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Teaching Training and Experience

Teaching is an essential component of graduate education. Knowledge must be passed on to future students to continue the progress of science. Published studies also indicate that teaching experiences contribute to the improvement of essential research skills (Science 19 Aug 2011: Vol 333, Issue 6045, pp. 1037-1039). Additionally, the communication and organizational skills gained during your teaching experiences will provide you with competitive advantages in your professional development and success as scientists beyond Penn State. Therefore, teaching is an integral part of our PhD training program.


Upon graduation BMMB expects that our students will demonstrate effective pedagogical strategies. This includes:

  • Use the principles of backwards design to create appropriate learning experiences and assessments.

  • Create S.M.A.R.T objectives based on given course goals.

  • Demonstrate an ability to use a variety of evidence-based instructional strategies that promote student learning.

  • Convey scientific ideas and concepts correctly, clearly and effectively to a novice audience.

  • Evaluate student work and provide constructive feedback that informs students of current strengths and weaknesses.

  • Create an inclusive, positive and safe learning environment.

  • Demonstrate knowledge of ethical issues that may arise in a teaching and learning environment and discuss strategies to address such issues.

  • Use learning management systems and other technology as applicable

Course: BMMB students will complete a TA training module during the fall semester of their first year. Students will be introduced to evidenced-based pedagogical strategies.

Supervised Teaching Experience: BMMB students are required to act as teaching assistants for two semesters during their graduate career. The teaching experience involves assisting a faculty member in teaching an undergraduate laboratory course. The teaching assistant leads a group of undergraduates through the completion of their assigned experiments, develops and evaluates assessments, laboratory preparation, and presents lectures.

Note: BMB has over thirty sections of laboratory courses that require TAs. Due to this departmental need, BMMB students may only TA BMB courses unless prior approval is requested.

All students are required to teach one formal undergraduate laboratory course during each of the first two academic years. Most often, students will teach during the spring semester of their first year and the fall semester of their second year.

Students are required to satisfy one of the following teaching workloads in BMB:

  • 2 sections of a 100 level laboratory course per semester

  • 1 section of a 200 level laboratory course per semester

  • 1 section of a 400 level laboratory course per semester

The assignments have been judged by instructors to involve similar time requirements, which should not exceed an average of 20 hours per week per semester for the course. The assignments will be subject to periodic evaluation to ensure that these assignments place similar workloads on TAs.

BMMB covers 100% of the stipend, benefits, and tuition costs during the first year in our graduate program. BMMB will contribute up to 50% cost share for the second teaching semester (typically fall of the second year) in exchange for completion of the required teaching workload. Additional semesters of teaching past the two required semesters will receive 50% cost share unless approval for 100% is granted by the BMB Department Head.

All TAs in BMB are required to register for 1 credit hour of BMMB 602 (Supervised Experience in College Teaching) the first two times a teaching assistantship is assigned. TAs will receive a letter grade based on their teaching performance. Successful completion (a grade of B or higher) of 2 semesters of BMMB 602 satisfies one component of the Graduate School Teaching certificate. Current BMMB graduate students who have successfully completed 2 semesters of BMMB 602 will not be required to register for additional credits of BMMB 602.

TAs are required to attend orientation meetings that are scheduled up to one week prior to the start of classes with the course instructor. TAs are expected to attend all sessions of every class that they are scheduled to teach, proctor examinations and quizzes in their assigned course, and to be available during the final examination period if assigned to proctor for additional courses .

The instructor for the course to which the TA has been assigned will be responsible for observing and collecting mid-semester feedback on the TA’s performance. All instructors have been given key criteria from BMMB to evaluate. Instructors may have additional criteria specifc to the course. All TAs should have the expectations of their teaching experience given to them in writing or oral communication prior to the beginning of the semester. Formal observation should be reported to the Director of Graduate Affairs. The course instructor is also responsible for assigning a letter grade for the TA at the end of the semester in which the TA requirement has been completed.

The TA assignment will be made in consultation with the individual student and assessment of previously taken relevant coursework. If a prospective TA does not have any relevant experience in the area in which they would TA, assignments will be based on consultation with the prospective student and permission of the course instructor.

Requests for additional semesters of TA positions (beyond the required 2 semesters) will be assessed based on TA evaluations by the course instructor, and the needs and resources of BMB.

Advisers who request TA positions for BMMB students that are beyond the required two semesters, and are not requesting the TA position for additional experience, will need to provide financial justification to the Department Head of BMB.

The following applications should only be used for additional TA requests beyond the required two semesters.