Lunch & Learn #2: Mapping RA Development



This was the first (and messiest) whiteboard we created together. All misspellings are mine.

On July 12, our Lunch & Learn focused on mapping RA’s development – the knowledge, skills, or abilities transferable across academic and workplace contexts that RAs bring to and gain from their roles. After a brief overview of the definitions and examples from the tip-sheet, Identifying RA Knowledge Skills Abilities, we applied our reflective and critical efforts to this Worksheet – Mapping Your Development. However, after 10 minutes it was clear that RAs wanted to push the content and processes of this material even further. As everyone shared many questions and anecdotes, I took a whiteboard and mapped out what the landscape of “transferable” knowledge/skills/abilities might look like as we were talking. It was messy and scribbly process, but Tiffany was a great sport as we questioned, critiqued, unpacked, and evaluated her graduate and RA work as our common example! After reviewing our work, everyone grabbed their own whiteboards and engaged in the exercise for themselves. I went around the room offering any help I could, and made note of the guiding questions each RA found helpful for in their individual positions. In the last 15 minutes, everyone shared their work with the group, gave each other feedback on other ways to think about their points, or mentioned a knowledge, skill, or ability they had forgotten to write down.

Our Final Mapping Process

The final product of our mapping process was as follows:

  1. Draw a line across the middle of the whiteboard. Next, draw a large square in the middle of that line.
  2. Label the top half of the whiteboard “Grad school” or “Academics”, and the bottom half “RA” or “TI”. In the top right-hand corner, draw a box labeled “No”. This section helps you distinguish what you are doing from what you are not, e.g.: one RA is looking at theories of gender representation using the works of Erving Goffmann, but is not looking at the works of Judith Butler. Writing “Butler” in the “No” section therefore prompted them to think about what makes Goffmann ideal for their project.
  3. Use the following guiding questions to fill in your “Academics and “RA” sections: What am I studying and working on now? What theories and methods am I using to collect, organize, and analyze data? Where (and when) does the data come from? Which courses have been the most exciting for me? If I was pursue an MA or PhD, what would I study? Further questions and insights will arise in this process. The most important thing is that you write down all points that come to mind even if they don’t make sense or seem to connect to anything else. Add or edit anything in the “No” section as you go.
  4. Step back from the board, look at everything you have written, and ask yourself the following guiding questions: What stands out as most important? What are common titles, verbs, or pursuits? Write all common points in the center box, and reflect on it as a small representation of your many transferable knowledge, skills, and abilities in your current academic and RA roles.


The first surprise was that this Lunch & Learn took an intense and exciting direction I had not planned. However, I was so thrilled at the hard work the RAs put into their tasks that I’m grateful for the detour. They were completely fearless, bold, and open!

Individual RAs also reported surprises regarding how they think about their work, e.g:

  • One RA realized she was a coach (in interest and in job title) in both her academic program and RA positions
  • One RA reflected on his interests in cosmology as abstractly reminiscent of institutional organization and campus outreach programs
  • One RA was excited to see his MA research align with his ongoing interests in educational development and user experiences of educational technology




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