The School of Theology and Religious Studies Teaching and Learning Program is part of the school's commitment to excellence in teaching on the part of all faculty as well as preparing future professors.
Teaching Assistantships and Teaching Fellowships are not considered part of financial aid or scholarships for graduate students but, rather, are an integral part of the program that develops future professors in the teaching aspect of their profession.
The STRS Teaching and Learning Program is open to all STRS graduate students, although Teaching Fellowships are reserved for those pursuing a doctoral degree. The first requirement of the program is to take TRS 550 Teaching & Learning (with a focus on teaching theology and religious studies at the college level). This course is offered in a “Just-in-Time” format, with several modules spaced over the student’s first few semesters.
Those who wish to participate in the program should discuss this with their Academic Advisor and, upon the approval of the Academic Advisor, enroll in TRS 550.
Practicum Phase – Teaching Assistantships
After completing TRS 550, students are eligible for the practicum phase of the program wherein they will serve as a Teaching Assistant (TA) to a faculty member teaching an undergraduate TRS course. Normally, the first TA assignment would be in the Fall of the student’s second year, following attendance at the University-level 1-1/2 day orientation for all new TAs and TFs, conducted in August on the Monday and Tuesday prior to the start of Fall Semester.
Students should notify the STRS Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Studies that they have completed TRS 550, are available to attend the August New TA/TF Orientation, and are ready for a TA assignment in the Fall.
Graduate students may serve as a Teaching Assistant two to four times. TA assignments are determined by the Area Director, the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, and the Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Studies and are based on the graduate student’s course schedule and, in the case of subsequent TA assignments, the logical next step in the graduate student’s development.
The two to four TA assignments (over two to four semesters) provides TAs an opportunity to serve in a variety of courses, work with different members of the faculty, and have an opportunity to facilitate discussions as well as teach 1-2 class sessions in a semester-long course.
Lead Professors serve as mentors to TAs in their development as future professors. This mentoring relationship is addressed in detail in the STRS Faculty Mentoring Manual. An important part of the mentoring process is the formal TA evaluation completed by the Lead Professor at the end of each semester. A copy of the evaluation is provided to the TA and the evaluation is sent to the Associate Deans for Graduate and Undergraduate Studies.
TAs can move to the next phase of the program path, that of Teaching Fellow, when they and the Lead Professors for whom they have served judge they are ready to teach a course on their own.
Normally, the first course is one within the graduate student’s area of expertise and the TF would work closely with a member of the faculty who has taught the proposed course, mentoring the graduate student TF as they prepare for and teach that particular course. No TF may create a new course.
After consulting their academic advisor and securing a faculty mentor, the prospective TF presents the proposed first course to their Academic Area Director for approval and submission to the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies.
Since the mentoring relationship is critical in the development of future professors, all graduate student Teaching Fellows must have a Faculty Mentor for every course they teach. After the first time a TF teaches a course, and has been mentored by a faculty member who has taught that course, TFs are to establish a mentoring relationship with a member of the STRS faculty for each subsequent course they teach.
As with TAs, Faculty Mentors complete a formal TF evaluation at the end of each semester. A copy of the evaluation is provided to the TF and the evaluation is sent to the Director, STRS T&L Program. The Program Director will forward the evaluation to the Assistant Dean for inclusion in the student’s file.
In summary, the STRS Teaching & Learning Program that prepares graduate students in the teaching part of their profession follows the following sequence:
- Begin TRS 550 Teaching & Learning.
- Notify the Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Studies of availability to attend University-level New TA Orientation in August and desire to begin practicum phase of the program as a TA in the Fall.
- Attend University-level New TA/TF Workshop (4th week in August, on the Monday & Tuesday before the start of Fall semester).
- Serve as a Teaching Assistant for 2-4 courses.
- Teach a TRS course under the mentorship of a faculty member who has taught the same course.