Welcome to Teaching Resources

The Graduate School and Postdoctoral Office at Michigan State University is committed to supporting the unique needs of graduate students and postdocs as they:

  • Fulfill their important roles as teaching assistants or instructors of undergraduate students at Michigan State University
  • Prepare for careers as faculty members
  • Prepare for careers in industry, government or non-profits - settings where the transferrable skills developed while teaching are valued

For those of you who are Teaching Assistants at MSU, please visit the "Teaching Assistant Program" tab above (here you can find a link to the 2015 Teaching Assistant Orientation Program materials and resources). 

Teaching Assistant Program

Graduate Students:

Welcome to the 2015-2016 academic year!


For or over twenty-five years, Michigan State University’s Teaching Assistant Program (TAP)
has been working with graduate programs and faculty to provide a wide variety of professional development experiences in support of the teaching and learning of all MSU teaching assistants (TAs). This effort is particularly crucial because it is the teaching assistants at Michigan State that are often providing undergraduate students with their first exposure to core courses in a wide variety of disciplines. As such, teaching assistants play a crucial role in Michigan State University’s efforts to ensure academic success among the institution’s undergraduate population.

The Teaching Assistant Program (TAP) is a key component of a larger commitment that The Graduate School and Postdoc Office have to provide central support to graduate students and postdocs in their development as teachers, and in their preparation for teaching roles after graduation. Dr. Melissa McDaniels is Assistant Dean of The Graduate School and Director of Teaching Assistant Programs. She collaborates with her colleagues in The Graduate School and in the academic programs to generate excitement among graduate students and postdocs about their current and future teaching roles.

For more information please visit the Teaching Assistant Program page on Michigan State University's Graduate School site.

Don't hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.


Melissa McDaniels, Ph.D.
Assistant Dean, The Graduate School
Director, Teaching Assistant Programs
Michigan State University

118 Linton Hall
479 Circle Drive

East Lansing, MI 48824


Twitter:  mmcdanielsphd
Linked In: www.linkedin.com/in/mmcdaniels

Inside Teaching MSU


Inside Teaching MSU is a digital and in-person community (founded in August 2013 by The Graduate School at Michigan State University) for graduate students and postdocs dedicated to promoting teaching excellence through conversation and sharing best practices.

You can get engaged in one of four ways:

  • Following us on Twitter (@InsideTeaching) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/insideteachingmsu). Contribute to the conversation!
  • Attending in-person Inside Teaching Lounge events.
  • Reading and responding to our blog.
  • Applying to become an Inside Teaching Collaborative Fellow for 2015 (for MSU Graduate Students and Postdocs only). Please see the following Call for Applicants for more information. Applications will be accepted through November 24, 2014.


Teaching Fellowships

Michigan State offers several teaching fellowships for graduate students in select colleges.

Featured Teaching Fellowship Students

: Emily Altimare
Fellowship: Residential College in Arts and Humanities (RCAH) Graduate Fellowship
Department: Anthropology
Area of focus: Applied Anthropology
Major professor: Dean Marietta Baba, PhD

: Chris Richardson
Fellowship: Future Academic Scholars in Teaching (FAST)
Department: Physics and Astronomy
Area of focus: Theoretical Astrophysics
Major professor: Jack Baldwin, PhD

Preparing Future Faculty to Assess Undergraduate Student Learning

Assessment of student learning is a key activity to ensure student achievement and to maintain institutional accountability in undergraduate education. These goals are especially important for Michigan State University (MSU), a public, land-grant institution with a long-standing commitment to, therefore enrolling a very diverse student body academically, socially, culturally, and demographically.

MSU is committed to foster learning by all students, and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows are key contributors to that goal. We assert that advancing graduate students’ and postdoctoral fellows’ expertise in assessment will benefit undergraduate education and contribute toward the success and excellence of graduate students as future faculty. MSU proposes a multi-faceted approach that will leverage current initiatives to enhance relationships between undergraduate student learning and the preparation of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to become faculty members who excel at assessing student learning. Our goal is to use MSU’s considerable infrastructure supporting professional development of teaching excellence to move purposefully towards a more cohesive University approach to the assessment of student learning by explicitly linking assessment to the disciplinary-specific preparation of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows as future faculty.

Michigan State is now a part of a select network of institutions (Harvard, Cornell, North Carolina A&T, University of North Carolina at Greensborough, UC Merced) sponsored by a grant from the Council of Graduate Schools, the Sloan Foundation and the Teagle Foundation.

Please see the grant's web site for more information!


Certification in College Teaching

The University Graduate Certification in College Teaching (CCT), an initiative of the
Michigan State University Graduate School, in partnership with MSU Colleges, helps graduate students organize, develop, and document their teaching experiences. Through a series of focused workshops, a class on disciplinary teaching methods, and a mentored project, participants will build and consolidate their preparation for college and university teaching. The program culminates in an e-portfolio that will help students prepare for academic job interviews and plan for their professional development as early career faculty.

What are the goals and benefits of this program?

Most new faculty will have had advanced training in their discipline and some teaching experience, but few will have participated in programs that prepare them for a career in higher education. As competition for faculty positions increases, graduate students who are well prepared as researchers will also need to demonstrate careful preparation as teachers and colleagues.

How do I get started?

FIRST, review the CCTP details for your college. Please note that this is a program administered by the MSU Graduate School in conjunction with your specific college (or department), and individual processes may differ slightly.

THEN submit the application form, statement of interest, and a letter of support from your research advisor to your college’s Graduate Associate Dean.

How do I complete, and what will I have at the end?

The final teaching portfolio, documenting participation in required activities and reflection on the core competency areas, will be submitted to your college Graduate Associate Dean, who will then forward it to Aida Montalvo (cctp@grd.msu.edu) for evaluation by the Graduate School. Completion of the program will be recognized by a notation on the MSU transcript. Your portfolio needs to be submitted electronically. You have some options for how to choose to submit the porfolio: (1) as a PDF document; (2) as a link to a web site that you have developed (on a platform of your choice); as a portfolio through an account on the www.careersuccess.msu.edu web site.

How should I organize my portfolio? What should I include?

We encourage you to utilize the Certification in College Teaching Portfolio Checklist as a guide when organizing your electronic portfolio.

How will my portfolio be evaluated?

Once your college contact submits your portfolio to The Graduate School, this rubric will be used to assess the portfolio.

Where can I get copies of the documents included in the binder of the latest Certification in College Teaching Institute?

A Certification in College Teaching Spring Institute is held each May. As many of you know, a binder with important materials related to the Certification is distributed at that time. Each year the documents are updated. Below you will find the latest versions of the documents included in the 2015 Binder, as well as slides from the Institute:

General Information

Competency 1:  Developing Disciplinary Learning

Competency 2:  Understanding the University Context

Competency 3:  Teaching with Technology (session slides)

Competency 4:  Creating Effective Learning Environments (focus of 2015 Institute - Peer Instruction)

Competency 5:  Assessing Student Learning

Web-Based Teaching Resources

Other Resources

  • Teaching Seminars / Inside Teaching Lounge - SLIDES

      Cultivating an Inclusive Classroom (Fall 2013)
      Facilitating Discussions that Work
  (Spring 2014)
      Managing Your Digital Identity
(Fall 2013, Spring 2014)
      Facilitating Inquiry-Based Learning in STEM Classrooms
(Spring 2014)




Teaching FAQs

This will be a list of frequently asked questions about teaching that we have received from graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. If you want to submit another question for a response (we will be adding to the FAQ list periodically), please email mcdani73@msu.edu with the subject line: FAQ REQUEST. Thank you!

  1. A student is challenging me on a grade I gave him/her, how to I respond?
  2. My students’ writing is terrible! What do I do?
  3. What is the best way to work with students for whom English is a second language?
  4. What if a student reveals to me, in my role as TA, that they were a victim of child abuse in the past?
  5. How do I handle students who are disrespectful to either myself or other students?
  6. What do I do if I suspect a student of plagiarism or cheating?

1. A student is challenging me on a grade I gave him/her, how to I respond?

All TAs should familiarize themselves with MSU Grades/Appeal Policies. Also, make sure that your grading policy is clearly outlined in your syllabus. If a student does challenge a grade, you might sit down with them and have a conversation about the grade they received - and consult with the Instructor of Record if need be. The majority of cases will be re- solved at this level. There is a terrific article about MSU Grade/Appeal policies on the website of the Office of the Ombudsman.

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2. My students’ writing is terrible! What do I do?

Undergraduate students will be coming to campus with varying writing abilities. Always talk to your instructor of record about how to consider writing quality in course assessments. Fortunately, there are a range of resources both on- and off-campus that can assist your students in improving their writing ability.

MSU Writing Center. Both in-person and on-line resources are available. The MSU Writing Center has several locations across campus, including satellite offices in neighborhood engagement centers. Some students may find the "Quick Guides" on the MSU Writing Center web site particularly useful.

Purdue On-line Writing Lab (OWL). A particularly useful resource for students needing assistance with grammar, citations and subject-specific writing.

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3. What is the best way to work with students for whom English is a second language?

Using excellent communication skills is the best way to work with all of your students. You might ask yourself the following questions to promote self-reflection that may lead you to use more optimal communication strategies that will benefit all students:

  • Are my speech habits conducive to good communication and maximum student learning?
  • Do I make every effort to speak in an orderly, direct manner?
  • Do I avoid the attitudes of prejudice and emotional bias in my classroom planning and speaking?
  • Do I speak at a rate that makes for effective comprehension?
  • Do I speak with the appropriate volume for the size of the room and the number of students?
  • Do I use variety in vocal expression—pitch, rate, loudness, and quality?
  • As part of my regular presentations, do I include examples and explanations suitable to the levels of language and experience of my students?
  • When a student addresses me, do I listen fully and courteously to both thought and feeling?
  • When misunderstandings occur, do I explore them further and check out both my and my students’ assumptions?
  • Do I respond fully to the student, with clear comments, using words, voice, gestures, and the like?
  • Could some of the failures in the listening of my students be due to weaknesses in my speaking and/or listening habits?

Always feel comfortable referring students to the MSU English Language Center if you believe they need further assistance.

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4. What if a student reveals to me, in my role as TA, that they were a victim of child abuse in the past?

If an adult student (18+ years) tells you they were a victim of child abuse, you (as an employee of MSU) must consult with the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education & Dean of Undergraduate Studies (“Associate Provost”) when they receive a report of prior child abuse. The Associate Provost will confer with campus experts to determine whether, based on the information available, there is reasonable suspicion a child is currently being neglected or abused. The Associate Provost will then make any necessary reports to CPS and the MSU Police Department. The Associate Provost will also advise the employee regarding information to share with the disclosing student, including campus resources. Dr. Doug Estry is the current Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean of Undergraduate studies. He can be reached at 517-353-5380517-353-5380.

If you, in your role as TA, suspect, witness, hear about abuse of a child (under 18), you must call the MSU police at 517-355-2221517-355-2221.

Please refer to the comprehensive University Reporting Protocol.

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5. How do I handle students who are disrespectful to either myself or other students?

According to Article 2, Section 10 of the Academic Freedom Report, “The student and the faculty
share the responsibility for maintaining professional relationships based on mutual trust and civility.” Acts of incivility performed by a student can be handled in several different ways. Be sure to keep 
open communication in the classroom. Early on in the class, be sure to set a supportive tone and set expectations. Using a syllabi as a guideline for outlining classroom behavior is also useful. See the “Civility/Incivility in the College Classroom” Page on the Faculty and Organizational Development website for details on how to handle disrespectful students. Always consult your instructor of record or course TA coordinator for advice.

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6. What do I do if I suspect a student of plagiarism or cheating?

If a teaching assistant suspects a student of plagiarism or any other type of academic dishonesty, he or she should consult with the instructor of record for the course. MSU has an Integrity of Scholarship and Grades Policy and the Protection of Scholarship and Grades Policy. The Office of the Ombudsman at MSU has a nice summary of MSU’s definition of “cheating”.

A growing problem at MSU is the use of electronic devices to facilitate cheating. TAs, in consultation with their instructor of record, should consider delivering this message to their students: “Please turn off, not place on silent, any electronic devices including cell phones, PDAs, iPads, etc. If it has a power button it needs to be turned off. Also please remove any watches, Bluetooth earpieces, or any other electronic devices you might be wearing.” If you and your Instructor of Record utilize TurnitIn in your course, MSU recommends language to put in your syllabus.

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Teaching Essentials for Careers in Higher Education

TECHE: Teaching Essentials for Careers in Higher Education

This set of eight online courses is focused on research and practice in effective college teaching. Featuring international experts on education in a range of disciplines, they offer theory, practical exercises, reflection, and resources for everyone from new instructors to practiced professors. They include video instruction and an extensive list of additional reading. These courses can be taken at any time and in any setting. You can follow a course straight through, or select the course modules most useful to you.

These modules were developed by experts in teaching in higher education. They were produced by Epigeum, one of the leading publishers of online courses for higher education professionals. The copyrighted material is licensed for use by those who are affiliated with Michigan State University.

The TECHE courses are available on Desire2Learn:

  1. Log in on d2l.msu.edu.
  2. Click on “Self Registration” in the upper right of your home page.
  3. Select “Teaching Essentials for Careers in Higher Education (Epigeum).”
  4. Submit the registration information.
  5. The course should now appear on how home page under “TeachingLearning.”
  6. Once you click on the course, the separate courses should appear under your content browser.
  7. While you are in any of the courses, the modules for all of the courses appear in the “Content Map” on the left of the page.
  8. You can also return to your full list of course titles on the “course home” page; hit the “home” icon under the Content Browser bar.

Inside Teaching at MSU: An Essential Guide for Teaching Assistants

New TAs! Visit here (2015 Summer Programs) for information and resources distributed at the university-wide TA Seminar and ITA Orientation in August 2015.


Inside Teaching MSU

Inside Teaching MSU is an online network and resource center for MSU Graduate Students and Postdocs, dedicated to promoting teaching excellence through conversation and best practices. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!