GATE is Fostering a Community of Future Educators
Written by Chris Pasion, graduate assistant to The Graduate School.
Those of us with teaching aspirations have many resources at our disposal, whether it be the Preparing Future Faculty Program, the Learning Commons, or the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning (CET&L), to name just a few. But if you’re looking for more of an informal, peer-based experience that is focused on building a community of likeminded future teachers, the Graduate Association for Teaching Enhancement (GATE) is your best bet.
Established in 2011, GATE was developed for graduate students, by graduate students. Students, teaching assistants, and instructors from all disciplines are welcome to join GATE. You don’t have to be a teacher—you just have to be interested in teaching and learning. Through career guidance, networking opportunities and various workshops, GATE helps students merge their graduate and professional goals.
GATE’s purpose is not to focus on teaching pedagogy or theory; it places emphasis on equipping participants with readily applicable guidance on the acts of teaching and leading a classroom. PJ Van Camp, a biomedical informatics PhD candidate and the president of GATE, says, “One of the big things that we preach is active learning, participation, and putting students to work and having them do it themselves.” Active learning has been shown to be a great form of engaging with curriculum and retaining information. Simply put, many people learn better by doing it themselves rather than solely being lectured to, especially in an online learning environment.
There are two pillars that are central to GATE: teaching and professional development. Through workshops, panels, and peer meetings, GATE helps participants further their understanding and experience with both. While the online learning environment has caused GATE to downsize their usual programming, they will be hosting a multidisciplinary panel event with professors and instructors from many different departments. The panel will focus on how instructors have made the switch to the online learning model in the past year, giving them a platform to reflect on the trials and tribulations of such a monumental shift in approach.
PJ says that instructors are grappling with “being able to teach remotely. It is much more difficult now, and that’s why I myself am looking forward to the panel and actually hearing from faculty on how they transitioned and how they got into doing all of this.” More details about this event are forthcoming, but it will take place virtually in mid-April.
The community aspect is perhaps GATE’s strongest asset. Members meet once or twice a month to discuss education and professional development. PJ suggests that what is most unique about GATE is that it brings people from all disciplines together in a very low-key, collaborative setting. “People come together all in the shared interest of wanting to learn more about teaching. It’s a great way to get to know grad students from outside your department,” he says. “We sometimes get so obsessed with our own research and our own little worlds, so it’s refreshing to talk to completely different students with completely different interests.” This interdisciplinarity can be a peek into how other programs do things, and these intersecting ideas and approaches can add valuable perspective to your academic journey.