Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

What Can Infinity and Beyond Look Like?

Through my various interviews with different members of this year's Math MB team, I’ve gathered very positive feedback regarding how this year went! However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t do better! Thus, below, I have two recommendations. The first one is a set of recommendations that the Math MB team can consider, and possibly other CA teams as well. And the second is a recommendation for larger CA support across all courses at Harvard that utilizes CAs. The recommendations below are intended to provide more support for Math MB CAs through various faucets that are all crucial: personal support, communal support, and support from trainings. 

Set of Recommendations For Math MB 

Providing Explicit Support:

Being a student worker is a difficult task that can get overwhelming very easily, especially if you’re in a new position for the first time. For this reason, many students turn to their professors, leaders, or mentors for advice and support on how to navigate through responsibilities. Although it is clear that CAs can always go to their TFs or the CA Coordinators, I recommend that we work to make this more explicit in the Math MB team. Often times students are too afraid or anxious to ask for help, but if we implement small changes, we might be able to see positive results in our CAs. To make the support that CA Coordinators are able to give to CAs more apparent and explicit, I recommend that we implement more opportunities for CA Coordinators and CAs to interact with each other. This can be done through lunches or through the CA weekly meetings; seeing more of the CA Coordinators at the CA weekly meetings can help litigate the hesitation CAs might feel. Another possibility could be to hold small workshops or advice sessions on certain topics such as procrastination and time management. One current CA commented, “My schedule was packed this semester with classes all in one day, so the only time that worked for me was at 9am. Having my own psets due the morning of class time meant I was usually doing them the night before. All this made it difficult for me to get up so early. Definitely learned from that mistake.Although the ARC Center at Harvard does provide similar workshops, being able to learn from the CA Coordinators directly could lead to more self-agency and comfort within CAs. 

Pedagogy Workshops or Meetings/Info sessions:

Some CAs mentioned interest in learning more about pedagogy and education:
“I would be really interested to get into like learning more about like pedagogy and like different ways to tutor students.” - Hallie

“Harvard doesn’t really have a lot of support for students who want to enter the education field. I think that if I wanted support, I would have to find it, but I don’t know where, so I think it would be cool if the Preceptors or the CA Coordinators held an info type session thing about going into education.” - Anonymous 

For this area, I recommend that we try to bridge and or create connections between the CAs interested in education or pedagogy and either other professors at Harvard, professors or faculty at HGSE, and or the Derek Bok Center for Teaching & Learning. 

Holding Socials:

In order to feel committed, heard, and valuable, having strong connections with team members is crucial in a team. When members have genuine connections with each other, they're able to understand that they each play a role in a shared vision, but also that as team members, everyone is able to support each other. Unfortenatley, although this is alluded in the CA team, some CAs mentioned wanting more of a community within our team:
“I wish that there was like some more Community amongst us… Like a community night or something where I could get to know the other ca's and like we could just talk.” - Hallie

“I really like the idea of having a social outside of CA meetings so that we can get to know each other in an outside of work environment. A team-bonding activity or a fun field trip somewhere could also be a good way for the team to get to know each other better. I also think that this would help the team feel more comfortable asking each other for help because we would know each other better.” - Jackie 

Another CA mentioned that sometimes they felt nervous or frightened to talk to other CAs because everyone was already close to each other.

I recommend that as a team every month, we try and schedule out a date to do a bonding activity outside the context of Math. This can be as simple as a picnic at JFK Memorial Park to as elaborate as an outing to an escape room. Some possible ideas:

Changes to Initial and Continuous Training:

Some CAs have commented on the initial training that is given at the start of the semester by the CA Coordinators:
“It did a decent job for me. It gave me an idea of how to grade fairly and to be aware of several approaches to the same problem that could all be correct.” - Anonymous 

"We had a mini workshop on how to guide students and answer their questions. We also had some time to pretend to be a CA and guide a couple of other CAs through questions. They also gave us some guidance on how to grade."- Jackie

Although there was a consensus that the initial training was beneficial, CAs added that some ideas that could be added into our initial training plus in our meetings. To better support Math MB CAs so that they feel more prepared in the classroom, I recommend that we think about changing the current structure of the initial and continuous training:

The Creation of a Support Hub for all CAs Across Campus

While my initial blueprint for action is focused on the CAs in Math MB, through an interview with Adam Beaver, the Director of Pedagogy & Practice at the Derek Bok Center, it came to my attention that there is a wider need for support for CAs. In our Interview, Beaver had noted a few things:

Regarding CA Trainings, he said:

It's clear that a centralized hub is needed that both contains the courses that utilize CAs and contains easily and readily availabe support modules that CAs can refer back to. So I reccomend:
  1. Make courses aware of the support that the Bok Center can provide for specific topics, such as for Inclusion Training, which can be helpful in very divided concentrations. These trainings can be specific to courses and CAs' needs, and don't need to be universal across all departments. 
  2. Gather the useful information: what courses have CAs, how many CAs are there, what are the different roles of these CAs, and what support could they need. By understanding the different roles and responsibilities that CAs have, we can anticipate the support they might need. (This is a possible feat because recently different CAs I know from different courses received an email from the Bok Center with a survey regarding our experiences as CAs).
  3. Create a Hub with collaboration with the ARC, Bok Center, and Office of Undergraduate Education. First we can start with a shared Google Drive folder or with Dropbox to begin building up support resources and, if successful, can be changed to a separate website or to be part of the Bok Center website for example. This Google Drive below is the one for Math MB. For an initial Drive for CAs in general, specific folders for each course or subject can be added and only given access to CAs in those courses. Within these folders, we can have more folders relating to each role/responsibility the respective CA has and support resources that can range from videos to readings to studies to tips from past CAs. 

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