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In this chapter:
The purposes of the following guidelines for Teaching Assistants (the term "Teaching Assistant," as used in this document, represents collectively all teaching apprentice positions, including Teaching Assistants, Associates, and Teaching Fellows) and supervising faculty are:
University policy specifies the roles and responsibilities of apprentice personnel. Three principles help clarify these roles and responsibilities:
TA assignments are expected to involve an appropriate range of supportive activities, which may include:
The guidelines for TAs and faculty members in the Department of Geography are based on the following assumptions:
Weekly meetings between the faculty member and the course's Teaching Assistants should be held and should include a review of the upcoming section assignment. These meetings should be scheduled soon enough to allow TAs to prepare for the section and exams. Schedules and due dates should be discussed between faculty and TAs well in advance. The supervising faculty member should inform the TAs about the topics of upcoming lectures so that they can properly prepare for sections and students' questions.
The supervising faculty member should ensure that the TAs are provided with enough information about the upcoming section assignment that they are confident and secure about their presentation. The faculty member should make the TAs aware of the services available from the University (e.g., free slide duplication for slides used in courses) and share these resources with the TAs.
The faculty member should provide keys to his/her exams, detailed breakdowns for the assignment of points, and guidelines for grading. This will help ensure that the professor's emphases and not those of individual TAs are reflected in the grading, and will contribute to the maintenance of uniformity among the different graders. It will also help TAs to handle effectively complaints about grading. TAs may be asked to evaluate the quality of the exam before it is given and to identify misleading or confusing questions.
The supervising faculty member is responsible for instruction and grading in all University courses, including discussion or laboratory sections that accompany lecture courses. Thus, although the TA may write all or portions of the discussion or laboratory section assignments, quizzes, or examinations, the supervising faculty member must check the TAs' efforts throughout the quarter to maintain academic standards and provide necessary feedback.
If the TA discovers instances of academic dishonesty for which he/she feels sanctions are justified, the TA must bring the case to the attention of the supervising professor.
While experienced Teaching Assistants may function as valuable resources for other TAs in a course, and may be assigned special duties, the apprenticeship of all TAs is with the supervising faculty member and not with the more experienced TAs. This does not preclude an organizational structure involving a coordinating or "senior" TA in courses with multiple TAs.
The opportunity to give an occasional course lecture may be a welcomed culminating experience for an experienced Teaching Assistant. Such lecturing should be limited in occurrence and carried out under the supervision and guidance of the faculty member. TAs should not be expected to lecture just to substitute for an absent faculty member.
Assignment of a TA to more than one section of the same course is preferred to splitting a TA's duties between two courses. A half-time TA's appointment specifies a 20-hour per week commitment. This time includes lecture attendance, weekly meetings, and teaching of discussion or laboratory sections, office hours, grading, and preparation of instructional materials. If these duties consistently require more than 20 hours per week (or 10 hours per week for a quarter-time TA), the supervising faculty member must choose among the options for the use of a TA's time and relieve the TA of some duties.
TA evaluation should be an ongoing process throughout the quarter, culminating with written end-of-quarter student reviews. Sources of feedback during the quarter for the TA should include gathering comments from the course instructor and students, as a continuing process of refining teaching skills. The TA should be provided with comments from the instructor after a classroom visitation. The videotaping of discussion/lab sections and the follow-up consultation with an instructional development staff member is another course for examining teaching strengths and weaknesses. First-quarter TAs should receive written mid-quarter evaluations from their students; these must be discussed with the supervising faculty member but do not become part of the TA's formal record. At the end of the quarter, the TA receives written reviews from students, copies of which are given to the TA and to the Department. Based on these evaluations, the supervising faculty member should write a short review of the performance of each TA in his/her courses.
Professors should encourage their TAs to provide their own evaluations and information about their students' perception of the quality of the lectures, audio-visual materials, assignments, discussions, readings, examinations, and any other aspect of the course.
A TA's appointment is a binding contract for the duration of the quarter. Once instruction has begun, it is unacceptable for a TA to break the contract for any reason except an extreme emergency. TAs are expected to be available throughout the quarter, including the time needed to assign grades after the final examination.
Normally, the Department of Geography awards TA positions for specified quarters during an academic year. However, promised employment for quarters later in the year may be revoked for unsatisfactory performance during an earlier quarter. Only in extreme cases of incompetence or lack of performance will a TA be dismissed during a quarter.
Students will be considered eligible for teaching appointments based on the criteria in the APM 410 and Red Binder: registered graduate students in full-time residence; evidence of academic excellence and promise as a teacher; maintenance of a 3.0 GPA; in good academic standing; making normative progress to degree; enrolled in at least 8 units; experience and excellence for specific titles. TA positions are usually distributed among first-, second-, and third-year graduate students, and are occasionally assigned to more senior graduate students. When possible, supporting first-year students by other means than TA positions gives them time to become more familiar with the Department and with the discipline. When they then become TAs as second- or third-year graduate students, they are usually more effective and bring more knowledge to the undergraduates.
To the extent possible, TAs will be assigned assistantships in courses related to their previous and professional training. Two criteria are used to select TAs: academic excellence and potential as a teacher. If the graduate student has had prior teaching experience, evaluation of teaching ability is based on written comments by supervising faculty members and students. Otherwise, evaluation of teaching potential is based on letters of recommendation supporting the student's application to the Department.
The University does not tolerate sexual harassment, and TAs who subject students to unwanted attention of a sexual nature can expect sanctions. TAs must treat all students fairly and equally, and therefore should avoid personal relationships with students who are currently enrolled in their sections.
All Teaching Assistants new to the Geography Department at UCSB are required to enroll in Geography 500, the TA training course, during or before their first quarter as a TA. All first-quarter TAs must be videotaped in section, and they must then review the tape with a trained consultant from Learning Resources. To the extent possible, TAs should repeat this videotaping experience every quarter to continue to improve their teaching. Instructional Development provides professional consultation and resources on instructional design, delivery, and evaluation, and it also provides workshops, institutes, and forums throughout the year.
Resolution of Problems
If problems arise about the roles or responsibilities of supervising faculty and TAs, the involved parties should meet with each other to discuss the problem and its resolution. These discussions might involve the TA's Faculty Advisor. If these meetings do not resolve the problem, the TA or supervising faculty member should attempt to resolve the problem through consultation with the Department Chair, who has the responsibility to resolve matters regarding Department personnel.
To prepare for PhD written exams, each student should seek advice from members of their PhD Committee. It is recognized that suggested readings in preparation for the exam will be made up primarily of material that is related to the primary systematic and/or technical area of focus of the student.
There are some general Department of Geography policies that you should be aware of. If you have any questions about any of them, please ask in the office - we're glad to assist you.
To as large an extent as possible, GSRs & PGRs should be housed in research units.
Stewardship of Space
Each person who is assigned space is responsible for maintaining the room in a professional manner. If you would like to clean your desk, shelves, or file cabinets, you can request to borrow green cleaning products from the administrative office. We want to be able to maintain excellent indoor air quality, so please be sure to use only the recommended products when spiffing up your office!