Strategies for Teaching Graduate Students

College and University Teachers: Strategies for teaching graduate students

The key to teaching graduate students is a learning rather than a teaching based program. Graduate students learn best through a learning based program. In other words, graduate students learn on their own with only a little guidance from their professors, much like “independent study.”

Graduate students are adult students who have already received their bachelor’s degrees – the basics, and are on their way to higher learning and higher achievement – master’s degrees, PhDs, Juris Doctorates, and MDs.

Graduate students are more self-motivated than the average undergraduate student. They are usually adults who are in charge of their own education, whereas undergraduates are just starting out and finding out what the world is about.

Graduate students know where they are going and have decided on a specific field of study.

Graduate students have passed the test allowing them into graduate school – they have maintained at least a B average in undergraduate school in most cases.

How Graduate Students Learn

Graduate students learn in a collaborative effort with the professor and other students. The professor supplies information, but the graduate student also supplies information and often more information than the professor.

Graduate students learn by experimentation, research, and experience. They are the innovators with the professors giving them needed feedback, support, and guidance with assessments, evaluation, and mentoring.


Graduate students like instructional seminars. Seminars are especially liked by graduate students because they can get through a lot of information quickly. Power point presentations can be given along with the seminar and are great for giving the graduate student notes.

Seminars are especially good for giving the graduate student extra information that he is not getting in his core curriculum.

North Carolina State University lists their seminars on their website. These seminars provide training for after graduation and entering the workforce and are excellent examples of the types of seminars that could be offered to the graduate student.

* Presentation Skills

* Finance Skills

* Networking

* The Tenure Process

* Managing a Lab

* Emotional Skills

* Grant Writing

* Balancing Work and Life


The University of Pennsylvania offers its graduate students workshops such as

* Balancing Teaching and Politics

* Designing a Sociology or Political Science Course

* Designing a Physics Course

Independent Work

Graduate students should be given projects and papers to work on independently. They may be writing a book or thesis. Rather than the type of lectures as in undergraduate school the graduate student should have the opportunity to research their own material and present their facts. Instead of being taught graduate students are learning through their own research and study.

Evaluations and critiques by the professor are the best way to help with the graduate student’s research and writing projects.

Group Learning

Working in a group setting facilitates excellent cooperation and learning between students and between students and professors. Students learn from each other and professors learn from students. The educational process stays alive and develops.

Students work in groups with each student coming up with their own definition of the problem or solution. The group works as a team on various experiments, research studies, and projects. Papers are written to coordinate with the group experience. Each student can write their own paper or a paper can be written as a group effort by all members of the group. Groups are usually made up of four to six students.

Virtual Learning

In this high tech global world much graduate work is done online and globally. Students can learn to work in a virtual world as team players with other students around the world. This online virtual work can begin to set the pace for real work in a global society. Many large corporations have global workers around the world, such as work in technology, research and development, and science. Smaller tech companies also have international workers working in a virtual setting.

Classroom Participation

Classroom participation is highly regarded in graduate school and helps the student realize his expertise in the subject. Classroom discussion and analysis is very important for the graduate student.

Papers, Presentations, and other Written Material

Graduate students write a lot of papers and many different types of papers. They do advanced research that is written up into papers. They do presentations. It all depends on the type of graduate program the student is in that dictates the type of written material required by the graduate student.

Program Goals and Processes

It is important when designing the program of learning for the graduate student that students have clearly defined goals. Goals can be established collaboratively with the the professor and other students, but they must be written up and known by all students, so that students have clear objectives about where they are going with their graduate learning.

Graduate students must be given information about the PhD process and know exactly what they will be doing in order to gain their PhD. They should know about faculty expectations, program structure; and they should be given timelines for completion of all work such as their research, the thesis, and/or the dissertation.

Cultural Diversity

All professors should be trained in cultural diversity and there should be a cultural diversity workshop for all graduate students. In order to work and live effectively in a global world all students should graduate with a personal and working knowledge of cultural diversity.

Autobiographical Data

Graduate classes should start out with each student giving some information about himself so that students can get to know each other and be able to collaborate more effectively.


Many colleges and universities offer graduate teaching and research assistantships. These are opportunities for the graduate student to begin their professional career as

* graduate teaching assistants

* graduate research assistants

In conclusion, the University of Nebraska states that “Graduate students must be viewed as early-stage professionals…” who have made a “career choice.” They also state the primary purposes of a graduate student.

* scholarship

* independent judgement

* academic rigor

* intellectual honesty

Graduate students and professors at the University of Nebraska work together to achieve

* freedom of inquiry

* personal and professional integrity

* mutual respect

These graduate precepts for teaching graduate students can be a common denominator for all graduate students. Graduate students in a learning environment will be able to realize their highest qualities as graduate students with a graduate program designed especially for the graduate student that is based on learning rather than teaching.

For more information about teaching graduate students: h