Congratulations to Kayla Hale, ecology and evolutionary biology graduate student, on receiving the 2023 Rackham Outstanding GSI Award presented by the Rackham Graduate School. 

The Rackham Outstanding GSI Award looks for students whose teaching contributions emphasize innovative and effective approaches used in the classroom. Nominators are asked to give examples of GSI’s use of active learning, approaches to teaching students from diverse backgrounds, and innovative use of instructional technology.

“I really enjoy meeting students where they are and encouraging them to self-reflect on their learning process,” said Hale. “My favorite part of teaching is not in front of the classroom, but engaging with students one-on-one, hearing what they think is interesting or difficult, and approaching the problem of learning as a metacognitive one that can make use of all of the resources of the class, the university, and their prior experiences.”

Hale has been a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) for BIO 171 Intro: Biology: Ecology & Evolution for the Fall 2018, 2021, and 2022 semesters. This work has led to Hale becoming a Graduate Student Mentor (GSM) for other GSI. Additionally, in the past, she was also a GSI for CMPLXSYS 435 Ecological Networks with her research advisor, Fernanda Valdovinos, as well.

She has some advice for those looking to become a GSI or GSM. “GSI training at the University of Michigan doesn’t provide too much information on actual teaching techniques, so watch your students, professors, and peers to see what strategies are working or not for learning among different students,” said Hale. “Don’t be afraid to ask teachers why they made a specific teaching choice or students what their perception was. However, the GSI training provides fantastic information about how to create a more inclusive classroom, which will ultimately facilitate learning and collaboration for everyone. I use those techniques almost every day, even when I’m not teaching.”