Graduate School News

Discoveries: The sweet science behind mending muscle

IMG 0174Rylie Hightower, a third-year graduate student in the Graduate Biomedial Sciences neuroscience program, studies proteins and other factors that contribute to the progression of muscular dystrophy. 

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Link to Leadership: Dr. Lisa Schwiebert, Associate Dean for Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs

GRAD logo without taglineEmbarking on the graduate school journey can be a challenging experience, but it helps if you understand the major players involved in that experience. This new series, "Link to Leadership," features Q&As with UAB's Graduate School leaders and an opportunity for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to get to know these leaders on a deeper level.
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Graduate Student Organization Spotlight: Graduate Student Government

Grad Student Organization Spotlight graphicThe University of Alabama at Birmingham offers numerous ways for graduate students to enhance their leadership skills, one of which is joining a student organization. But how do you decide which organization is the right fit for you? This Spotlight series will highlight all of UAB's graduate student organizations, as well as the benefits of joining each one.  Read more ...

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For faculty or graduate students who aspire to careers in academia, a teaching portfolio represents an important professional benchmark, advises Nancy Abney, Program Manager in the Professional Development Program (PDP) at the UAB Graduate School. “As an instructor for the PDP, I first developed a course on Teaching Portfolios in 2002,” explains Ms. Abney. “They grew out of my own teaching with graduate students and research on reflection as a tool for student engagement. Since then we’ve witnessed a growing emphasis on teaching as a scholarly activity.”

In response to faculty and student requests, Ms. Abney and Program Director, Dr. Julia Austin, have created GRD 716, a new one hour hybrid course offered this spring and again this summer. “We guide participants in developing a Teaching Portfolio for improving teaching practices and enhancing job search potential,” says Ms. Abney, who specializes in instruction for teaching assistants and researchers learning to teach at the college level. “Once people get started, they see that it’s a powerful tool for self-reflection, professional growth, and documenting performance.”

J. Tyson DeAngelis, a former teaching assistant, cancer researcher, and NIH fellow in UAB’s Department of Biology, says creating a teaching portfolio in GRD 716 has opened up his eyes to the importance of professional storytelling. “It’s one of the best things I’ve done to capture everything that I’ve been doing, not just in teaching, but in volunteer work, leadership, and training.”

>He then offers a virtual tour of his sophisticated Adobe-based portfolio, which he carries on a laptop in his backpack. The digital archive includes everything from lesson plans and PowerPoint presentations to organizational materials for his recent work with local events such as the Susan G. Komen for the Cure. “The portfolio allows you to paint a more holistic picture of yourself to future employers, which is helpful to me because I’m interested in continuing my work as a cancer researcher outside of academia, working in the areas of industry or public health research and policy."

GRD 716 involves two class meetings and weekly online assignments, says Ms. Abney who shares some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) below about teaching portfolios and the new course. GRD 716 meets from June 6 to July 16. Assigned registration starts March 16 and Open Registration starts March 23. For information, contact Ms. Abney at 934-8129

Question: I’ve heard about teaching portfolios. Who pioneered them and why?

Answer:In the early 1990s, a movement toward a “Scholarship of Teaching” grew out of the work of Ernst Boyer, then President of the Carnegie Foundation (Scholarship Revisited, 1990), who argued that scholarship can encompass more than traditional bench research. Course and teaching portfolios were designed to document teaching scholarship, share it with colleagues, and submit it to peer review. The next year, Peter Seldin released his how-to guidebook,“The Teaching Portfolio,” and by the mid-90s, universities were adopting such portfolios to evaluate faculty for promotion and tenure decisions. With the recognition that good teachers make excellent faculty and effective leaders in industry, employers began to ask applicants for CVs that do more than outline a list of courses. 

Question: What does a teaching portfolio look like? I mean, what exactly goes into one?

Answer: A portfolio is more than a collection of syllabi and student ratings. Just as an artist presents a portfolio of his best work, an educator wants to illustrate that he’s an effective teacher. So you put in examples of what you do, descriptions of how you do it, and explanations of why you do it. It’s the tangible evidence of all the intellectual work that goes into planning and delivering a course. It also documents your efforts to ensure that learning takes place, that you can deal with the challenges of teaching individuals, and that you improve educational outcomes—i.e., learning, grades, jobs. The beginning of the portfolio is a personal statement of your beliefs about teaching and learning—the Teaching Philosophy. Everything else is built on that. 

Question: When would I use a teaching portfolio and what advantages would it offer me? 

Answer: The teaching portfolio is an important tool for your job search. This month (February) alone, the Chronicle of Higher Education ran over 120 ads requesting a teaching philosophy from applicants, and teaching portfolios were requested in such diverse fields as business, criminal justice, and global health. A teaching portfolio can also help your job search outside academia. It effectively illustrates the skills of planning, problem-solving, and training others—skills valued by all employers. In addition to being a job search tool, the process of reflecting on your teaching is good preparation for discussing teaching and leadership during job interviews. 

Question: I’m only a teaching assistant, and I don’t have much experience. Is it too soon for me to start developing a teaching portfolio

Answer: Because compiling a teaching portfolio involves reflecting on your teaching, it will help you to identify areas to develop, thus helping you to become a better instructor. The time to start compiling a teaching portfolio is early in your graduate program so that you will have substantial documentation of your teaching philosophy and successes when you begin the interview process. Start now.  

Question: How long does it take to develop a teaching portfolio? And is there a specific style or format for a teaching portfolio? 

Answer: Experts recommend about 15 hours total to prepare your portfolio. It can be the old-fashioned paper kind that you’d carry with you on an interview, or can be presented in an electronic or web-based format, which allows for multi-media such as PowerPoint and videos. The design can be highly personal and will vary across disciplines. But most important, a portfolio is dynamic—always a work in process. In GRD 716, we look at lots of examples so students can find a format to suit individual personalities and career objectives.