Sarah Bening

Department: Biological Engineering
Hometown: Waconia, MN
GCF Position: T&LL TA Resource Development Fellow

My GCF project with the Teaching and Learning Lab is focused on developing resources that will help MIT graduate students be effective TAs. We’re using the great resource we have available in MIT OpenCourseWare to curate video examples demonstrating good, evidence-based teaching practices in MIT classrooms. These video clips — by modeling how to create a supportive, inclusive classroom environment that encourages students to collaborate and actively engage with course material — will help graduate TAs understand how to effectively integrate these evidence-based teaching strategies into their own teaching. Aside from being used in TA training workshops, these video resources will also be available through TLL to the broader MIT community.

Sarah develops resources for MIT graduate students to be effective TAs.

How does your GCF project enhance the graduate student community?

Being a teaching assistant can be a major time commitment with lots of opportunities for uncertainty: Am I actually helping my students? Am I personally getting something out of this experience that contributes to my training and helps justify the time away from research? This GCF project will help graduate students combat that uncertainty and have a more rewarding teaching experience. For example, by creating a classroom environment where students feel comfortable and supported, a TA is more likely to be approached by students and to get actionable insight into how well students are progressing through course material. By implementing active learning activities which include class discussions, a TA gets to learn from their students, hearing perspectives or thought processes they might not have otherwise. Both situations also led to the TA getting a more rewarding training experience, including receiving feedback that will help them improvement the communication and interpersonal skills that will benefit them in MIT communities beyond the classroom.

What is your favorite part of working in your GCF position?

My favorite part of this position is the learning that I get to do while working on this project. Not only do I get to explore subjects that I’ve never studied or maybe haven’t really thought about in eight years, but I also get to observe and learn from how the instructors in these OCW videos interact with students in a variety of classroom settings. I probably won’t get to TA again while at MIT, but I’m still involved in a couple activities on campus where I have the opportunity to teach, so I’m excited to apply what I learn through this position both now and in the future.