TA Development


In order to educate graduate students as teachers, alongside educating them as scholars and researchers, the Department provides a carefully designed program of teacher development that extends throughout students’ graduate studies. It offers teaching opportunities at all levels of the undergraduate program in a selective institution with small classes and highly motivated students. This mentored program within the Department’s nationally recognized content-oriented and task-based curriculum “Developing Multiple Literacies” enables graduate students to become familiar with, participate in, and contribute to the Department’s unique educational approach. Its defining characteristic is that students acquire literary-cultural knowledge about the Germanophone area alongside acquiring the German language to academic levels of ability. The graduate students’ central engagement in this educational project is further spelled out in the document “Curriculum Enhancement.” While the Department’s curricular and pedagogical approach presents a unique focus, the Department’s program has the more comprehensive aim of developing classroom teachers as independent and thoughtful decision makers who can succeed in a range of teaching and supervisory roles in various institutional contexts.

Typical Progression in the Program

Graduate students’ development as teachers in the German Department occurs within an individually tailored program which students devise in collaboration with their advisor, the Curriculum Coordinator, and the Chair of the Department. This process begins during the student’s first semester in the graduate program and is reviewed continually in order to ascertain appropriate progress. Even so, two broad tracks can be identified:

Incoming students without previous teaching experience:

Semester 1: Fundamentals of German Language Instruction (GERM-545); clustered observations with focused write-ups; begin teaching portfolio.
Semester 2: Mentored teaching at Levels I – III OR extensive observation in coordination with Curriculum Coordinator; continue portfolio development.
Semester 3: Independent supervised teaching with class visitations and feedback by Curriculum Coordinator and faculty.
Semester 4 and subsequent semesters: Second course in second language teaching and learning; independent teaching with gradually reduced observations; extended class visits in Level IV and V courses; being mentored in a level IV and V course; Research Assistantship with faculty member; proposal of a level V course and teaching the course; take on level coordinator responsibilities; continue portfolio development and prepare for presentation to the faculty.

Incoming students with previous teaching experience

Semester 1: Fundamentals of German Language Instruction (GERM-545); clustered observations with focused write-ups; begin teaching portfolio.
Semester 2: Mentored teaching at Levels I – III OR second course in second language teaching and learning with extensive observations OR independent teaching with multiple class visits and feedback by Curriculum Coordinator and faculty; continue portfolio development.
Semester 3 and subsequent semesters: Independent teaching with gradually reduced observations; advanced Methods course; extended class visits in Level IV and V courses; being mentored in a level IV and V course; Research Assistantship with faculty member; proposal of a level V course and teaching the course; take on level coordinator responsibilities; continue portfolio development and prepare for presentation to the faculty.

Specific Features of the Program

* Graduate student develop as teachers in a program that engages all faculty.
The Curriculum Coordinator bears overall responsibility for the preparation of graduate students as teachers. The Coordinator is responsible for teaching the introductory course on second language instruction and supervises all graduate students throughout their studies, working with them on pedagogies, materials preparation, assessment, curriculum development and administration, and the incorporation of technology into language instruction. The Curriculum Coordinator is supported in this effort by the entire faculty who take on diverse facets of graduate student teacher development. This approach reflects the Department’s understanding that graduate students’ socialization into the profession, as teachers and as scholars, is facilitated when they become familar with various ways of being a FL professional.
At the advisory level, faculty work closely with their advisees to develop their abilities as researchers and teachers. In particular, the faculty advisor guides the development of the graduate student’s portfolio. At the instructional level, faculty serve as Level Coordinators who supervise all instruction at a particular instructional level; they also serve as mentor teachers to help graduate students gain insights into teaching particular courses, especially at curricular Levels III-V.

* Graduate student teachers are educated in a mentored program that provides guidance and support throughout their graduate studies.
Beginning graduate student teachers have the opportunity to work with a mentor teacher for one semester. In this arrangement, a faculty member or an experienced graduate student teacher and a beginning graduate student teacher jointly attend to all aspects of syllabus development, materials selection, lesson planning, and assessment. The mentor and graduate student teacher meet regularly to make and discuss various pedagogical choices on the basis of careful and knowledgeable observation of student learning. More advanced graduate student teachers may participate in this mentoring program in order to gain experience teaching core courses in the Humanities in English. When not participating in a specific mentored program, graduate student teachers work closely with the faculty level coordinator and the Curriculum Coordinator to ensure effective instructional practice. As already stated, the graduate student teachers’ faculty advisor plays a central role in guiding and supporting this developmental process.

* Graduate students take two required courses on second language learning and teaching during the first two years of graduate study.
The first course, GERM-545, is offered every fall semester and enables graduate students to develop requisite foundational knowledge and critical awareness of practical approaches to German language instruction in the American educational context. Designed to further develop the graduate student teachers’ awareness about issues in teaching and learning German at the college level, the second course rotates and varies topically, (e.g., issues in curriculum development, advanced language teaching and learning, the teaching of literature).

* Graduate student teachers become familiar with, participate in, and contribute to the Department’s content-oriented, task-based curriculum.
They first experience how the curriculum overcomes the traditional split between language and content courses and effectively integrates content acquisition and second language learning at all levels of instruction by conducting extensive class observations of all instructional levels as part of GERM-545, the Fundamentals class. Once graduate students begin teaching, they are solely responsible for the daily lesson planning, teaching and grading of one Level I, II, or III course. However, each course, its content, materials, and assessment procedures, is framed by the integrated curriculum and teachers can draw on significant amounts of shared pedagogical and assessment materials and practices. Typically, graduate student teachers begin by teaching a non-intensive section and then proceed to teaching an intensive section at the same curricular level in a subsequent semester. The Curriculum Coordinator and/or the Level Coordinator will provide oral and written feedback in conjunction with regular class observations of the graduate student teacher’s performance. Graduate student teachers also participate in and contribute to level coordination meetings throughout the semester.

* Graduate student teachers gain expertise in task-based assessment, particularly in writing and speaking.
At all instructional levels, students’ language abilities are assessed according to their performance on specifically designed tasks. These tasks are coordinated to reflect the curricular goals of each level as well as the curricular progression across levels. For details, see the documents Assessment Policy, Developing Writing, and Assessment and Grading of Writing Performance.

* Graduate student teachers also have the opportunity to develop materials for the integrated curriculum.
Since its inception in 1997, graduate students have contributed extensively to developing materials for all instructional levels of the Developing Multiple Literacies curriculum. Such work is usually conducted during the summer and supported with a summer stipend.

* Once graduate student teachers have the requisite background in teaching at Levels I – IV, they may create a Level V course.
Usually, a graduate student works with a faculty member to create a course proposal that clearly indicates course objectives, materials, and assessment procedures. As all departmental course proposals, this proposal is submitted to the faculty for approval. Actual teaching assignments are made in response to the Department’s curricular needs.

* Senior graduate students preparing for careers in higher education can serve as Level Coordinator.
In this role the graduate student teaches one section of a course in Levels I ? III and, under the supervision of the Curriculum Coordinator, takes responsibility for coordinating all work pertaining to courses at that level, intensive and non-intensive. Specifically, this involves calling and leading level meetrings during the semester, coordinating all assessment procedures for all sections, ensuring consistency across all sections of the course, observing and providing feedback to the other sections, and suggesting improvements to the level for subsequent semesters.

* Through various departmental and faculty projects, graduate student teachers have the opportunity to participate in curriculum-based research.
In recent years, graduate student teachers have drawn from their own teaching experiences to contribute to research projects and have investigated and made workshop and conference presentations on such issues as the role of genre in second language acquisition, the linking of literature and language teaching, and definitions of the advanced language learner. Research assistantships with faculty members often provide the framework for conducting such research.

* Graduate student teacher development enhances non-native speakers abilities in academic level use of German.
In addition, both non-native speakers and native speakers acquire sophisticated levels of awareness of the relation between language meaning and form in adult second language development to high levels of literacy.

* Throughout their graduate studies, graduate student teachers work with their faculty advisor and the Curriculum Coordinator to document their development as teachers in their online portfolio.
Containing such information as teaching philosophy, teaching experience, course and materials development, and student evaluations, this portfolio provides a thorough overview of the process and progress that each graduate student teacher has undergone in the graduate program.

January 2, 2003; revised July 2011