Graduate students teach peers, learn

EDUCATION Graduate students teach undergrads while taking classes of their own.

More than 40 graduate students in the English department populate Merrifield Hall this semester, and while they usually only take six to nine credits a semester, they also teach classes to undergraduates.

English graduate students,  including Roger Powell, teach writing courses that are a part of the Essential Studies curriculum.

By the end of this year, he will have taught four sections of writing classes.

“They kind of let me transition into the graduate studies,” Powell said. “My second semester I taught (English) 110 again, but I had two classes to teach, which was a bit more of a challenge.”

Graduate student Megan Hurley said that the students spend much time together working on their classes.

“We all talk about different classroom strategies and different scenarios of what you can do,” Hurley said. “We all have individual teaching strategies in classes, but we can talk about different ways to teach an assignment or ways to add material to teach it better.”

Preparing to teach

In order to prepare students for teaching, Hurley said the new graduate students are required to take two classes on teaching while also attending teaching workshops and observing other classes.

“Undergraduate writing is different from graduate writing, so it helps you make the transition for how you should be writing now,“ Hurley said.

Powell said although a lot goes into being a graduate student, it is all about balancing everything out.

“I put in at least 10 hours in a typical week outside of classes thinking about what assignments I am going to give,” he said. “I would say that number moves up to 15 to 20 hours when I am grading because, even though the papers are not extremely long, I grade at least 20 papers.”

Still, Powell said he does find time to complete his own assignments.

“In my own classes, pretty much when I am not working on teaching, I am working on my own stuff,” he said. “There are some sacrifices, but I get to help others.”

Good impressions

Hurley said she graduated from UND with her bachelors degree in English.

“I realized that I really, really loved English because of my English 110 graduate assistant,” Hurley said. “So I switched my major to English. All the English professors and part of me wanted to do what my graduate assistant did for other students — not to make them English majors, but help them improve their writing.”

Sophomore Wolfgang Brink is taking English 110 and does not see any downfalls to having a graduate student teaching his class.

“Being that professor-like-figure, you can notice she is not really used to it,” Brink said. “But at the same time, she does a fine job teaching. She teaches you stuff and you write a paper, so you really do not notice too much.”

Mathew McKay is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at