Daria Ahrensmeier (Simon Fraser University)
When students start their graduate studies, they face new challenges: managing their time between course work, research and teaching, learning new skills such as reading research papers and writing research proposals, or dealing with difficult undergrads in their tutorial. Since all our new graduate students are affected by these issues to some degree, in 2012 the SFU Physics Department introduced a new mandatory course to not only handle the learning curve in a more efficient manner, but to also create a sense of community among the students coming to SFU from various parts of the world and to clarify the department’s expectations. We will present the course design and the ideas that shaped it. Then, we will show how we included student and instructor feedback in updating the course, with a focus on specific topics including structure and content of a journal article, teaching undergraduates, and research planning. The feedback we received over three iterations of the course illustrated how some topics are much harder to “teach” than others, and helped clarify some of our assumptions – perhaps misconceptions - about teaching graduate students.