Preparing graduate teaching associates for remote learning in linguistics

Faculty and Staff — April 13, 2020

Preparing graduate teaching associates for remote learning in linguistics

Hope Dawson, senior lecturer and graduate teaching coordinator in the Department of Linguistics, used Ohio State’s extended spring break as an opportunity to prepare the 17 graduate teaching associates in her department for virtual learning. She met individually with each GTA over Zoom to adjust the syllabi for their undergraduate linguistics courses and to discuss tactics for communicating effectively with their classes for the rest of the semester.

“I had not actually done any online teaching before, but I have worked with GTAs and lecturers in developing and implementing online classes over the last several years,” Dawson said. “I had virtually ‘sat in on’ quite a few online class sessions, both synchronous and prerecorded, though I had not led any myself.”

Newer GTAs in their first two semesters of teaching meet with Dawson weekly for a virtual workshop. They discuss what is and isn’t working in their remote classrooms, covering technological and pedagogical hurdles, student feedback and any changes to university policies or procedures. The workshops offer an opportunity for suggestions and encouragement, group troubleshooting and a chance to reflect on how the semester is progressing. Soon, they’ll start thinking about course evaluations.

Dawson also took the lead in maintaining her department’s Linguistics Outside the Classroom experiment pool, a requirement for several undergraduate linguistics courses. During a typical semester, students earn credit for participating in linguistics experiments conducted within the department or by attending presentations on current linguistic research.

Almost all Linguistics Outside the Classroom research projects are stalled for now, Dawson said, but the department has conducted two live webinars of undergraduate honors research projects conducted through the experiment pool. One webinar was presented by a current undergraduate student, while the other was led by the faculty advisor of a student who graduated last year. The talks are now available for students who weren’t able to attend live.

In the face of uncertainty and rapid change, Dawson’s efforts have been instrumental in maintaining the continuity of the department’s teaching mission, Professor Cynthia Clopper, chair of the Department of Linguistics, told the College of Arts and Sciences.

She has been the primary resource in the department for everything instruction-related,” Clopper said. “She has helped faculty publish their courses on Carmen, met individually with every GTA in the department to review their revised syllabus and continuity of teaching plan, and made herself available for individual meetings with all linguistics instructors as they navigate online teaching for the first time. … As one faculty member said, Dawson ‘has been the epitome of just gritting her teeth and getting things done on behalf of the department.’”