Before becoming a LLUF at the Learning Lab, my interactions with graduate students and even professors and administrators was somewhat limited. I interacted with graduate students who were my teaching fellows during our appointed hour of section each week, but no more, except the rare occassion when I'd dare to stop by office hours. It was all too easy to fall into a mode in which I viewed them as static agents in my learning -- there to shepard us undergraduates through the course. That all changed when I became a LLUF. At the Learning Lab, graduate students work with undergraduate students work with the staff work with professors in active dialogue about how to innovate and improve on course assignments.
My experiences interacting with graduate stuents and professors in the context of the truly intergenerational Learning Lab have allowed me to realize the sometimes messy, constantly improving process of teaching and learning. By participating in that process, I now better appreciate the efforts of my teaching fellows and professors and take more agency in my own learning.
One of the best parts about being a LLUF is the ability to forge a unique connection with courses across the College by helping with their development. When Gen Ed 1080: Engineering the Acoustical World was being workshopped by Bok, I remember helping test a format for short explainer videos that Professor Wood was hoping to include with the course so as to ensure students of all math backgrounds could feel comfortable in this cross-disciplinary course. I was an eager participant as Professor Wood explained frequency and amplitude, drawings of sine waves spilling across the paper. It was such a memorable experience to interact with a professor in this setting -- to witness his excitement about the development of this course bringing math, physics, and music in conversaton and his desire to make it accessible. A year later when the course was in the catalog and a friend casually mentioned that they were thinking of taking it, I remembered sitting in the small studio with Professor Wood and enthusiastically endorsed the course.
As an OEB concentrator, I still remember being awed when I met an LLGF in the OEB department who was working on assignments for OEB 52: Plants. Seeing her enthusiasm and her presentation of her assignment for the class to the LLGF working group, I began to see the syllabus and course assignments no longer seemed like rote markers set in stone and duly executed, but adaptive attempts to engage students in learning.
- There’s usually 3-4 undergrad researchers in my lab + when I’m teaching I’m hanging out with another 8-15. Undergrads in lab: mostly just small talk, some light mentoring+technical help. Undergrads in courses: discussion, office hours, light lecturing
- I definitely feel like I’m on more of a peer basis with LLUFs, we’re all there for similar reasons and I’m in less of a supervisory/educational position w/r/t them, so I’m able to be a lot more relaxed
- I find that a lot of grad students tend to get pretty jaded about undergrads (in terms of focus, commitment, arguing about grades) soon after they begin teaching--possibly an attitude they pick up from their own mentors/advisors/postdocs. So I’m grateful for the chance to hang out with LLUFs, I feel like it’s been really grounding to be able to connect with undergrads on a more casual personal level at a time when I’m also learning how to manage a classroom, advise students etc.
- As a Resident Tutor in Currier House, I live with undergrads everyday (normally, at least). My roles are BGLTQ, Race Relations, and CARE, so much of the stuff I do in Currier is based around advocacy for diverse or marginalized communities. That said, I also hang around many of the gamers in the House. In fact, we usually have Smash Bros. game nights at least once a month. Beyond that, the study breaks for my entryway are usually low key with Thai, Indian, or Tex Mex food from many of Cambridge’s best restaurants.
- Most of my interactions with undergrads in the Learning Lab revolve around Gamelab meetings where we talk about game mechanics as applied to the classroom. While it’s always fun to hangout with the gamers in Currier House, the conversation with undergrads in the Learning Lab are more intentional and conceptual in nature. We do more of a deep dive into what makes a game work, which makes those talks extraordinarily captivating as if each conclusion we work toward in the lab has real world consequences. In Currier, chatting about games is just simple fun.
- The Gamelab space is unique because we get instant feedback on ideas we think might be good for a classroom. One of the challenges about designing a course is that usually instructors do that in a vacuum. You might read plenty of research on teaching best practices (if the professor actually cares about teaching at all), but most of it is just an educated guess until you try everything that first semester it goes live. Students tend to pick up on when you’re just figuring things out as you go during the course too. So at least in the Learning Lab, and in Gamelab in particular, we have an intergenerational space where we can talk with students about what the classroom should be like for them in order to see how best to convey the material we want to teach.