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GSR 989: Philosophy and Practice of University Teaching

Why GSR 989?

Whether or not you want to be a professor, GSR 989 will teach you the skills you need to be an excellent communicator no matter what you do.

I would encourage other students to take this course. Initially I felt I didn't have to take the course because I saw myself as being a research scientist who would maybe just do sessional work/teaching as a side job.  But then taking this course made me realize that it's not all about learning about teaching but there are lots of life lessons I got out of the whole experience.  Even if I do not end up teaching, I will never regret taking this course." -Anonymous student, class of 2009-2010

GSR 989: Philosophy and Practice of University Teaching (formerly known as GSR 989: Introduction to University Teaching) is a non-credit course for all Masters and Ph.D. students on campus with at least some previous teaching experience (teaching assistant, marking, grading, sessional lecturing, etc).  This two-term course will be offered from 2:00-4:30 p.m. on Tuesday afternoons in the 2014-15 fall and winter terms. 

GSR 989 differs from GSR 979: Instructional Skills in that it focuses more in-depth on the philosophy and best practices of university teaching.  Topics include developing a teaching approach, philosophy, and portfolio, the principles of effective teaching and learning, teaching and learning in a Canadian context, strategies such as interactive lectures and group discussions, and specific assessment and evaluation approaches.  Although many of our alumni have taken GSR 989 because they aspire to a teaching career, like the quote above many report that what they actually learn in the course is unexpected: life skills that extend beyond the classroom.  So whether or not you want to be a professor, GSR 989 will teach you the skills you need to be an excellent communicator no matter what you do.  

By taking GSR 989 you will be:  

  • Better prepared to teach, instruct, and communicate as you move into your career as a professor, researcher, or advisor within or beyond the university
  • Exposed to new and innovative ways to teach at the university level
  • Involved in a hands-on learning experience with weekly opportunities to actively practice and discuss the theory and practice of university teaching in a Canadian context

About this Course

Learning to be an excellent teacher is a career-long undertaking, because a great teacher is never a finished product, but rather always in the process of becoming."  -T.E. Cronin

Course Overview

GSR 989 will challenge you to discover or to become more deeply aware of your personal teaching philosophy, approach, and style.  It will focus on the best practices of university teaching, the basics of various instructional techniques, and assessment and evaluation methods across the disciplines. 

One of the most important goals of this course is to challenge you to become aware of how and why you are teaching as much as what you are teaching.  While an emphasis is placed on learning practical skills such as planning and delivering a lecture, generating sound assignments and exams, and grading fairly and efficiently, you should know by the end of this course that teaching tools are difficult to apply effectively without an understanding of why you personally use them. 

For more information on course topics and discussions, check out our course blog at:


GSR 989 is a non-credit (Pass/Fail) course. If you successfully complete the course based on the following requirements, you will receive a certificate and note on your transcript that will indicate a “Pass” in the course.

A “Pass” is based upon:

  • Regular attendance and participation in all GSR 989 classes in Terms 1 & 2. Please note that as per the U of S Attendance Policy regular and punctual attendance is expected to receive a passing grade in the course. This means you must not miss more than 10% of classes over both terms. If you must miss a class, please inform the teaching team in advance with a reason for your absence.  You will be expected to complete any missed work.
  • Satisfactory completion of course assignments in Terms 1 & 2.

If, for any reason, you need to drop the course, you must do this according to the University’s official processes, dates, and deadlines, or else your transcript will indicate a “Fail.”

Ask Our Students

Visit our Accolades and Articles tabs to find out what our graduates have to say about this course, and why you should consider taking it to further your professional career.


Who Should Apply?

Current Masters or PhD students at the University of Saskatchewan who have at least some previous teaching experience, or who will be teaching at the same time as taking this course are encouraged to apply. The course will be offered from 2:00-4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays in the 2014-15 fall and winter terms. 

Visit our Accolades and Articles tabs to find out what our graduates have to say about this course and why you should consider taking it.  Our Frequently Asked questions and Registration tabs will help you learn more about whether this course is a good fit for you.

How to Apply

Interested students must submit an application to the Gwenna Moss Centre to receive permission to register in GSR 989. Applications are processed in the order they are received and spaces are limited.  Applications will be processed for the 2015-2016 academic year beginning April 1, 2015.

Please read the application form carefully. If you are not a current graduate student at the University of Saskatchewan, if your supporting documentation is not attached, or your information is incomplete, we will be unable to process your application.

You will be notified via email whether or not your application has been successful.  Instructions on how to register for the course through PAWS will be provided to successful applicants.

Application Form

Completed applications are to be dropped off to:

The Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness

University of Saskatchewan
Room 50 Murray Building 
3 Campus Drive 
Saskatoon, SK Canada S7N 5A4

Fax: (306) 966 2242

Please do not email your application unless you are away from campus. 


We asked former students from over a decade (2001-2014) what they would like future students to know about the course before they register.  Here's what they had to say:


Good class to take overall.  But be prepared to cover more than just the basics of teaching a class- be prepared to learn about learning!  -Anonymous, class of 2013-2014


Don't let the course name scare you.  The skills you learn, the tools you will be exposed to are transferable to a world wide classroom of all ages, cultures, even corporate boardrooms.  - Anonymous, class of 2013-2014

If you think it is boring, you'll be surprised it is actually not.  You'll have more chances to be engaged in this class compared to other classes you have attended to.  -Lyman Moreno, Chemical and Biological Engineering, class of 2012-2013 


If not a teacher, this course will give you the instructional skills and critical retrospection that will be useful in any future aspiration.  -Rajat Chakravarty, Mechanical Engineering, class of 2012-2013

GSR 989 is great not only for the opportunity it provided to develop your teaching skills and learn about best practices in university teaching and learning but also the unique opportunity to deeply reflect on your beliefs, intentions, and actions is really helpful in understanding yourself as a teacher and a person.

 -Isaac Asiamah, Pharmacy, class of 2012-2013

Approach this course with an open mind; be open and willing to share and you will come back with a plethora of knowledge, ideas, and considerations.  This course is filled with surprises.  -Oral Robinson, Sociology, class of 2012-2013

A good overview of teaching and learning with many hands-on activities.  -Jean Emmerson, Education, class of 2012-2013


I strongly recommend international students to take this course if they want to teach in Canadian universities.  This course will give them the chance to learn more about values and beliefs that are important in the Canadian educational system.  -Davood Ghadiri Moghaddan, Mechanical Engineering, class of 2012-2013


GSR 989 provided a safe and collegial environment to practice teaching, and to learn from my peers.  The instructors modeled the strategies they taught with a high degree of professionalism and enthusiasm.  

-Wenona Partridge, Philosophy, class of 2012-2013 


Though it was a great and fun class, I was hoping for more solutions to teaching problems, rather than reflective practices.  -Anonymous, class of 2012-2013


You should definitely take this course if you are thinking about pursuing a teaching career. It helps you to know yourself more as a teacher and be more aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and to find ways to improve."  -Lina Burgos Liz, Public Health, class of 2011-2012


I encourage other graduate students to take this course. Not only for their academic career, but also for their life!"  -Noorallah Rostamy, Mechanical Engineering, class of 2011-2012


Do not take this class if you are looking for the "right answer" for how to teach. Do take this class if you are interested in exploring, discussing, and debating teaching methods." -Anonymous, class of 2011-2012


This course is so useful. It gives you tools to feel more confident when teaching." -Anonymous, class of 2011-2012


This course is well worth your time! It has opened my eyes to a world of resources, philosophies, and opportunities regarding teaching and learning. Most importantly, it provided a safe place to grow and to learn as a graduate student teacher. Amazing course! I have come away with so much." -Carly Priebe, Kinesiology, class of 2010-2011

One of the things this course taught me is the importance to find yourself as a teacher, and to be authentic. But to find yourself, you need to know where to search and what to explore. This course also shows different ways, roads for the exploration in our attempts to become authentic teachers." Mayya Sharipova, Computer Science, class of 2010-2011

I recommend it [this course] to everyone I talk to. In fact I think it should be mandatory for all graduate students." -Kim Ennis, Art and Art History, class of 2010-2011

An excellent, timely and very informative course. Take this course! It’s a must for any aspiring university professor!" -Radu Stefureac, Biochemistry, class of 2010-2011

I have told a lot of my friends in my college (Engineering). Teaching without taking this course prevents you from performing optimally." -Adeola Igbalajobi, Engineering, class of 2010-2011

If you are teaching now or plan to do so in the future, you owe it to your students and yourself to take this course." -Stephanie Nilson, Animal and Poultry Sciences, class of 2010-2011


I would highly recommend taking GSR 989 to any graduate student who is interested in teaching. I had the unique opportunity to take this course while teaching my first course, which I highly recommend because I was able to immediately apply what I learned in GSR 989 into my teaching practice. GSR 989 provides you with invaluable teaching skills and a perspective on teaching that you likely won't achieve on your own. You also get to be in an environment full of graduate students who can relate to what you're going through. The instructors are also perfectly suited for the class as they are outstanding role models of teaching excellence." -Leah Ferguson, Kinesiology, class of 2009-2010

This course is nothing like you would ever expect. There is material in this course that will blow your minds and take you to the next level in your teaching career. I highly recommend this course for not only graduate student teachers but to all instructors in any university." -Cinnati Loi, Engineering, class of 2009-2010

I would tell other students interested in taking this course that the timing needs to be right for them to have the maximum effect. The 1st half of the course goes pretty deep into yourself and if you're not ready for that (I wouldn't have been 2 years ago) then you might lose your patience before you get to the more tangible benefits." -Joel Frey, Engineering, class of 2009-2010

I would encourage other students to take this course. Initially I felt I didn't have to take the course because I saw myself as being a research scientist who would maybe just do sessional work/teaching as a side job. But then taking this course made me realize that it's not all about learning about teaching but there are lots of life lessons I got out of the whole experience. Even if I do not end up teaching, I will never regret taking this course." -Anonymous, class of 2009-2010

This course is very interesting and helpful. I'd recommend it to all graduate students and any one who is considering an academic career. GSR 989 will help you to grow as a teacher, and also allows you to reflect on your teaching methods. This course lays out the foundation of teaching scholarship by introducing pedagogical theory and practice. It helps novice teachers to understand and successfully implement different teaching tools, tips, and tricks. After taking the class, you'll be part a learning community that you can seek help from in the future. I highly recommend GSR 989 to all future teachers because of the valuable knowledge it offers." -Nehad El-Sherif, Electrical and Computer Engineering, class of 2009-2010

I would tell other students who want to take this course that it is an excellent start to considering teaching as a career. Certain skills (lecturing, writing exam questions) can be learned with time; this course explores the deepest roots; the WHY you want to teach; which in my opinion is much more valuable than the knowledge/skills you can obtain elsewhere." -June Yang, Veterinary Medicine, class of 2009-2010

I would say that the course offers a very good perspective on teaching and will change how you think about it. It makes you realize how much more there is to it than you might expect." -Anonymous, class of 2009-2010

This course is a great way to get started on the right track in your teaching career. Every teacher needs to know these secrets. More advanced classes to supplement would be greatly appreciated!" -Anonymous, class of 2009-2010


I was able to see myself as a teacher and learner. It allowed me to take a step back and look at myself and my actions from the outside in. I know myself better now I think. If you truely care about teaching your students, this is a great course to take." -Anonymous, class of 2007-2008

This course affirmed that I take my vocation seriously, that I had already put a lot of effort into figuring my teaching approach, and that I still have work to do. I would highly recommend this course to my department and grad students generally, but especially to science students." -Anonymous, class of 2007-2008

Enjoyed that this class really got me thinking out of my normal very small focused box. I thought about a variety of topics across disciplines which was definitely needed!" -Kim McLean, Animal and Poultry Science, class of 2007-2008

I think that this experience allowed me to take time and strengthen how I feel about teaching and how to achieve the goals I have as a teacher." -Izabela Szelest, class of 2007-2008


I am in the midst of taking an introductory class on university teaching in which I am learning basic educational theory as well as the benefits of self-reflection as a means to improve myself as a teacher. Since I began that class, I have been able to really think about how I actually relate to my students and how I want to relate to my students." -Rilla Yaschuk, English, class of 2005-2006


I will soon graduate from the university and my most possible career is to be a faculty in a college/university. By taking this class, I not only realized the importance of the teaching role in a good faculty, but more importantly I learned systematic teaching knowledge and extensive teaching skills. I already applied some knowledge and skills into the lab I taught this term. The reactions from students are amazingly positive compared to my lab demonstration in the last year! I already gained much confidence to be a good faculty from these practice including taking this class! I believe the knowledge and the skills I learned from GSR 989 already take me great advantages for my future career seeking in a college/university." -Huawei Han, Mechanical Engineering, class of 2004-2005


For me, teaching was nothing more than disseminating information to those who lack that information; guiding a novice to learn new things; or simply put, imparting knowledge to others and helping them to acquire new skills. I did not wholly buy the idea that teaching on its own may be conceived of as a profession until I immersed myself in workshops, conferences and other short programs of teaching and learning. My primary concern had been to study, master the material and then pour it out to my audience- how they listen, what they learn, how to reflect on the subject matter, and alternatives to my teaching approach were of less significance to me; and it did not even occur to me for any reflection. Consequently, the importance of feedback, self evaluation, thinking about my thinking, and evaluation of my teaching style were not part of my teaching practice until my encounter with The Gwenna Moss Teaching & Learning Centre. Credit goes to the staff of The Gwenna Moss Teaching & Learning Centre for their well-structured systematic presentations of educational workshops and certificate programs that have greatly challenged most graduate students from all disciplines to reflect on what they teach, when they teach, how they teach, and why they teach what they teach." - Daniel Sem, Philosophy, class of 2003-2004


I am currently at the University of Northern British Columbia [in a tenure-track position]. During the job interview I was asked many questions about what I would like to teach, how I teach, and what my philosophy was. GSR 989 prepared me well for these questions. Faculty members on the search committee were impressed that I brought copies of a teaching portfolio. None of the other candidates had. The search committee was very impressed.- Dr. Bill Owen, Department of Psychology, University of Northern British Columbia, class of 2002-2003


For a while, I was confused with respect to what was the right thing to do and say (whether I should call my profs by their first names, whether it was okay to disagree with them, etc). GSR 989 helped me examine and reflect on the above issues. I only wish this class was offered when I first came!- Dr. Emie Yiannaka, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nebraska, class of 2001-2002

This fall I applied for an assistant professor tenure-track position [....] I had no teaching experience at the time and all I had to show for my commitment to becoming a good teacher was my enrolment in GSR 989. During the campus interviews, we talked about my teaching philosophy and issues that I had already discussed in GSR 989 and had thus examined and analyzed before my interviews. When the department head made me an offer for the position, he told me that I got unanimous votes from the teaching committees." Dr. Emie Yiannaka, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nebraska, class of 2001-2002


Many of our alumni are regular contributors to the GMCTE's newsletter, Bridges. Below are some links to articles written from the alumni perspective related to the GSR 989 course:

Frequently Asked Questions

Over the years we've had a lot of questions about eligibility requirements particularly "teaching experience" and what this means. Here are some of the common questions to help you sort out what we mean. If you have any further questions, don't hesitate to contact us and ask.

Do I meet the course prerequisites? (Click to expand)

Can I answer "yes" to the following questions?

  • Do I have some teaching experience (including marking, teaching a lab or tutorial session, guest or sessional lecturing, coaching, working as a tutor) or will I be teaching at the same time as taking this course?
  • Have I completed the first year of my program of study?
  • Am I registered as a Masters or PhD graduate students in both terms (fall and winter; or terms 1 and 2)? Can I regularly attend class during this time?
  • Am I able to commit several hours a week (outside of class time) to fully engage in readings and complete reflective and practical teaching assignments?

To be eligible to enroll in the course, you must be a current Masters or PhD student at the University of Saskatchewan who has at least some previous teaching experience, or who will be teaching at the same time as taking this course. Priority will be given to students who have already completed the first year of their program of study.

What constitutes teaching experience?

Ideally for GSR 989 your former teaching experience should be at the university, college, or K-12 level, e.g. if you have taught a class, lab, or tutorial (at the U of S, SIAST, or other institutions, locally, nationally, or globally), worked as a teaching assistant, sessional lecturer, or lab coordinator, taken the Instructional Skills course, or if you have taught in elementary or secondary schools.

If you will be teaching when taking GSR 989 (e.g. you have an upcoming teaching assignment for the fall or winter terms) we encourage you to supply your letter of offer or other similar documentation to show that teaching will be an important part of your professional development over the upcoming year.

What forms of documentation are acceptable? Do I need to provide documentation of all my teaching experiences?

Documentation of your teaching experience may include (but is not limited to) the following:

  • An email or letter from a supervisor outlining your previous teaching experience, including the names of courses that you taught and a description of your teaching responsibilities
  • An offer of employment from the U of S or another institution/school where you’ve taught (must outline the courses and dates the courses were taught)
  • A letter from a colleague who has observed your teaching

If you have had several past teaching assignments, you'll need to provide documentation regarding only one of your teaching assignments, preferentially the most recent assignment that you've had.

I have K-12 teaching experience. I'd like to know if this counts towards the "teaching experience" prerequisite for this course?

Yes, absolutely it does. We will ask you to describe the experience you have and to provide some type of documentation from an advisor, supervisor, or from the school.

I'm an international student. I'd like to know if my previous teaching experience from my home country counts towards the "teaching experience" prerequisite for this course?

Yes, absolutely it does. We will ask you to describe the experience you have (e.g. marking, teaching full courses, assisting with courses) and to provide some type of documentation from an advisor, supervisor, or from your institution.

I have many years of teaching experience, just not at the university level. Should I take this course?

We have a range of students who have taken this course with varying levels of teaching experience. Our philosophy is to learn from each other. Since the course is widely based on hands-on activities and discussion, we find students who have lots of teaching experience can really enliven the class but also can be refreshed by the differing perspectives and the new ideas of their peers. If you have had extensive years of teaching experience, we encourage you to come and talk to us about your expectations for the class and what you hope to take away from it. We will try to tailor the course, as best as we can, to suit individual needs each year.

Can I teach or TA at the same time as taking this course?

If you plan to teach and take this course at the same time, please be aware that this course does require a significant time investment and you will need to plan your time accordingly. That being said, many of our graduates feel this is a valuable way to experience learning about teaching in a very practical way.

What if I don't have any teaching experience . . . yet?

If you don't have any teaching experience yet, there are other options available to you. Please consider enrolling in our fall orientation for graduate studentsIntroductory Instructional Skills and our workshops.

What if I'm a post-doctoral student, Teacher Scholar Doctoral Fellowship recipient, or sessional lecturer interested in taking this course?

If you are a new faculty member, a sessional lecturer, or a post doctoral student, our Transforming Teaching course may be better suited to your needs, interests and schedule.

If you have received a Teacher Scholar Doctoral Fellowship, then you must register in GSR 982: Mentored Teaching.