Student Spotlight: Milica Iličić, PhD Candidate, Department of Slavic Languages

by | Jul 28, 2022

Milica Iličić, PhD Candidate, Department of Slavic Languages
Completed the Teaching Development Program (Advanced Track) in Spring 2022



In this spotlight, Milica discusses her experience in the Advanced Track of the CTL’s Teaching Development Program (TDP), including the CTL offerings that were most instructive. She also shares her experience creating a digital teaching portfolio as a capstone assignment for the TDP, and shares teaching strategies that she has found effective.

What motivated you to join the Teaching Development Program? Did your motivations shift or change when deciding to join (and complete) the Advanced Track?

I first joined the Teaching Development Program because some of CTL’s offerings directly appealed to my needs and interests: there was a workshop series on slow and mindful teaching, and the syllabus design seminar helped me design the course I taught as a Teaching Scholar in 2021. In these workshops, I realized that I enjoyed thinking about my teaching practice on a deeper level, and that understanding the underlying principles of learning greatly improves my students’ experiences. Shifting to the Advanced Track was a natural continuation of this journey: I wanted to delve more into observation and feedback opportunities, and from that point on it simply didn’t make sense to not get a formal certificate.

Through your work in the TDP, you have been exposed to so many of the CTL’s offerings—the Course Design Seminar, LTF-led events, learning communities, the MOOC, observations, and more! Is there a particular offering (or two!) that stands out as being particularly enjoyable and/or instructive? If so, why?

The Course Design Seminar was definitely the most rewarding: in addition to being a crash course on all the building blocks of evidence-based teaching, it made me think more deeply about my own work and understand why it is meaningful, and how to communicate its importance to others.

You recently put together a digital teaching portfolio as a capstone assignment for the TDP. What was that experience like?

The time I was creating the portfolio overlapped with my first and final round of academic job applications, and summarizing my teaching development helped me understand that I am an educator first, scholar second. It made me realize that I would not be happy with a research-heavy academic career, inspired me to seek out professional opportunities elsewhere, and helped me realize that the scope of my professional training and ability is much broader and much more transferable than I thought. Improving access to education and helping people learn is my core value, and I will continue to seek out opportunities to act on it regardless of where I land after graduation.

Looking back on your engagements with the CTL, in what ways has interacting with peers strengthened your own teaching practices?

I benefited the most from exposure to the implementation of the same teaching principles in disciplines different from my own. My colleagues from other departments helped me think outside of the box, and identify issues and solutions I couldn’t have noticed on my own.

Finally, 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?

Rigorous, minute-by-minute lesson planning is a habit I developed in my hands-on training as a solo instructor in the Russian program and deepened through CTL. I start out with defining objectives for the individual class, mindful of how it fits into the overall course goals. I then make sure that each activity serves that goal, that sufficient time is allotted for it, and that no time is wasted on activities that do not contribute enough. Gradually, I also developed a keen intuition for balancing this pre-set structure with the organic flow of the lesson, which often changes as students interact with the material and the activities. Overall, this structured approach is great for cultivating intentionality and implementing the principles of objective-oriented teaching. It feels daunting and time consuming at first, especially since defining good learning objectives can be challenging, but it becomes easier with practice—and it is 100% worth the effort!