.

This course should not be understood as simply offering "teaching tips." As Robert Terrill wrote, teaching never draws upon a context-free formula. It is an embodied activity where there are often many "correct" approaches to any particular teaching task. A pedagogical move that works for you in a particular situation may not work for someone else -- even with the same material. Indeed, when you try the same tactic again in a different situation or with a different group of students, it might not even work again for you. That is why we will together think of this class as a workshop and not as a seminar.

Learning Objectives

Course Credit

Class Requirements

You are expected to attend all online class meetings. You must come prepared to be an enthusiastic, active, and respectful participant in class discussions. You must have completed any assigned readings and activities in advance.

Students will be responsible for developing their teaching philosophy by the end of this term. This includes sharing short draft writing about teaching and participating in discussion about the evolution of your teaching philosophy throughout the term. At the conclusion of the semester, students will submit a written statement of their teaching philosophy of at least 1 page (single-spaced). The statement will be turned in electronically, as explained in class. No late work! No incompletes!

Foundational Readings

These readings will be used as resources for you to develop your statement of teaching philosophy.

  1. Cathy Davidson (2017). The New Education. Basic Books: New York.
  2. John Dewey (1916/1997). Democracy and Education. Free Press: Glencoe, IL.
  3. Paulo Freire (2000). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum.
  4. bell hooks (1994). Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. Routledge: London.
  5. Neil Postman & Charles Weingartner (1971). Teaching as a Subversive Activity. Delta: New York.

Essential Resources for GSIs


"How should I teach this?" is a question where there is no single answer that will apply to everyone and every situation. The foundational readings above and the readings on the schedule below sometimes advocate a particular position or relate a personal experience. Some are polemical, sarcastic, and intentionally provocative. As is true in many seminars, the list is offered in the hope of producing a useful discussion, not because I necessarily agree with the particular claims.

(By Week #)

  1. Before the first class:
  2. (Aug 31:) What are We Doing Here? (Undergraduate Teaching)
  3. (Sep 7:) NO CLASS -- Labor Day Holiday
  4. (Sep 14:) Facilitating Discussion
  5. (Sep 21:) Pandemic Teaching; Students in Distress
  6. (Sep 28:) Inclusive Teaching
  7. (Oct 5:) Providing Effective Feedback
  8. (Oct 12:) Professional Teaching Norms
  9. (Oct 19:) Motivating Student Learning
  10. (Oct 26:) Assessment & Evaluation
  11. (Nov 2:) Pedagogical Philosophies Week I
  12. (Nov 9:) Pedagogical Philosophies Week II
  13. (Nov 16:) Teaching in Communication
  14. (Nov 23:) NO CLASS -- Thanksgiving Holiday
  15. (Nov 30:) Demonstrating "Teaching Effectiveness"
  16. (Dec 7:) NO CLASS -- Work Day (as Arranged in Class)
    IMPORTANT: The statement of teaching philosophy is due at 1:30 p.m. on this date. This is the final examination period for this class scheduled by the registrar. Submission of the statement constitutes the final exam for this course -- there is no other exam. Submit your paper by sending it as an e-mail attachment to the instructor before the deadline.

Pandemic Policies

Pandemic Zoom Participation Policy

I am joining the live sessions from home (just like you, most likely) If my network connection drops or my video freezes, please don't give up on the meeting! Hang out for at least 5 minutes while the instructor reboots or switches to his cell phone for Internet connectivity. Thanks!

General rules for Zoom use in this class:

What to do if you have connection problems and/or are on a low-bandwidth connection?

(These tips come from Cornell.)

Pandemic Data Retention Policy

In case of a personal emergency or a network disruption, we will be recording our online seminar meetings via Zoom. These recordings are made available automatically shortly after the course meeting concludes and they remain available for 180 days. They are then automatically deleted. Please keep in mind that we adhere to the UM "Guidelines for Dialogue" (listed above). This states that it is our course policy to maintain confidentiality within the class. These recordings are for personal review only.

Pandemic Culture of Care

[Note: Although our course is online only and most of the text below doesn't apply, the LSA "culture of care" statement is reproduced here as something that you may need to reference in your own teaching. --CS]

LSA is committed to delivering our mission while aiming to protect the health and safety of the community, which includes minimizing the spread of COVID-19. Our entire LSA community is responsible for protecting the collective health of all members by being mindful and respectful in carrying out the guidelines laid out in our Wolverine Culture of Care and the University’s Face Covering Policy for COVID-19. Individuals seeking to request an accommodation related to the face covering requirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act should contact the Office for Institutional Equity.

In our classrooms all students are expected to adhere to the required safety measures and guidelines of the State of Michigan and the University of Michigan, including sanitizing their work areas, maintaining 6 feet or more of personal distance, wearing a face covering that covers the mouth and nose in all public spaces, and not coming to class when ill or in quarantine. This course will also limit group gatherings while being thoughtful about classroom activities and exercises that require collaboration.

Any student who is not able and willing to comply with campus safety measures for this [in-person/hybrid] course should contact the course instructor or their academic advisor to discuss alternate participation or course options. Students who do not adhere to these safety measures while in a face-to-face class setting, and do not have an approved exception or accommodation, may be asked to [participate on a remote basis or - include if available option] disenroll from the class.

For additional information refer to the LSA Student Commitment to the Wolverine Culture of Care and the OSCR Addendum to the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities on the OSCR website.


Other Course Policies

Our Discussions

This seminar practices the "Guidelines for Dialogue" developed by students and faculty from the University of Michigan Program on Intergroup Relations. That means that we will do our best to:

  1. Maintain confidentiality. We want to create an atmosphere for open, honest exchange.
  2. Commit to learning from each other. We will listen to other and not talk at each other. We acknowledge differences among us in backgrounds, skills, interests, identities and values. We realize that it is these very differences that will increase our awareness and understanding through this process.
  3. Not demean, devalue, or "put down" people for their experiences, lack of experiences, or difference in interpretation of those experiences.
  4. Trust that people are always doing the best they can. We will give each other the benefit of the doubt. We will assume we are all trying our hardest and that our intentions are good even when the impact is not.
  5. Challenge the idea and not the person. If we wish to challenge something that has been said, we will challenge the idea or the practice referred to, not the individual sharing this idea or practice.
  6. Speak our discomfort. If something is bothering us, we will share this with the group. Often our emotional reactions to this process offer the most valuable learning opportunities.
  7. Step Up, Step Back. We will be mindful of taking up much more space than others. On the same note, empower ourselves to speak up when others are dominating the conversation.
  8. Not to freeze people in time. We are all works in progress. We will be willing to change and make space for others to do so. Therefore we will not assume that one comment or one opinion made at one time captures the whole of a person's character.

--The Program on Intergroup Relations, University of Michigan, 2012

Academic Integrity

The University of Michigan community functions best when its members treat one another with honesty, fairness, respect, and trust. The college promotes the assumption of personal responsibility and integrity, and prohibits all forms of academic dishonesty and misconduct. All cases of academic misconduct will be referred to the LSA Office of the Assistant Dean for Student Academic Affairs. Being found responsible for academic misconduct will usually result in a grade sanction, in addition to any sanction from the college. For more information, including examples of behaviors that are considered academic misconduct and potential sanctions, please see http://lsa.umich.edu/lsa/academics/academic-integrity.html

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

If you think you need an accommodation for a disability, please let me know at your earliest convenience. Some aspects of this course, the assignments, the in-class activities, and the way we teach may be modified to facilitate your participation and progress. As soon as you make me aware of your needs, we can work with the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) to help us determine appropriate accommodations. SSD (734-763-3000; http://ssd.umich.edu/) typically recommends accommodations through a Verified Individualized Services and Accommodations (VISA) form. I will treat any information that you provide in as confidential a manner as possible.

Student Mental Health and Wellbeing

The University of Michigan is committed to advancing the mental health and wellbeing of its students, while acknowledging that a variety of issues, such as strained relationships, increased anxiety, alcohol/drug problems, and depression, directly impacts students’ academic performance.

If you or someone you know is feeling overwhelmed, depressed, and/or in need of support, services are available. For help, contact Counseling and Psychological S ervices (CAPS) at (734) 764-8312 and https://caps.umich.edu/ during and after hours, on weekends and holidays. You may also consult University Health Service (UHS) at (732) 764-8320 and https://www.uhs.umich.edu/mentalhealthsvcs, or for alcohol or drug concerns, see http://www.uhs.umich.edu/aodresources.

Since many students are remote during fall 2020, CAPS COVID-19 Support features SilverCloud, an online, self-guided, interactive mental health resource that provides cognitive behavioral interventions.

For a more comprehensive listing of the broad range of mental health services available on campus, please visit: http://umich.edu/~mhealth/

(Note: This statement about mental health was originally proposed by the UM Student Government. Thank you to them for doing that.)

Sexual Misconduct Policy

Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, which includes sexual misconduct — including harassment, domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. We understand that sexual violence can undermine students’ academic success and we encourage anyone dealing with sexual misconduct to talk to someone about their experience, so they can get the support they need. Confidential support and academic advocacy can be found with the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC) on their 24-hour crisis line, 734.936.3333 and at http://sapac.umich.edu.

Alleged violations can be non-confidentially reported to the Office for Institutional Equity (OIE) at institutional.equity@umich.edu.