Undergraduate Teaching Assistantships

Recognizing that teaching is a valuable component of learning, faculty members offer undergraduate teaching practica to permit qualified undergraduates to participate under faculty supervision in teaching courses. These teaching practica are intended to enhance the liberal education of the participating students by introducing them, under the guidance of faculty, to some of the aspects of successful teaching. Students receive academic credit for the learning and experience they acquire in undergraduate teaching practica.

Undergraduate teaching assistants must be juniors or seniors (U3 or U4 status). They must have demonstrated mastery of the subject matter by having completed and excelled in the course in which they will be assisting or in a similar but more advanced version of that course.

Undergraduate teaching assistants must not grade any work that contributes to the final course grade, although they may be assigned to read and criticize drafts of work that have already been graded. All evaluations of student performance that contribute to the final course grade are the exclusive responsibility of faculty and cannot be delegated to undergraduate teaching assistants. Undergraduate teaching assistants must not see any version of any quiz, test, or examination nor must they proctor an examination in the course in which they are assisting. Exceptions to this rule may be made only by special permission of the Office of the Dean and College Curriculum Committee.

To receive credit for working as undergraduate teaching assistants, students enroll in a department’s teaching practicum, numbered 475 or 476. These practica are designed to broaden the students’ knowledge of the subject matter of the course and to instruct them in techniques of teaching and evaluation. Students may not be given credit for independent reading or research for teaching assistance nor may they register in the course in which they are assisting. (Upon discovery of the awarding of such credit—at any time—it will be removed from the student’s record.) Only Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory grades are recorded in 475 and 476 courses. Faculty members with either graduate or undergraduate teaching assistants must inform the students in their classes of the status of each teaching assistant. 

Students may earn three credits in a department’s course for undergraduate teaching assistants numbered 475. They may later enroll in a 476 course in the same department, if available, or in a second 475 course in a different department. No more than six credits earned through teaching practica may apply toward the bachelor’s degree.

Faculty Guidelines Regarding Undergraduate Teaching Assistants (TAs)

The specifics of engaging undergraduate students in the teaching of courses is left to the discretion of the Deans of the Colleges and Schools, their faculty designees, and individual course instructors. Undergraduate Teaching Assistants have traditionally completed the courses in which they assist; as such they bring first-hand knowledge of the course from the student perspective, along with a degree of energy and enthusiasm. The establishment of a minimum overall and course GPA should be considered for undergraduate TAs. Serving as a TA is a powerful experiential learning opportunity.  

Utilization of undergraduate TAs places additional responsibilities on the faculty. The teaching assignment must be tightly specified and guided by the course director. The relevant academic unit has an obligation to provide central oversight and to administer guidelines for the use of undergraduate TAs in its courses.

For all these reasons, the following guidelines are provided to assist faculty in the oversight of undergraduate students in the teaching mission:

  • Faculty should have some knowledge of the students beyond their class performance. The course instructor should interview the prospective student; perhaps even having them give a “mock” classroom presentation or other relevant activity to ensure that the student will be effective as a teaching assistant.

  • Faculty are encouraged to work with undergraduate TAs ahead of time to identify any potential peer conflicts. The course instructor should review the class roster with undergraduate TAs well in advance of the start of the semester to identify students who may present a conflict situation and address that thoroughly. In some cases, this may require the recusal of an undergraduate TA in work involving a particular student with whom they have a direct conflict-of-interest.

  • Department (and relevant academic unit) leadership and faculty are all responsible to ensure that undergraduate TAs are aware of University policies on the maintenance of confidentiality, privacy protections, and professional standards concerning the use of grading records, grade reports, and related performance metrics for enrolled students with whom they work.

  • Faculty should work with the students ahead of time to identify any schedule conflicts. Undergraduate TAs should obtain their course schedules and syllabi as far in advance of the start of the course as possible. Course instructors should work with the students to compare the teaching schedule with other courses to determine areas of difficulty, and attempt to resolve all scheduling issues prior to the start of classes.

  • Course instructors are expected to provide all appropriate course-specific training for all undergraduate TAs.
  • Faculty members are responsible for and should maintain oversight of course material prepared by undergraduate TAs. This includes material for lectures or recitations, test questions, homework questions, answer keys, or other related material.

  • Best practice dictates that faculty must maintain frequent and reliable communication with all undergraduate TAs.
  •  Faculty must monitor undergraduate TA instructional performance. This may be done by periodically attending classes or other sessions led by the undergraduate TA, and by sampling the grading work the undergraduate TAs execute.
  • The department (or relevant academic unit) is responsible to provide general oversight of the utilization of undergraduate TAs, serve as a resource for instructors seeking guidance with respect to the use of undergraduate TAs, provide timely reports to the unit leadership on all undergraduate TA issues, and provide undergraduate TAs a confidential resource to discuss any challenges or concerns in their work with individual faculty members.
  •  The department (or relevant academic unit) should obtain and evaluate feedback from the undergraduate TAs and graders on the quality of their teaching or grading experience for the semester. Best practice is to immediately obtain some feedback in the first few weeks of the semester to ensure a smooth start to instruction and to avoid any potential (and significant) difficulties.