Teaching/Extension Credit Requirement

A. Introduction

Practice in teaching through resident education or extension education has great value to graduate students. Students who have these experiences have a better understanding of horticulture and of the rewards and challenges of careers involving education.

Each M.S. and Ph.D. student is required to take two (2) credits of either HORT 602 (Supervised College Teaching)* or HORT 596 with a focus in either extension or teaching. This requirement is independent of the source of funding supporting the student’s education.

The teaching/extension credit requirement may be waived by the department head if extenuating circumstances exist (i.e. the graduate student is on leave from a teaching position in another Horticulture Department).

B. Teaching Experience

The purpose of this program is to give the student a meaningful teaching experience and a chance to develop teaching techniques.

How do I set up the supervised teaching experience?
Discuss the teaching requirement ahead of time with your advisor and consider which course would be appropriate for you to obtain this experience. You should be familiar with the subject material of the course, and the instructor of the course must be willing to serve as the supervisor of your teaching experience. Contact the course instructor ahead of time and discuss the expectations and activities which will allow you to obtain a meaningful teaching experience. If you are in agreement, sign up for HORT 602 during the semester of your supervised teaching experience.

Should I sign up for HORT 596 or HORT 602?
HORT 602 will appear on your transcript with the title “Supervised Experience in College Teaching”, which may have some value in subsequent job searches. HORT 596 carries the title “Special Topics”, which does not indicate the nature of the experience on the transcript. However, because the 602 course cannot be used to meet the 30 credit requirement for M.S. and M.Ag. students -- students in those programs who wish the supervised teaching to count toward the credit requirement should sign up for HORT 596. Ph.D. students would be better off using HORT 602.

Can I meet this requirement through my regular TA assignments?
If the teaching experience is to be conducted in the context of a teaching assistantship assignment, you should request from the department head that you be assigned to the course in which you wish to conduct your supervised teaching. The department head will make every effort to accommodate these requests, but must also consider the needs for assistants in all the courses. Your assignment to a particular course is therefore not guaranteed.

What kinds of activities would constitute a meaningful supervised teaching experience?
You should have direct teaching experience. This means involvement in several types of activities crucial to teaching a course. Examples include designing, setting up, and/or running laboratory sessions, writing and presenting a few lectures, designing quizzes or questions for exams and grading them, leading discussion sessions, and helping develop modifications of the course. An assignment involving only the grading of tests, taking of attendance, and cleaning up of labs is contrary to the purpose of this experience. An important aspect of a quality teaching experience is constructive feedback from your mentor(s). The responsibility for this rests with the supervisor (instructor for the course). The instructor can use student evaluations and/or his/her own evaluations and observations as sources of information. Ideally, your supervisor will provide suggestions on how to improve your performance. Upon completion of the teaching experience, the instructor must write an evaluation of your performance and give copies to you and to the department head. The letter should indicate the nature of your involvement and performance evaluation.

C. Extension Experience

The purpose of the extension experience is to obtain experience in methods and practice of extension education by working with a faculty member with an extension appointment.

How do I set up an extension experience?
First you should select an extension specialist with whom you have common work interests. Discuss possible activities and assignments (see below for ideas) and find out if this person is willing to serve as your mentor and supervisor for this experience. If so, sign up for HORT 596 for two (2) credits, for which you should expect to spend 6-9 hours per week.

What kinds of activities could I do that would constitute extension experience?
This is a very flexible category, and may include direct contact with clientele, adaptive research reporting, or development of extension education materials. Here are some examples:

  • Conduct an on-farm test and present the results to a clientele audience (orally or in writing).
  • Adapt research data for use by extension agents or audiences, e.g. write an article for trade journal.
  • Write an extension publication, such as a leaflet or bulletin, for publication by the PSU Cooperative Extension.
  • Develop a web presentation, video, or audio presentation for use by extension audiences.
  • Facilitate a commodity meeting by assisting with program development, giving a presentation, leading a discussion, or writing the proceedings.
  • Arrange and conduct a tour for an extension audience.
  • Respond to queries from extension agents and growers or other clientele.
  • Assist with problem-solving on-site.