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Teaching Opportunities

The Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning (TSUSP) encourages doctoral students in the program to work with their advisers to seek teaching opportunities at Portland State or elsewhere. Teaching experience is highly regarded by universities as part of the preparation for careers in academia. However, preparation for teaching new courses is quite labor-intensive and can thereby distract students from completing their degrees. For this reason, doctoral students are expected to complete their field area exams before taking on such responsibilities.

The Ph.D. Student Handbook, revised May 2007, provides the following guidance on how to prepare for teaching:

Guidelines for student teaching (Section IV, L. 5):

The School encourages Ph.D. students to acquire training in classroom teaching as part of their educational experience and in preparation for a career in academia. It is required that USP doctoral students will have successfully completed their field area exams before taking on independent teaching responsibilities within the School. The School expects that teaching responsibilities will be at the undergraduate level only. Knowledge of the subject matter, a record of excellence in the doctoral program, and the support of the adviser are the principal criteria on which existing teaching opportunities will be awarded.

Graduate Research Assistants are sometimes asked to assist with classes. This must be part of the agreement with the faculty member supervising the GRA. In such cases, the faculty member is responsible for teaching the class. Doctoral students may take on particular responsibilities, such as grading and other forms of evaluation or occasional guest lecturing, only within an undergraduate class setting.

Teaching involves first and foremost advanced critical knowledge of the subject, preferably from interdisciplinary perspectives. It also involves:

  •  skills in lecturing and conducting discursive exchanges
  •  course and syllabus preparation
  •  continuous research
  •  methodological techniques pertinent to the topic
  •  understanding of basic pedagogical concepts and different learning styles
  •  awareness of ethical issues and standards
  •  knowledge about grading
  •  familiarity with class evaluation criteria and
  •  the ability to create a classroom atmosphere that induces curiosity, inquiry, intellectual excitement, and student and instructor interaction.

The teaching experience also helps doctoral students to learn the ins and outs of university culture and how to negotiate one's place in that environment.

Much of the information about teaching opportunities is spread by word of mouth and informal networking. But students should also work with their advisers to locate suitable teaching openings, both as teaching assistants and individually taught sections. TSUSP has been attracting a growing number of undergraduate students to its Community Development major, which is driving demand for more sections of existing classes and for new classes. Apart from the classes offered in TSUSP, other departments may have a need for faculty with specializations in urban studies or planning. University Studies is another program that may be attractive to doctoral students. Summer school is yet another option. Although the School insists on exam completion as a condition only for TSUSP taught courses, doctoral students are urged to reach this stage before taking on teaching responsibilities outside the School.

In either case, the School also encourages those with teaching interests to avail of the resources at the Center for Academic Excellence, which offers a number or workshops for teacher training as well as a 1-credit seminar (IST 510  GA Professional Development) that can help in preparing the student to teach a course or to assist with teaching. The CAE also provides assistance with online teaching, assessment of instruction, community-university partnerships, and general resources on teaching and learning. The CAE may offer additional tips on upcoming teaching opportunities. There are myriad resources available online and in CAE office (Cramer 303).

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Teaching is a profound and rewarding experience. But it also requires a high level of preparation, maturity, and accountability. TSUSP has a strong reputation in teaching and research, so it is expected that students carrying teaching loads will honor and preserve that reputation and tradition.