Graduate Teaching Assistant Teaching & Learning Community (GTA TLC)

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GTA Teaching & Learning Community (GTA TLC)

This Learning Community engages educators with evidence-based practices and pedagogy to teach in accessible and inclusive ways. Educators, including Graduate Teaching Assistants, Faculty and Staff share pedagogy, best practices, and holistic educator and student success strategies. This group strives to practice a culture of care and to build community and meets twice a month throughout the year.

GTAs and any teaching enthusiast can volunteer to present on topics and practices that are relevant to teaching undergraduate and graduate students and on identified needs in this space. Sample topics are Communicating about difficult topics, Culturally Responsive Teaching, Using High Impact Practices, Rethinking the Syllabus, Engaging Students using Zoom, Recognizing Mental Health challenges using Kognito, Metacognitive Strategies.

GTA Teaching & Learning Community Virtual Lunch and Learn Fall 2021

December 15, 2021: End of the Semester Self Care and Celebration

In our last Lunch and Learn Session of this semester, we invite you all to join us to share your best self-care technique as well as to practice a few with us. You can stay for as long or as little as you want. You can also just take this time to “lounge and learn”. Bring a friend, grab a blanket or pillow to be comfortable, brew a cup of tea. Perhaps have a few index cards and a pen for notes to write down some of your new ideas and practices. Let’s celebrate the end of the semester and play some mindfulness games as well!

Facilitated by the GTA TLC

December 1, 2021: Five Highly Effective Teaching Practices You Can Use Now

In this session, April Athnos will provide five teaching practices that any instructor or teaching assistant can incorporate into their courses now. These best practices will enhance the transparency and engagement with students while working intentionally toward the learning objectives of your courses. In addition to providing an overview of these practices, April will give examples of how she integrated them into her teaching.

Presenter Bio: April Athnos is a doctoral candidate studying Environmental and Resource Economics in the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics. Her research agendas include economics pedagogy, water policy evaluation, and consumer food preferences for environmental attributes. Her teaching experience includes four semesters as a TA and seven semesters as instructor of record. Most recently she taught EEM 255: Ecological Economics, which she redesigned for asynchronous online delivery in response to the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic. She aspires to employ the legitimate peripheral participation model to incorporate undergraduate research experiences into her future teaching endeavors. 

November 17, 2021: Best Practices in Trauma Informed Teaching

Undergraduate and graduate students at MSU come to us with very diverse backgrounds and experiences that impact their preparation and learning.   Adversity and other experiences, including the current pandemic impact student engagement with learning and faculty.  This workshop will explore an understanding of universal approaches that are trauma informed and support student engagement.  Principles of trauma informed work as well as best practices for trauma informed teaching will be explored and discussed.

Presenter Bio: Cheryl Williams-Hecksel is on the faculty of the MSU School of Social Work. Cheryl is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has been with the School of Social Work since 2006. Prior to joining the faculty at MSU, she has spent more than 25 years in clinical and administrative roles in public and private child welfare and mental health agencies. She is the coordinator of the School’s Evidence Based Trauma Treatment Certificate. She is also involved in MSU’s work with the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute where she serves as coordinator of the University Partnerships team.  Her work also includes consultation with social service agencies around their capacity to trauma informed. She is also one of the founders of the Trauma Services and Training Network at MSU, a collaborative grass roots effort of University faculty, staff and students to work towards creating a trauma informed University. Within this work, she is cofacilitator of a Learning Community that engages those in the MSU community that are working within their units and roles to implement trauma informed principles into their work.  

November 3, 2021: Apprenticing into the Academy: Communities of Practice and Learning as Participation 

When you work as a TA while completing your graduate studies, do you have the sense that the work you are doing now resembles and will prepare you for your future teaching responsibilities in a university context? We usually think of learning as mastery of content or skills, but all learning is really participation and identity construction (Lave and Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998). Ideally, working as a teaching assistant ought to be apprenticing you into the role of a teaching professor. In this session, we will identify some of the reasons why the job of a teaching assistant does not always involve a learning process that aligns with your professional goals, and we will discuss strategies for tapping into your communities of practice to promote your own learning (McDonald & Cater-Steel, 2017). The session itself will also model ways of promoting interaction in online learning contexts.   

Presenter Bio: Amanda Lanier (Ph.D., Georgia State University) is an applied linguist and language teacher educator who focuses on social and cultural aspects of language learning, teacher cognition, and technology in language teaching and learning. She began her career teaching English as a foreign and second language, and she has worked with teachers of 20 other languages and language varieties. Through her role as instructor and director in a fully online graduate program, MSU’s MA in Foreign Language Teaching (, Dr. Lanier has designed a dozen online graduate courses on topics including pedagogical methods, intercultural competence, language acquisition theories, and program development and administration, and she has also become an advocate for online learning and teaching. Learn more, find teacher resources, and read brief articles at

Small Changes – BIG Difference Makers: Strategies That Inspire Faculty and Student Success Part II

Completing the Circle Listening Session

Wednesday, October 20, 2021, noon to 1:00 pm

During Part I of the Small Changes – BIG Difference Makers: Strategies That Inspire Faculty and Student Success Learn at Lunch Session, the premise that higher education cannot increase student success without focusing on faculty/instructor success was suggested. Strategies, resources, tools that GTAs can easily integrate into their teaching practices were shared. We have completed only a portion of the circle. If we are going to impact student learning and success, we believe it is necessary and important to listen to you. You are invited to share 1) what you need as a GTA to support your teaching and learning, 2) what you imagine faculty and student success might look like and steps we might take to operationalize our visions, 3) other thoughts to help ensure your success along with your students’ success. We value, appreciate, and recognize your scholarship, expertise, and your gifts as we consider how we might optimize educator and student success. All are welcome to share their thoughts and/or listen as we, together, continue to complete the circle.

Facilitator Bio: All of the roles Mary Beth has held during her 40 years working at MSU are linked to her passion to help all students be successful as they navigate the exciting but often overwhelming college experience. Her current work in the College of Arts and Letters focuses on facilitating the integration of academic and student affairs in the College of Arts & Letters to create a seamless student experience across curricular and co-curricular opportunities. In addition to her student learning, student success, and faculty success work, Mary Beth enjoys teaching First Year Writing for the Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures Department. Her research interests include how students learn; curriculum and purpose development; mindset science; social psychological interventions and student achievement; how dignity and empathy impact teaching, learning, student and faculty success.

October 6, 2021: Turning a Lecture Hall into a Classroom: Best Practices for Engaging Students in Large Enrollment Classes

We will share the format we have developed to convert our lecture halls into active classrooms, both online and in-person. Our goal is to provide more opportunities for students to practice applying the concepts they are learning and get feedback on their work during each class meeting. We use a variety of technologies to reach this goal, and a very well organized D2L site. We will share all of this and provide a snapshot of a "week in the life" of our students.

Facilitator Bio: Dr. Kirstin Parkin is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. She is also a FAST Steering Committee member, FAST Mentor, and a passionate instructor. 

September 22, 2021: Identities and the Culturally Responsive Educator: Strategies and Applications

This session will provide a background into the concept of culturally responsive teaching (CRT) and how an instructor’s personal identity impacts how they approach their practice and interact with students. Next, we will discuss strategies to facilitate the application of CRT in classrooms settings and conclude with reviewing any questions attendees may have.  

Facilitator bio: Oyesola Oluwafunmilayo Ayeni is a 5th year Doctoral student in the Ecological/Community Psychology program at Michigan State University. Funmi’s area of research focuses on the development, implementation, and evaluation of culturally appropriate interventions for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence from diverse backgrounds. In her teaching, Funmi applies culturally relevant strategies to provide quality instruction to students while ensuring equity and inclusion. 

September 8, 2021: Small Changes, BIG Difference Makers: Strategies That Inspire Educators and Student Success

During this session you will have an opportunity to learn about strategies, resources, tools [including those suggested by students and some created by instructors] that GTAs can easily, and with minimal time, integrate into their teaching practices. In addition to learning about small changes you can make that have the potential to powerfully impact student learning and instructor success, you will be invited to share what you need as a GTA to support your teaching to help ensure your success along with your students’ success.  

Facilitated by Mary Beth Heeder, Sr. Consultant and Project Manager for Student Learning and Success, Office of the Associate Provost of Undergraduate Education 

Facilitator Bio: All of the roles Mary Beth has held during her 39 years working at MSU are linked to her passion to help all students be successful as they navigate the exciting but often overwhelming college experience. Her current work in the Office of the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education focuses on faculty and student success, educator professional development, and strategic process improvement. In addition to her student success work, Mary Beth enjoys teaching; she has taught First Year Writing for the Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures Department. 

August 25, 2021: GTA TLC Virtual Kick-off Session

In this session new GTAs have the opportunity to connect with experienced GTAs about teaching, and can ask them anything about their journey, get some teaching tips, and learn about best practices.

Facilitated by GTA Teaching and Learning Community (GTA TLC)