The Vital Role of Graduate Student Instructors

Resource Description:


Resource Title:
GSI/Postdoc Website Intro: August 2018
Course Type:

Congratulations on your appointment as a Graduate Student Instructor! GSIs play an extremely important role in teaching at the University of Michigan. You are generally in charge of teaching small introductory classes, facilitating discussions in small sections connected to large lecture courses, running laboratory sections, teaching lessons in the studio, and holding office hours where one-to-one teaching occurs. Your responsibilities frequently include grading and giving feedback on students’ written work as well.

Because of your teaching responsibilities, you are in a good position to:

  • Provide the personal touch, the individual feedback, and the encouragement students need.
  • Answer questions and help clarify course material.
  • Help students develop higher-level thinking skills through active involvement, guidance, and feedback.
  • Provide a communication channel in large lecture courses between the instructor and the students in order to help integrate the course.
  • Create a classroom climate in which students of diverse backgrounds can learn and succeed.

A considerable body of research indicates that active engagement with course materials and peers promotes long-term and deep learning. For this reason, it is important to get students actively involved in your classes. You can create the climate needed for students to feel safe enough to ask questions and participate in discussions. This last point is particularly important. U-M has a long standing and well-articulated commitment to inclusive teaching, which we define in part as deliberately cultivating a learning environment where all students are treated equitably, have equal access to learning, and feel valued and supported in their learning. I encourage you to spend time reviewing the full definition of inclusive teaching, as well as the many resources on our website that will help you create an inclusive learning environment from the very first day. In addition, our website for graduate students and postdocs contains information on a range of teaching strategies, as well as links to policies and offices that can help you hit the group running in your first teaching assignment and which you can return to in the future as you gain more experience.

CRLT also provides a number of services for GSIs at all stages of their teaching careers at U-M. We offer seminars for GSIs during the Fall and Winter terms, as well as individual, confidential consultations on any teaching-related topic you would like to discuss. We encourage you to fulfill the requirements for the Graduate Teacher Certificate which will improve your teaching and prepare you for the job market. We also offer a series of preparing future faculty programs to assist graduate students. CRLT’s role is to help you succeed, so please don’t hesitate to contact us!

Matt Kaplan
Executive Director, CRLT