Center for Learning, Experimentation, Application, and Research

GSTEP: Graduate Student Teaching Excellence Program

The Graduate Student Teaching Excellence Program (GSTEP) is a zero-credit course designed for all UNT graduate students regardless of teaching experience. The course focuses on a variety of topics related to university teaching and student learning including: identifying assumptions about teaching and learning, writing clear learning goals and outcomes, designing effective assessment techniques and active learning environments, evaluating teaching effectiveness, and working with a diverse population of learners.

The goals of this course are to:

  1. Develop a teaching plan to implement in a higher education setting.
  2. Foster a greater sense of self-efficacy in teaching.

GSTEP is offered every Fall 16 week term, Spring 16 week term, and Summer 10 week term.

Why should graduate students take GSTEP?

Graduate student teachers have a huge impact on undergraduate education yet often receive little to no teacher training. This isn’t just a problem for undergraduate students, but also for the graduate students teaching them; many of whom feel unprepared and question their own place in front of the classroom.

Graduate student instructors often teach the most vulnerable undergraduate student populations: students who are brand new to college and may lack the independent study and learning skills that a college education demands. Thus, graduate student teachers often carry the responsibility of not just teaching course content, but also supporting undergraduates through a brand new learning and social experience. Even for students coming from college-educated families, the demands of college are daunting. Similarly, many first generation undergraduate students, which account for 41.5% of the UNT undergraduate population, are entering college without the kinds of knowledge needed to help them navigate the social and academic nuances of college life.

Despite this, higher education often perpetuates the myth that we know how to teach because we have been taught. This myth that good teaching is inherent is problematic not only for being wrong, but also for not preparing graduate students for the changing higher education landscape. The increasing demand for accountability in higher education means graduate student instructors need to use effective teaching strategies to facilitate student learning in the classes they teach. They also need the experience of designing courses that can demonstrate student learning to departments, administrators, and other higher education stakeholders. Further, teaching skills need to translate across a variety of settings, including the non-profit sector and industry. This is the need that GSTEP serves and the commitment that GSTEP students make.

How is GSTEP delivered and organized?

This course is delivered entirely online and requires: reading content and completing assignments in Canvas and attending 3 virtual seminars. Students can expect to complete the course requirements in approximately 45 hours over one semester.

During GSTEP, you will:

  • Complete 8 online modules in Canvas.
  • Attend 3 virtual seminars (each seminar is scheduled multiple times during the week for students' convenience, see the current term’s dates under “How do I enroll in GSTEP Fall 2020?”).
  • Conduct a student teaching practicum (includes an observation, teaching plan development and implementation, and evaluation) in an undergraduate course whether face-to-face, online, hybrid, or remote.
  • Write a teaching philosophy.
  • Write a critical reflection essay about your teaching experience.

Each of the above components are required to pass the course.

Online modules include content, readings, assignments, assignment instructions, and supplemental resources. The virtual seminars will be conducted via Zoom and will provide students with an opportunity to interact and practice new skills with peers and mentors in the course. The student teaching practicum includes observations of an experienced teacher, teaching plan development and implementation in an undergraduate course, and an evaluation of teaching effectiveness.

Through these components of the course, students will develop and refine their teaching skills and improve their understanding of how students learn.

GSTEP is offered every Fall 16 week term, Spring 16 week term, and Summer 10 week term.

How do I enroll in GSTEP Fall 2020?

Enrollment is now OPEN for the Fall 2020: 16 Week Session (Aug. 24-Dec. 11). The deadline to enroll is August 24, 2020 at 11:59 pm CST.

GSTEP is offered as a zero-credit-option course, meaning that students can register for the class at no cost to them. Students who complete the course will receive official documentation of completion on their transcripts and certification. The duration of the course is approximately 45 hours and includes 3 virtual seminars. All UNT graduate students are welcome to enroll in the course regardless of teaching experience and must:

  • be enrolled in at least one graduate-level course during the term
  • understand GSTEP does not count towards financial aid or full-time enrollment, and.
  • understand the grading scale for this course is pass/no pass and will show on student transcripts.

Note: If you are College of Science student (biology, physics, chemistry, and mathematics graduate students), we offer a concurrent section of GSTEP. If you are a College of Science student interested in GSTEP, please email Claudia Gonzalez Villarreal at claudia.gonzalezvillarreal@unt.edu to enroll or for further details about GSTEP for Scientific Teaching.

If you are interested in enrolling in the course, please complete this brief survey: GSTEP Enrollment Survey. The survey will take about 10 minutes to complete. The information collected in this survey will enable us to better understand the students we serve and to enroll students in the course.

If you have any questions, please contact Jenna Ledford, Course Instructor and Faculty Development Specialist, at jenna.ledford@unt.edu.

After you complete the survey, you can expect to receive an invitation to the course approximately 1 week prior to the start of the semester.

Fall 2020 Seminar Dates & Times

Attendance at 3 virtual seminars is a required component of GSTEP. In the event that a GSTEP student cannot attend, we offer alternative assignments. We highly encourage GSTEP students to make time to attend these live events so they can collaborate and learn from their peers. GSTEP students report high levels of course engagement during these sessions.

The dates for Fall 2020 are:

Seminar 1: Orientation

9/2: Wed., 5-7 pm

9/3: Thurs., 2-4 pm

9/4: Fri., 1-3 pm

Seminar 2: Active Learning Lab

10/7: Wed., 5-7 pm

10/8: Thurs., 2-4 pm

10/9: Fri., 1-3 pm

Seminar 3: Preparing Your Teaching Philosophy

11/18: Wed., 5-7 pm

11/19: Thurs., 2-4 pm

11/20: Fri., 1-3 pm

You can also download the GSTEP Fall 2020 Course Calendar. Please note this document is subject to change during the semester.

How does the student teaching practicum work?

The student teaching practicum requires GSTEP students to teach in a higher education course (ideally an undergraduate course) whether face-to-face, online, hybrid, or remote. Students will select and observe a course, design a teaching plan, implement their teaching plan, and evaluate and critically reflect on their teaching experience.

In order to complete this required component, GSTEP students will need to:

  1. Be a TA, TF, or adjunct for a higher education institution, OR
  2. Collaborate with an instructor-of-record to conduct their student teaching practicum in a higher education course whether face-to-face, online, hybrid, or remote. To learn more about the recommended process, please see the GSTEP PDF – GSTEP FAQ: How do I find a course for the practicum? Note that it is the responsibility of the GSTEP student to find a course for the student teaching practicum.

Information for Departments

According to the 2018-2019 UNT Fact Book, UNT employs 412 Teaching Fellows and 911 Teaching Assistants. This means graduate student teachers account for 42% of those with teaching responsibilities at the university. Further, when we factor in that graduate student instructors often teach introductory courses with larger enrollments and include many students across disciplines, we can see that graduate student teachers greatly impact undergraduate education. Yet, most graduate students receive little to no teacher training. GSTEP aims to provide the support needed for the teaching development of graduate student instructors and support the university mission of “empowering students to thrive in a rapidly changing world.”

 

Several departments on campus work with GSTEP to provide teacher development to their graduate student instructors. In some cases, departments require all graduate student instructors to take GSTEP as a zero-credit course upon hiring. Other departments and/or colleges require graduate students to take GSTEP as a 3 hour credit offering. If your department is interested in any of these offerings, please email the CLEAR Faculty Development Specialist, Jenna Ledford at jenna.ledford@unt.edu.

Insights from GSTEP Alum

For many students, GSTEP is a transformative experience that profoundly changes who they are as educators. GSTEP’s aim is to develop students’ teaching competency and improve their confidence in their teaching abilities. We do this by challenging students’ assumptions about teaching and learning and asking them to critically reflect on their teaching beliefs, values, and experiences.

 

Some notable quotes from GSTEP alumni:

"My assumptions changed in many ways since completing GSTEP. One major change was related to my fear of nervousness. I always assumed I looked very nervous and sounded like I was not knowledgeable because of my visible nervousness. After seeing myself on video, I realized my teaching was not nearly as bad or obvious how nervous I was to others when teaching. This alone made a huge difference in my teaching, it allowed me to focus less on me and more on delivering effective teaching strategies and gave me confidence."

"In this sense, my philosophy of learning was changed. Learning is not a process of memorizing an existing body of knowledge, but a process of learning how to think creatively."

"I had some preconceptions about teaching based on my entire experience as a student. I found that not all of these assumptions could be reasonable when I am going to be teaching in a class in the future. For instance, before GSTEP I believed that the ability to teach is somehow inherent, and good teachers always have a gift. During this course I understood that everyone who is interested in teaching can learn the techniques and strategies. Implementing these strategies accompanied by enthusiasm towards teaching can help everyone become a great teacher. On the other hand, there is not a single way to follow for being a good teacher."

"I realized there was a certain sense of arrogance on my part, in that if I was teaching it, they should be learning it. Never really taking into account how they would approach me if they were having difficulty or if they did not understand it. I realized I very well could be the obstacle I was trying to prevent. I do not ever want to be that teacher. And quite honestly, thanks to you, I will not be."