Teacher: Nichelle Frank
Email: nsfrank@rams.colostate.edu
Main Page-- Reflection Essay

            Welcome to my ePortfolio for the graduate teaching certificate at Colorado State University. My name is Nichelle Frank, and I am a graduate of CSU’s MA program in History as of August 2012. Over the course of my two-year program, I had the opportunity to work with four instructors. The majority of my duties were to grade essays and exams, to hold regular office hours, conduct study sessions, and facilitate in-class discussion sessions.

Throughout the course of my graduate teaching assistantship, I discovered that the extent of my comments on student essays surprised students. They had not expected to get much feedback—if any—on their work. While I kept my comments to a minimum, students frequently told me that the comments had been very useful and those that read their comments improved a great deal on their next assignment. Although it is encouraging to hear that students find my comments useful and informative, it is also a challenge since not all students read comments on their writing. I’ve met this challenge by minimizing the number of comments and always including one positive comment on the first page so that students are more willing to receive constructive criticism. I attribute this method of positive commenting to Dr. Jared Orsi. I’ve seen it work with his undergraduate students as well as with graduate students, including myself. Students want to know what they’re doing right, not just how to fix what they’ve done wrong.

For this portfolio, I hope that you will pay special attention to my teaching philosophy. The seeds for this document began in my E608 class with Sue Doe, in which my fellow GTAs and I learned about grading student writing. The course set my wheels turning about how I could best reach students through my duties as a GTA within the History department. Since much of my GTA work involved grading student writing, the most obvious route for reaching students was through my written comments on their writing. This was also one of my most successful ways of reaching out to students. As such my teaching philosophy contains the details on my experiences with providing feedback on student writing.

By including my thoughts about commenting on student writing in my teaching philosophy, I can see that it is just one component in an ever-changing document. My teaching philosophy evolved from a simple statement of my belief in the value of providing students with feedback on their writing to a statement of my beliefs about using history writing as a method for teaching students to work on different styles of writing and to use reliable sources for supporting academic arguments. My teaching philosophy evolves constantly, allowing me to build on the strongest elements and test out new methods for achieving my main goal of helping students identify their strengths and interests in order to motivate them to pursue passions that build on these strengths and interests.

In viewing my portfolio, I hope that you will see the variety of methods I’ve incorporated into my own work. Since I worked with four different instructors during my tenure at CSU, I was able to see many different ways to evaluate students, involve students during class time, work with students one on one, conduct study sessions, and to respond to student writing. I ask that you pay particular attention to my sample lesson plan, which incorporates some interactive activities as well as prepares students for writing assignments. Through careful observation of my instructors as well as through my own experiences, I selected the more effective methods of working with students from a wide variety of backgrounds and with a wide variety of strengths and interests. Using these experiences, I hope to create an engaging learning environment in which students find support as well as tools for improving their analytical skills through writing. 

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