Fall Teaching Conference 2022: A Template for the Future

September 8, 2022
Fall Teaching Conference 2022: A Template for the Future

Planning a third revamped Fall Teaching Conference in three years, while challenging, really encouraged us to distill all of the lessons learned from previous conferences into what we hope will be the new template for the Fall Teaching Conference going forward. Going online and coming back in-person again prompted us to reflect on our core values, articulate our goals clearly, and reimagine a Fall Teaching Conference that would fulfill our objectives and meet TFs’ needs. Our brainstorming, planning, and teamwork resulted in a 7-day hybrid program in late August, with fundamentals sessions offered on Zoom for new TFs and an in-person faculty plenary that kicked off two days of workshops and roundtable discussions for approximately 150 new and experienced TFs across disciplines.

Students toss a ball between them during a communication session at the Fall Teaching Conference.

Born out of the push to help instructors teach remotely in summer 2020, we have continued to offer our 3-session Fundamentals training on Zoom to help new TFs prepare for their first section, design a lesson plan, and create inclusive teaching environments. Approximately 75 TFs from across GSAS took the opportunity to delve deeper into the modules on our Hit the Ground Running Canvas site, share and explore ideas for teaching, and connect with a cohort of their peers. The feedback from TFs was overwhelmingly positive. Participants appreciated:

  • “Sharing thoughts and ideas with other TF's and getting very helpful input for starting out as a new TF. Thank you!”
  • “Finding community amongst the other TFs and actively trying out some of the techniques for day 1 in classes.” 
  • “The multiple learning avenues, including classroom discussions, instruction, and also the variety of helpful documents to take home.”

This year we developed new Roundtable sessions, facilitated by our Pedagogy Fellows and designed for TFs to connect in-person to discuss resources and ideas for section teaching. Topics included: leading discussion-based sections, leading problem-based sections, and language teaching. Pedagogy Fellows also facilitated practice teaching sessions, which we first added to the conference in 2020. Participants presented a short lesson to a small group of peers in order to practice, get feedback, and build confidence with teaching.

We were grateful to have Robin Bernstein, Dillon Professor of American History and Professor of African and African American Studies and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, kick off the in-person segment of the conference in Harvard Hall. In her opening keynote, Teaching and Learning: Three Principles, she shared three principles of teaching with graduate students to help them relax in the classroom, avoid common mistakes, and maximize learning — for their students and themselves. 

We offered 12 workshops for both new and experienced TFs, which focused on topics including equitable and inclusive teaching, how students learn, becoming a critically reflective practitioner, and responding to student writing efficiently and effectively. We had a track for experienced TFs preparing for the job market, as well as on developing communication skills for the classroom and beyond. We were excited to host all of our workshops in Harvard Hall, the beautiful new home of the Fall Teaching Conference!

Professor Robin Bernstein presents her plenary talk in Harvard Hall.

We invite our graduate student community to continue the conversations we started at the conference, by engaging with videos and other conference resources on the Hit the Ground Running Canvas site, having your class observed or recorded, or signing up to meet with us about student feedback or other teaching topics. PhD students are always welcome to join our Bok Seminars, pursue one of our Teaching Certificates, or apply to one of our fellows programs.