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Graduate students teaching more courses, gaining skills

Oct. 25, 2000

By MONA LUGAY

Reporter

While Baylor recruiters emphasize a strong student-professor relationship when talking with prospective students, graduate students are now teaching more of the courses.

According to the Baylor undergraduate brochure that is sent to prospective Baylor students, 93 percent of Baylor courses are taught by faculty. The remaining 7 percent of courses are taught by graduate students.

Shelley Michna, a Tomball graduate student working on her master's degree in health education, said when she was recruited as a prospective Baylor graduate student, she knew she would be able to teach a variety of courses.

'We get a lot of experience working with people, learning how to motivate others or learning how everyone is different,' said Michna. 'Our supervisors try to place [us] where [we] will [be] able to teach to the best of [our] ability.'

Michna teaches or has taught courses in health, bowling, volleyball and weight training.

James Steen, director of recruitment, said undergraduates are getting the same quality education that they have been receiving, despite the fact that graduate students are teaching more and more courses. Steen also said that high school students' interest and undergraduate admission have not been affected.

'We don't promise anything we can't deliver, and there is a definite distinction between us and other universities,' Steen said. 'We have a strong academic reputation in a Christian environment.'

Fifty undergraduate courses, excluding labs and human performance courses, are taught by graduate students. Of these 50 courses, 22 graduate students are teaching 44 sections of freshman composition in the English department.

There are 12 graduate students teaching in the School of Music, and the sociology, religion, psychology, journalism, foreign language and biology departments all have graduate students who teach.

Dr. Robert Ray, director of graduate studies in English, said the English graduate studies program is the largest on campus, and the university would have to increase the faculty if graduate students were not teaching sections. Ray also said the program wouldn't have much to offer if graduate students were not given opportunities to teach.

'There are so many students in sections of [freshman composition] that grad students can teach a lot of sections and gain experience,' Ray said.

Some graduate students take on other tasks such as being teaching assistants, grading papers for professors, tutoring or teaching labs.

Dr. Larry Lyon, dean of the Graduate School, said that in most graduate programs, the teaching experience is crucial.

In fact, the Baylor doctoral program must provide prospective graduate students the opportunity to teach courses they would likely be teaching when they graduate.

'Honestly, I prefer [grad students teaching],' Bernice Amoakohene, a Conway, Ark., junior, said. 'Most of the time when you get a grad student, they are more sympathetic and are able to relate to you more because they have to take classes, do homework and study as well, but professors are not as sympathetic. [Professors] have been in their profession for so long that they have no sympathy sometimes for the students.'

Lyon said the Graduate School takes responsibility for ensuring that Baylor undergraduates are satisfied with the quality of teaching they receive from graduate students and that students get to evaluate courses at the end of the semester to determine whether or not graduate students need extra training.

'Generally our graduate students compare favorably,' Lyon said.

Being a teacher assistant allows 'grad students [to] have more time to explain things to you that professors leave out of lectures. They can spend more one-on-one time with you than a professor can,' said James Tolbert, a Fort Worth junior.