Iowa State University • Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching •
Iowa State University

Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

Services and Professional Development


Training in Teaching
Department Resources
Support Services
Professional Development

Training in Teaching

Department Training

Many departments schedule orientation and training activities for new teaching assistants and/or faculty. In some cases, this orientation involves several days of meetings, interviews, and information sessions. Most of these orientation sessions—which may run for an afternoon or for several days—take place at the beginning of the fall term. Contact your department about orientation and training possibilities available to you.

The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT), located on the third floor of Morrill Hall, supports ISU's commitment to effective teaching through seminars, workshops, newsletters, a weekly teaching-related email, grants, and other efforts to improve the instructional environment. Workshops on using technology in teaching, using WebCT, and so forth are offered by staff CELT's Learning Technologies, located in the Communications Building. The Center maintains an excellent teaching library in 3024 Morrill Hall. Its website provides a listing of events, teaching tips, and other useful website links.

Iowa State University Teaching Seminar

Each August, the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching offers a two-day, university-wide training program, the Iowa State University Teaching Seminar, for new and returning graduate assistants and new faculty. Topics vary annually but usually include promoting active learning, leading discussion, motivating students, and using technology in the classroom. Registration is required, but the seminar is free of charge. The detailed program schedule and registration instructions appear on the Center's website in mid-summer.

International TA Program

The Graduate College International TA Program presents a 2 1/2 hour orientation to the U.S. classroom in August and January. The workshop examines the U.S. university classroom in detail, focusing on aspects that may be unique to the U.S. and how these may affect your behavior as a TA. The workshop meets in small groups led by experienced, successful ITAs and by faculty experienced in both U.S. and overseas university life. Visit the International TA Program website for more information.

Department Resources

Your primary contacts as a teaching assistant will be with the department that has hired you. As a member of the teaching staff of the department, you will find your departmental office to be a major source of advice and assistance.

Key People

In most departments, one person serves as the primary adviser for graduate students. In small departments, the department chair may handle this function. Elsewhere, another faculty member may be primarily responsible for orienting new graduate students, answering their questions, and getting them started on the process of finding suitable major professors. The department's Director of Graduate Education (DOGE) may serve as the primary contact person for general questions relating to assistantships. Another faculty member may serve as supervisor for the course in which you have been assigned a role as one of the TAs (in most instances TAs are, in fact as well as in name, assistants to professors in classrooms and laboratories). A member of the clerical staff may handle classroom or supply allocations.

Developing a good working relationship with all of these departmental faculty and staff members is an important factor in a productive and pleasant graduate experience.

Facilities and Materials

TAs who meet individually with their students need office space. Depending upon your department's space allocations, you may be assigned to an individual office, to a desk in a group office, or to a particular laboratory. In most instances, these facilities will include a desk and storage space for your individual use. Although some students are initially apprehensive about working in a jointly occupied space, some of your most valuable contacts and networking may develop through interactions with your fellow TAs.

Your department may also provide you with office supplies or indicate where and from whom they may be obtained. Some departments allow graduate assistants direct access to centralized stores; others monitor requests and distribution more directly. If you need specialized materials, you may have to process purchase requests or go through other departmental procedures to obtain them.

You should also determine how your department handles mail and telephone messages, as well as how and where departmental and university information, forms, class lists, etc. are distributed.


Most departmental offices have access to a copy machine for routine copying. You should check with the departmental staff on what sort of use TAs may make of such machines, what restrictions exist, and what other duplication services are available through the department.

In addition, Printing Services has offices in several locations on campus. Depending on the number and type of copies needed, the turn-around time is usually 1-24 hours. Beware, however, of spending your own money on classroom teaching; while you want to provide students with as many useful resources as possible, you should do so without financial drain to yourself.

Support Services


Keys to all university offices and buildings are issued by Facilities Planning and Management, located in the General Services Building on the northeast side of the campus. You must first obtain a key card from your department, sign in the appropriate place, and then take the card to the Key Issue office in the General Services Building (signs will direct you once you enter the building). Depending upon your need and departmental and college policy, you may be issued both an office key and a building key to allow you access to your office when the building is closed. Keep track of your keys; you will be charged a fee if you lose them.

Test and Evaluation Services

Test and Evaluation Services is equipped to score standardized examination answer sheets. If you intend to use such answer sheets, you should obtain blank ones either from the center or from your department. Each test submitted to Test and Evaluation Services for scoring must be accompanied by a completed submittal form. You do not need to make an appointment to have answer sheets scored at the center; the turn-around time is usually within a day, except at busy times such as mid-semester and during final exams. It is best to call and get an estimate during these times.

In addition to generating listings with your students' names, ID numbers, and scores, the center also prints a statistical evaluation of your testing instrument which you can use to improve assessment and instruction. For example, this evaluation allows the instructor to determine which questions students consistently missed. The center can copy its records and programs directly onto a disk for your own manipulation and evaluation or send them to your email account.

The center can also directly transfer results to your WebCT class gradebook.
Note: WebCT transfers can only occur when you have completed your submittal form with the exact course name and test label as they appear in your WebCT files. This includes, but is not limited to, capitalization, italics, underscores, and abbreviations.


Parks Library maintains an extensive collection of videos and audiotapes in the Media Center. Instructors may reserve videos for a class or place tapes on reserve for students to watch on their own in the Media Center (these must be legally made tapes).

CELT Learning Technology staff, 1200 Communications Building 294-5357, offer seminars, hands-on workshops, and individual consultation on a wide range of topics related to the effective use of technology in teaching and learning, including online course development, and support for WebCT for both on- and off-campus instruction. Staff expertise covers a wide variety of traditional and cutting edge technologies for both face-to-face and distributed learning including PowerPoint, clickers, electronic portfolios, online testing and multimedia and web development.

Most classrooms have overhead projectors and projection screens installed. Some classroom buildings also include satellite equipment centers where you can obtain media equipment for use in your class. Classrooms have an information card describing where you can obtain media equipment and how to use it in that particular setting. Also, many large classrooms/auditoriums have installed media equipment systems. For more information on available classroom equipment and checkout procedures, see the IT Services website.

Additional media equipment can be obtained from IT Services, which provides audio-visual devices, video recording/playback systems, and large screen video projection for instructional purposes at satellite centers across campus and from its main office at 1200 Communications Building. To check out media equipment from IT Services for use in your classroom, you need to submit a TA authorization form (available at the equipment checkout desk), which must be signed by you and your teaching supervisor.

Reserve and Other Library Services

In addition to the Media Center, Parks Library provides a number of services that may be useful to TAs and students. The Reserve Room allows instructors to prepare lists of recommended or required reading materials and websites and request that the library place them on reserve for two-hour usage. Articles on reserve are made available to students as PDF files.

If you wish to supplement your reading lists with reserved readings, you should complete the required forms at least a month before the semester. If you submit the forms during the semester, it will generally take at least 2 weeks for the materials to be ready for students to use. The forms are available to print out from the Reserve website and need to be renewed each semester.

A number of other special services are available at the library, such as interlibrary loan, document delivery services, subject-based on-line databases, and research workshops and tutorials. For more information on these services or on the library's holdings, visit the library's website or go to the Reference Desk on the first floor of the library.

Before sending your students to the library to undertake a research assignment, you may want to check how many of them have taken or tested out of Library 160, the half-semester web-based course on the use of the library. Although students are required to take this course before they graduate, some may not have done so by the time they have your class. Before sending them to the library, you need to find out whether they are familiar with the reference materials and the use of the e-library, which contains Parks Library's online catalog and databases providing citations to articles in serials. Direct students who are unsure how to use the library's services to the Reference Desk on the first floor of the library.


Note: The Solution Center offers phone and walk-in assistance with all computing needs and is open M-F 8-5. They also offer short courses on many topics, which are free to students.

The university maintains computer labs throughout campus, containing a mix of Windows and Macintosh personal computers as well as Linux workstations. Some labs are in residence halls; some are open 24 hours a day. Look at the beginning of the ISU phone directory or the IT Services website for a complete listing of computer labs, open hours, and the hardware and software available.

As a student, you are eligible for a Net-ID account, which will give you access to the Internet and email. Instruction sheets describing how to register for these accounts are available outside the Solution Center.

AccessPlus kiosks are located across campus for students, faculty, and staff to access personal and university information (such as class schedules, university bills, unofficial transcripts, and class rosters) at any time. AccessPlus can also be accessed from any on-line computer through the Iowa State home page.

The Student Network Access Project (SNAP) assists students wishing to connect their personal computer to the campus network. If you live on campus, an assistant can visit your residence hall room to help install an Ethernet card in your computer, configure the card, and load the networking software. The team also maintains a drop-off service in the Solution Center. Students may leave their machine in the work area and have the setup done there. Off-campus students can drop off their machines to have their computer and modem set up to connect to the campus network through the PPP dial-up service. SNAP is funded by student computer fees, so there is no charge for most standard services.

Professional Development

Graduate Student Teaching Certificate

ISU's Graduate Student Teaching Certificate (GSTC) aims to enhance the professional development of graduate students who want to become professors in four-year schools of higher education emphasizing teaching. The certificate provides teaching knowledge and experience, focused as much as possible in the home discipline, for graduate students across the university.

Professional Advancement Grants (PAGs)

The Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS) and the Graduate College fund student travel and research requests on a competitive basis. Each graduate student is eligible to receive one Travel PAG and one Research PAG per fiscal year (July 1 through June 30). Each request must be approved by the major professor, department chair, and academic dean. Grant proposals are first reviewed for funding by your department (if it provides funds for graduate students), after which they are considered by the Graduate College, and finally by the GPSS PAG Committee. Graduate College decisions on funding neither ensure nor preclude GPSS support. Half of the GPSS funds are allocated before December 31, and half are allocated after January 1.

Preparing Future Faculty Program

The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching offers the Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) program for graduate students interested in pursuing a faculty career. PFF helps participants learn more about the full range of faculty life in teaching, research, and service at a variety of higher education institutions. The program includes seminar and workshop courses, individual faculty mentoring, opportunities to gain a variety of teaching experiences while earning graduate credit, and interactions with faculty and administrators from other institutions. Applications to the program are due each year by the fourth Monday in February for fall semester.

Wakonse Fellowships

The Wakonse Conference on College Teaching is a five-day conference held in a rustic camp setting on Lake Michigan. It is funded in part through the Graduate and Professional Student Senate and the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching. A limited number of Iowa State faculty and graduate students attend Wakonse each year, along with representatives from other colleges and universities. The conference consists of interactive presentations, discussions, and hands-on activities related to teaching. Following the conference, graduate student participants return to ISU to share and promote the excitement of teaching with other TAs through CELT-sponsored workshops and discussion groups.

The ISU Graduate and Professional Student Senate has established the following minimum application criteria:

  1. At least one semester of teaching experience as an instructor or TA
  2. At least one year of graduate school remaining, to be completed on campus
  3. Willingness to participate in the CELT's teaching seminar at the beginning of the fall semester and a monthly discussion group focusing on issues relevant to graduate student instructors.

Applications are due early spring semester and must include:

  1. Statement of
    - teaching experience (including past teaching awards)
    - teaching philosophy
    - future teaching plans (including how the Wakonse Conference will help you attain your future plans)
  2. A letter of recommendation from someone capable of evaluating your teaching.

Teaching Portfolios

A teaching portfolio is a collection of statements, products, and responses about your teaching. Portfolios can serve many purposes. They are often requested as part of the application for a faculty position, and they are increasingly becoming part of dossiers for promotion and tenure. Portfolios can show how you have developed and grown as a teacher, produce a record for departmental archives, and share information about teaching within your discipline.

Although each portfolio is a personal project, containing what is most relevant to your teaching, portfolios usually have some basic components in common. Most portfolios begin with a philosophy of teaching statement, followed by a narrative that includes the items or excerpts from the items discussed below. The original documents are then included in an attachments file.

Philosophy of Teaching Statement: This is your personal statement about how you teach, how you relate to students, how you make material accessible, etc. Everything else in the portfolio should be congruent with your philosophy.

Teaching Responsibilities: This section of the portfolio is not just a list of courses taught, but an explanation of their content, your approach to teaching them, how they fit into the departmental/college curriculum, and anything else that will help someone understand your teaching experiences. Remember, course numbers are irrelevant to people in other institutions; always use course titles. You may also include information from student evaluations of your teaching in this section, though you may wish to create a separate section on evaluation, including peer evaluation and supervisor evaluation. And don't forget quotes from students about what a great teacher you are.

Evidence of Scholarship: Whenever you develop something yourself in order to help students learn better, you are engaging in scholarly activity related to teaching. If you have written case studies, developed problem-based assignments, written protocols for lab procedures, etc., be sure to include these and discuss how you developed them, their use, and their effects on student learning. Not all experiments have to be successful in order to add to the knowledge about what works and what doesn't. You should, of course, also include teaching-related papers, journal articles, conference presentations, and other ways you have disseminated information to your colleagues about teaching in your discipline.

Student Work: You will want to include examples of outstanding student work to show what can be accomplished with your instruction. You could also show how you give students feedback to help them improve, and you could even include "before" and "after" examples to show improvement. If your course conducts pre-test and post-test exams, if your students have won recognition for their work, or if they have gone on to particular success in the field, be sure to note these accomplishments.

Note: It is important to remember, however, that you must always obtain permission from students to use their work in teaching portfolio, scholarly research, or as classroom example. Once you are given permission to use a student's work, you should remove all identifying information to protect the student's privacy.

The most effective portfolios are developed over time and are revised often. Collecting items as they occur in a designated file, drawer, or box usually works best. For more information on developing a portfolio, look at Peter Seldin's The Teaching Portfolio, 2nd ed., Anker Publishing, or go to the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching website.

adapted from Lee Haugen, ISU Center for Teaching Excellence (now Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching)