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USask's program promotes communication skills and careers in the university profession.

This program gives people the opportunity to consider and prepare for a career at the university level

The purpose of this article is to provide information about a program of activities, developed and offered jointly by the College of Education and department of chemistry, University of Saskatchewan, to enhance the instructional and communication abilities of graduate students and post-doctoral persons in chemistry.

Most post-undergraduate students have extensive exposure to the design and conduct of research and many act as teaching assistants or in related capacities. Few of them, however, have occasion to examine the variety of roles (instructor, researcher, member of a collegial community) undertaken by professors. Our program has been designed to provide the opportunity to consider and prepare for careers in university level occupations.

For graduate students, this program is intended to be adjunct to their degree program in chemistry, generally a PhD program, and completion of the degree is the first priority. Given this perspective and the diversity of experiences to be encountered, these activities are most appropriately carried out in a tutorial or mentor manner.

This approach is labor-intensive requiring extra effort and strong dedication by both student-participants and faculty members. Time-management for the students is a critical facet; partly this is addressed by curtailment of other teaching-demonstrating activities. Each participant has both a teaching and a research supervisory committee; these may be combined or separate but the research supervisor serves on both committees to co-ordinate the nature and timing of all undertakings.

The teaching supervisory committee is coprised of faculty from both the department of chemistry and the College of Education, but others such as permanent-senior laboratory demonstrators and faculty from across campus who have won the university's master teacher award may be added as appropriate.

These activies are not meant to lead to a combined chemistry-education degree nor do they represent a souped-up teaching assitantship program; however, their presence can strengthen such a program and faculty through their participation can obtain more insight into effective teaching methods.

The fact that it is not a degree-granting program with its associated formal requirements adds the important element of flexibility to adapt the timing and nature of these activities to the overall situations faced by the students and faculty. Approximately two new students enter the program each year. Each person is academically well-qualified, but equally important are motivational-personality qualities so an interview process is also used. Financial support is provided.

Tailored to the individual

The core of these activities covers an approximately two-year time frame, but we want to emphasize that the timing and level of involvement are tailored to the individual's needs. Priority one is the participant's degree program in chemistry; thus the focus of the first year is on that program.

During the latter part of the first year or at the beginning of the second academic year, the student participates in a class on generic teaching skills and methods that has been developed jointly by the departments of chemistry and of curriculum studies (College of Education) and sponsored by the College of Graduate Studies and Research and the office of the vice-president, academic.

The class meets generally once a week for about 12 weeks. The instructor is a faculty member from the curriculum studies department, and the course outline for 1991-92 is presented in Table 1.

To enhance the seminar approach of the course, several evening sessions ("beer and pizza") are held to exchange views on the general topic of effective communication and teaching with persons who have won the university master teacher award. Participants in the course include not only graduate students and postdoctoral persons, but also laboratory staff and faculty.

While the presence of an instructor and a class outline provide structure and direction, the emphasis is on group decision-making and interaction. For example, the group may decide to explore in more depth Bloom's taxonomy of questioning and to limit discussion of other topics. There is no expectation that all topics must be covered or be taken in equal depth. The main objectives are to attain a basic appreciation of teaching skills and method and to put things into practice as quickly as possible.

Extensive use is made of audio-visual recording both within the class context and throughout the program. For this purpose, people work in pairs, and each person keeps a complete record of his or her efforts and provides a copy to the department of chemistry. As a result, individuals are able to review their performance and progress, receive constructive feedback from others (fellow participants, teaching supervisory committee and course instructor) and develop a short synopsis of their presentations for use with their personal resume.

Participants in the class make use of different instructional situations in the department of chemistry. Many begin with a presentation of the introductory lecture to the laboratory experiments in the first- and second-year undergraduate courses. Over the next year, they enter into different instructional environments (large and small classes; junior and senior level courses) to present segments of the course material (three to four lectures).

Generally the topics are associated with the sub-discipline of the person's research area. Under faculty guidance, the student-instructor develops the lecture material for the presentation, designs and marks a homework assignment and questions on a mid-term or final examination. The course instructor tries to explain and to involve the student-instructor in all facets of the course: its rationale and objective, content, marking procedures, etc.

During the summer period of the first- or second-year, the student-instructor develops a labratory experiment or demonstration for use in the following academic year in consultation with a faculty or laboratory-staff member. By the early part of the third academic year, the foregoing activities have been carried out and the student can focus now entirely on completing the chemistry degree program.

Still at an evolutionary stage

This program of activities is still at an evolutionary stage, even though it has been in existence for about three years. Many questions remain to be answered such as how much extra time do these activities add to the completion of the chemistry degree program. (Our guess is about six months). Even at this stage, one very positive outcome noted is that with the enhanced communication skills of the participants comes greater self-confidence.

New directions this year include encouragement to the students to participate in Toastmasters International, or a similar outside organization. Toastmasters has clubs throughout Canada and it provides a well-developed program for enhancing speaking and listening skills and an opportunate way for students to meet people from outside of the department of chemistry.

In addition, the department of English will participate in the program, and this offers the opportunity to discern the extent to which these activities can be useful to other disciplines. Their involvement will help us to better appreciate, too, the influence that the nature of the discipline has in modifying or altering the elements to effective teaching.

We would be pleased to hear from you about similar programs that you may be engaged in and to provide additional information on our activities. Our mailing addresses are: W.L. Waltz, FCIC, and L.W. Bader, MCIC, Department of Chemistry, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Sask. S7N 0W0; Fax: 306-966-4730; E-Mail WALTZ @SASK.USASK.CA; S.D. Robinson and

E. Ralph, College of Education, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Sask. S7N 0W0; Fax: 306-966-8719.

W.L. Waltz, FCIC, L.W. Bader, MCIC, department of chemistry; S.D. Robinson, E. Ralph, College of Education, University of Saskatchewan.
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Title Annotation:University of Saskatchewan's program for graduate students
Author:Waltz, W.L.; Robinson, S.D.; Bader, L.W.; Ralph, E.
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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