Enter the GTA Academy, a joint program of the Delphi Center for Teaching and Learning and the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies. Thirty participants, each who went through a competitive process for program entry, meet monthly with academy instructors. Seventeen faculty mentors regularly attend the interactive sessions. Their goal: to improve GTA teaching skills.

GTA Brynn Dombroski attended during the 2011–2012 academic year. Her teaching role at that time in a neuroanatomy classroom was limited to “mostly pointing and labeling structures from the moment students arrived to the end of the class period.” Still, she said, the academy courses helped her identify which students were engaged, which ones were “checked out” and how to help them check back in and become actively engaged. Equally important, she also learned how to determine whether they understood the information she presented.

Her biggest takeaway from the academy, Dombroski said, is that the difference between having a reputation as a good teacher and one as a great teacher is preparation — starting with a learning-centered syllabus and ending with tests that fairly and accurately measure knowledge retention.

Participants are becoming better teachers.

“The amount of improvement varies, but it is noticeable,” said Joe Steffen, biology professor and academy mentor.

(Editor’s Note: To further help graduate students develop teaching skills, the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies (SIGS), in collaboration with the Delphi Center, will accept graduate student applications to attend the Feb. 8 Celebration of Teaching and Learning, a daylong faculty professional development conference, as well as the two shorter pre-celebration workshops with keynote speaker Terry Doyle on Feb. 7. UofL GTAs and other graduate students who are interested in participating must apply by Friday, Jan. 18.)