Student Spotlight: Miguel Ángel Garrido, PhD Candidate in Statistics
In this spotlight story, Miguel Ángel Garrido, a doctoral student in Statistics at Columbia University and Lead Teaching Fellow (LTF) at the Columbia Center for Teaching and Learning, shares how his approach to teaching has changed as a result of attending CTL workshops, facilitating conversations about teaching with peers and colleagues in his department, and collaborating with the interdisciplinary cohort of Lead Teaching Fellows.
Are you a Columbia doctoral student looking for a teaching development opportunity? Consider applying to the CTL’s Lead Teaching Fellowship program. Applications are due March 23rd.
Reflecting on the value and insights gained through these experiences, Miguel offers his own teaching tips for classroom and office hour contexts, and underscores the value of finding and participating in peer communities to support pedagogical development; both of these can be helpful suggestions for first-time graduate student instructors seeking support or advice.
“Collaborating with my LTF peers, Senior Lead Teaching Fellow (program mentor), and people in the CTL broadened my grasp about education across fields, helped me understand better the issues within my department, and provided creative solutions that sometimes are difficult to learn about if we do not leave our own disciplinary bubbles.”
PhD student in Statistics
Role at the CTL: Lead Teaching Fellow, 2019-20
What motivated you to apply to be a Lead Teaching Fellow at the CTL?
Mainly my teaching experience during the second and third years of my PhD program. I was an avid defender of traditional teaching methods, until the summer of 2018 when I taught my first full course. Then I discovered that I ended up really tired after lecturing for 90 minutes and without really motivating or making students passionate about Statistics as much as I wanted to. That is when my conversion began. During the academic year 2018-2019 I started to attend CTL seminars and discovered many new pedagogical tools and strategies. The problem then was to find means through which I could incorporate all these new activities and advocacy within my PhD training and sharing them with my department colleagues. When I heard about the Lead Teaching Fellowship I knew it was the perfect answer!
What have you enjoyed most about your work in this fellowship?
I would mention three experiences: First, getting to know better the teaching practices of my colleagues in the department; in particular what they enjoy doing and are really good at. This fellowship has been a good opportunity to talk more about teaching and not always from a negative perspective, since we tend to complain about those aspects that are challenging or do not work as well as we wanted. There are a lot of great people trying hard to be good teachers/TAs and sometimes they do not find a space to share their thoughts. Second, getting to see changes in the department and how the teaching experience of my peers is improving. For this I need to specially thank Professor Zheng, Department Chair of Statistics, for her effort and for being willing to discuss and share ideas. Finally, last but not least, collaborating with my LTF peers, Senior Lead Teaching Fellow (program mentor), and people in the CTL: these conversations broadened my grasp about education across fields, helped me understand better the issues within my department and provided creative solutions that sometimes are difficult to learn about if we do not leave our own disciplinary bubbles.
Reflecting on your engagements with the CTL and with your fellow LTFs, in what ways has interacting with peers strengthened your own teaching practices?
One of the things that I have appreciated the most is to work with people from other disciplines. In the past, a mix of laziness and self-consciousness prevented me from talking more about my thesis or topics that I feel passionate about: it is vox populi that people tend to be overwhelmed about numerical reasoning, Mathematics, Statistics, data, etc. Having to communicate with them and having to explain to them the rationale behind my ideas made me realize that that biased perception is something we, as statisticians, need to overcome and fight against. This had great implications for my students: now I can better understand why they are struggling with a particular concept and how that can be related with the particular background they come from. In addition, it helped me improve my communication skills and manage in a more sophisticated way the different layers of profundity I need to use when I share my ideas.
What are 1-2 strategies that you use in your own teaching practice that new graduate student instructors might consider incorporating into their own practice?
“Let students do the work for you!” Let me explain myself. I think one of the most successful techniques that I introduced in my office hours is collaborative work among students: during my first years, I tried to do everything for my students and that wasn’t a well-planned strategy. I ended up working too hard and students weren’t learning as much as I wanted. Recently, I have redesigned my office hours to take on more of a workshop format: I give students the opportunity to discuss the problems with their colleagues and ask the questions they have. Students seem to be happier with the new environment, there is a higher participation in the office hours, and students–and I–get a more realistic picture of their knowledge and skill level. So, as I said, let them do the work for you.