Life at the Biology Teaching Fellows

Biology TF Stephen Mugel works with a student during his hours.

Biology TF Stephen Mugel works with a student during his hours.


TF Profile: Amy Gallop

Q: What has been your most rewarding moment as a TF?

A: “My most rewarding moment occurred when I was working with a student on a concept that was particularly difficult for her to grasp. We discussed it, used examples, drew on the board, took a break, and continued our attempts at fully grasping it. Finally, a light went off, and it all came together for her. She was able to explain it in her own words and provide a concept relevant to her life. It felt wonderful to know that I could be a part of helping her arrive at that place of understanding.”

Q: What is a method that you find particularly useful in helping students learn?

A: “I find that using the blackboard to map out concepts for students is most helpful. Whether we are simply writing a list or connecting ideas with pictures, the students I’m working with usually participate more actively in their learning. After doing so, I’ve noticed that students have an easier time explaining the psychological ideas in their own words.”

Amy is a senior Psychology TF who has eventual plans to do graduate work in psychology.

How to write good session notes

Session notes should do a few things:
1. Illustrate how the session went to fill out the quantitative information that numbers through Tutortrac provide.
2. Describe the strategies that you used with students that went well as well as strategies that weren’t so effective.
3. Tell what material students were struggling with so that your department liaison is aware of where students might need more support.

Some examples of good session notes:

“I assisted two students in correcting their Valentine’s day “love letter” assignments. Both students had an excellent comprehension of what they were writing, they just needed some help and explanation for the corrections that needed to be made. I also had a great chat with the second student about culture and being at William Smith. She is a foreign exchange student, so I had the opportunity to teach some Spanish and have a wonderful conversation. It was a great evening!”

“Two students attended hours tonight. They were both working on a paper for Child Psychology and needed help summarizing their articles. They also wanted their drafts to be read so that they could edit better. Both had trouble connecting the article back to their original thesis and were told to try to improve on that aspect of their papers. By talking through some of the major points of the articles, I helped them see the relationship between their own ideas and those in the articles.” Continue reading

TF Profile: Alexa Hill

Q: What has been your most rewarding experience as a TF?

A: “My most rewarding experience was helping an organic chemistry student with her first synthesis. I helped her understand how to work backwards from the problem, asking her where she thought bonds were cleaved. I wrote the problem on the board and instead of going through the motions myself, I had her use the chalk and think about it on her own. With a bit of guidance, she was able to complete it. The next couple syntheses she tried on her own and each time she got farther and more confident. It felt good for me to see her improvement and I could tell she was becoming less stressed. She left hours and did what was left on her own. I think the material was starting to click.”

Q: What is a technique you use during your hours that has been effective and helpful in helping students learn in Chemistry?

A: “The most helpful technique (especially for chemistry teaching fellows) is getting groups of people to work together on the same problem. Chemistry fellows tend to get very busy on nights before problem sets are due, so the most effective strategy is to pair people up so they can help each other. Sometimes having one student try and teach the material to another (instead of doing it myself) ensures that the student really knows the material. I always say you really know your stuff if you can teach it to someone else.”

Alexa is a TF in the Chemistry department and won a Goldwater Honorable Mention in March 2012 for her work in chemistry and research.

Proofreading tips from expert Susan Hess!

Consider these helpful tips from CTL’s Writing Specialist Susan Hess when helping students learn how to proofread their own papers!


Susan Hess, Writing Specialist at CTL

Guideline #1. Proofread backwards—begin at the final page and final paragraph, proofread it, and then move up to the next paragraph (this keeps you focused on errors by breaking your excessive familiarity with the text), and so on, until you hit page 1.

Guideline #2. Proof for one feature at a time—check your subheads only, or your Works Cited list only, or scan through for punctuation only or only the dates, etc.

Guideline #3. Take breaks—don’t proofread for more than 20 minutes without taking a 2 minute break.

Guideline #4. Use the “Find” function—this feature of your word processing software usually shows up under “Edit.” It helps you check for common errors, like “it’s” vs. “its.”

Guideline #5. Proofread on paper when possible.

Guideline #6. Believe in your own fallibility—I’ve been writing papers for 30 years, and I still kid myself that I type without error. Not.