students in science lobbyA reception April 27 celebrated graduates of a program to give science students experience in teaching.

Program shares skills in teaching science

A reception April 27 in the Essex Centre of Research building (CORe) celebrated science students who completed the SAGES program: Scholarship of teaching and learning Advancing Graduate Education in Science, technology, engineering, and math.

Designed for graduate students in STEM to learn how to teach, the program combines a theory course where students develop evidence-based teaching practices, with a teaching practicum where they are paired with a faculty mentor and given the opportunity to redesign and teach a unit of an actual undergraduate course.

Isabelle Barrette-Ng, head of the Department of Integrative Biology, initially designed the program in 2016 when she was working at the University of Calgary. Since then it has been implemented at institutions across North America; she launched it in Windsor in fall 2020.

At the ceremony, each graduate received a certificate of completion.

“Because of the pandemic this is the first chance we’ve had to celebrate in person the accomplishments of the SAGES scholars through graduation from the program,” Dr. Barrette-Ng says.

“SAGES offers graduate students an authentic opportunity to teach a class at the university level where they can actually stand up in front of a class of students and gain experience with implementing active learning strategies and collecting feedback.”

Ehsan Ur Rahman Mohammed (MSc 2023) just graduated with a masters in computer science.

“For my unit, I redesigned the slides and added humour, I added all of the things that were taught to us in the first course of the SAGES program,” says Mohammed.

“It was an amazing experience being in front of the room because as a student you observe the teacher but being in the teacher’s place you get an entirely new perspective and I got to teach a class of more than 130 students.”

PhD student Rachel Pieniazek (BSc 2018, MSc 2020) says she took the SAGES program after being a sessional and says she found it extremely beneficial.

“I didn’t realize how much you could learn about teaching, that it was such a large discipline, and this course opened up my eyes to all the different techniques you can use and what is beneficial in different aspects and in different scenarios,” says Pieniazek.

“I enjoy teaching and I will use these skills in the future whether I become a professor or instructor.”

Barrette-Ng says SAGES prepares students with transferrable skills like communications and self-confidence from speaking in front of groups of people.

“Mentors get a lot out of it too because they get new ideas for their courses,” she says.

“It is nice to see how they work together and get excited about teaching science — it gets students excited about learning and teachers excited about teaching.”

—Sara Elliott

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