The mentored teaching experiences of a PhD student

The AAC Doctoral Program at Penn State is designed to develop high-quality researchers, teachers, scholars, and future leaders in the field of AAC. As part of the program, Ph.D. students receive training in research-based methods of college teaching, including classroom teaching and mentorship of research and/or clinical experiences of pre-service students.

Today, we are highlighting the teaching experiences of a recent graduate, Dr. Jessica Gormley, who was a student in the AAC doctoral program from 2016-2019.

In order to ease students into classroom teaching, early teaching experiences typically include: 

  • being a teaching assistant for a faculty member in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) for a course,
  • being a teaching assistant for a faculty member in another department, or 
  • guest lecturing in a course.

Jessica gained experience early in her program by serving as both a teaching assistant and guest lecturer. She specifically fulfilled the following roles: 

  • Teaching Assistant, CSD 551: Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) (1 semester)
  • Teaching Assistant, SPLED 419 – Assistive Technology for General Education Teachers (Online course; 3 semesters)
  • Guest Lecturer and Consultant, ESC 497: Multidisciplinary Design: “AAC Home Wi-Fi Alert Device”  (1 semester)
  • Guest Lecturer, CSD 548: Dysphagia (2 semesters)

These early teaching experiences typically lead up to students independently teaching their own section of an Jessica Gormleyundergraduate course. In Jessica’s program, she served as the Instructor of Record for two courses:

  • CSD 451: Introduction to Augmentative and Alternative Communication (1 semester)
  • CSD 296: Independent Study (1 semester)

As shown, Jessica’s teaching record is a great example of how PhD students are able to hone their skills and gain confidence early in their programs before taking on their own course. 

When asked to share her thoughts on her teaching experiences, Jessica shared:

I am particularly grateful for the multiple mentored teaching experiences I participated in (e.g., serving as a teaching assistant, providing guest lectures, being the primary instructor) at Penn State. Through these varied experiences, I was able to build my skills and confidence in teaching while also receiving valuable feedback by faculty and my peers.

I also really enjoyed having the opportunity to gain teaching experience in both face-to-face and online formats. In this day and age, online teaching is becoming more and more prevalent when training pre-service and in-service clinicians. Having the opportunity to learn how to design modules and try out different web-based instructional techniques helped to build my confidence providing online instruction and a broader audience of learners across the country.

Many thanks to Jessica for sharing her experiences as a student in the AAC doctoral program!

For more information on the program, please email Dr. Janice Light (

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