The graduate program in History at Chapel Hill promotes excellence in teaching. Because demonstrated teaching ability is an increasingly important prerequisite for most college and university teaching positions, the department provides constructive instruction in teaching. In addition to orientation programs for teaching assistants, the department has a faculty-student Committee on Teaching (COT) that hosts programs on creative pedagogy throughout the academic year. A for-credit course, which addresses syllabus planning, assignment planning, and teaching methods, is also regularly offered.

If the student has been appointed as a Teaching Assistant or an Apprentice Teacher, she or he should contact the professor with whom she or he will be working. The student should also read the guidelines on TA responsibilities or AT responsibilities. If the student has been assigned to work as a Teaching Assistant, she or he must participate in the Department’s Teacher-Training Workshop which is held before the beginning of the fall semester. Apprentice Teachers are not required to attend these workshops.

In order to get paid for teaching, it is exceedingly important that the student return to the Graduate Coordinator the payroll forms and tax withholding form that are included in the orientation packet that is mailed to the student. Once the student receives that packet, she or he return the forms as soon as possible.

Types of Graduate Student Teachers

Graduate students who are funded by the department (out of the instructional budget) are appointed as either 1) Teaching Assistants (TAs); 2) Apprentice Teachers (ATs); 3) Teaching Mentors; 4) Graders; or 5) Teaching Fellows.

(1) Teaching Assistants will be responsible for no more than 55 students. They are expected to lead discussion sections (of approximately 18 students each; a standard teaching load is three sections), attend all lectures, do assigned course readings, hold at least one office hour per week, and grade course work for the students in their sections. Under normal circumstances, Teaching Assistants will be assigned to a variety of classes and Instructors over the course of their graduate student careers, to assure their exposure to a diversity of pedagogical methods and perspectives.

(2) Apprentice Teachers are students entering with a BA who work during their first semester an average of no more than 9 hours a week (excluding time spent on reading course materials). Apprentice Teachers do not lead discussion sections or otherwise take personal responsibility for the instruction of students. They may observe others teaching, participate in course planning, do a modest amount of grading, and undertake minor duties associated with the course or other aspects of teaching.

(3) Teaching Mentors were Apprentice Teachers their first semester, who spend their sixth semester assisting first-time TA’s in their undergraduate teaching responsibilities. They will be expected to enroll in HIST 702, the department’s course on pedagogy.

(4) Graders will be responsible for no more than 90 students. They are expected to attend all lectures, do the assigned course readings, hold at least one office hour per week, and grade course work.

(5) Teaching Fellows (Fixed Term Faculty): Advanced graduate students (e.g., ABD students in their final year) may be appointed as a “Teaching Fellow” with responsibility for their own course. Preference for these positions will be given to students who have taken History 702 (Introduction to Historical Education) or who already have significant teaching experience (i.e. taught high school).

Instructor-Teaching Assistant Standards

Although their positions are different, Instructors and Teaching Assistants share a common goal—to create an intellectually stimulating and rigorous learning environment for undergraduate students, while performing their respective duties with maximum efficiency. Within this relationship, both Instructors and Teaching Assistants have certain rights and responsibilities, delineated by the following departmental standards. All of these expectations are intended to accomplish two simultaneous goals, allowing our graduate student teachers to continue their progress toward becoming historians while at the same time providing the best possible educational environment for our undergraduate students. These responsibilities should be reviewed and acknowledged by all parties at the beginning of each semester:

Defining TA Duties: Instructors have the right to define the duties of Teaching Assistants to meet the pedagogical goals of their courses, as long as the actual duties are commensurate with the standards stated here. The Instructor is expected to discuss with the Teaching Assistants all elements of the course, preferably before the first week of class:

  • number and character of quizzes, exams, papers, and other graded assignments
  • amount of grading and clear evaluative criteria for all graded assignments (including whowill provide answer keys for tests, quizzes, and written exams, etc.)
  • due dates and desired return dates for all graded assignments
  • expectations for the length and frequency of TA office hours
  • expectations for the length and frequency of teaching team meetings
  • possibilities for TA guest lectures
  • provisions for review sessions
  • responsibility (if any) for audio visual materials and equipment
  • discussion of any additional TA responsibilities outside of regular class time, such as film screenings or trip to the Ackland Art Museum

Average TA Work Hours: Remembering that our Teaching Assistants are our graduate students, with their own research, writing, conference travel, exams, and course work to complete, Instructors must respect the average 20 hour per week workload (including course readings) over the course of a sixteen-week semester. Both Instructors and TAs should be aware that certain weeks will entail heavy grading and exceed 20 hours of work, but that these heavier work weeks should be balanced by lighter ones. Responsibilities outside class time should be divided among TAs, and time spent screening films for students should be counted in the work total. In the event that a TA must miss a scheduled discussion section, an attempt should be made to equitably divide responsibility for covering the missed sections between the Instructor, the AT, and other TAs.

In order to allow Teaching Assistants time to complete their own academic obligations over the course of the semester, Instructors should make certain that no more than 320 hours of work are expected. Guidelines in the table suggest the time it ordinarily takes to complete these tasks. Instructors should make course assignments consistent with the 320 hours limit, and Instructors will be expected to complete all remaining grading without TA assistance after that limit has been reached. Instructors should use these figures to calculate their course requirements and adjust their expectations accordingly.

Allowed totals 320 20 hours/week 16 weeks
Attend lecture 30 2 hours 15 weeks
Lead recitation 45 3 hours 15 weeks
Prepare for recitation 90 hours 6 hours 15 weeks (includes course readings)
Office hours 30 2 hour 15 weeks
Admin/emails 15 1 hour 15 weeks
Grade 3-page paper 18 20 minutes 55 papers
Grade 6-page paper 27.5 30 minutes 55 papers
Grade midterm exam 18 20 minutes 55 exams
Grade final exam 18 20 minutes 55 exams
Grade Quiz, short assessment 9 10 minutes 55 papers
Meetings with Instructor 15 1 hour 15 weeks
Proctor Final Exam 3 Exam hours

Example: A course in which recitations meet 15 times, and assign 2 3-page papers, one 6-page paper, and a final exam would total 309.5 hours. (30 lecture +45 recitation +90 prep +30 office hours +15 admin +36 2 short papers +27.5 long paper +18 final exam +15 instructor meetings +3 final proctor). Instructors should recalculate for fewer students, different assignments, fewer recitations, etc.

Supervision: Instructors should meet regularly with the TAs over the course of the semester. Many TA’s are working outside their fields, and regular consultations on most important themes, goals of the class, and suggestions for discussions will assist them in their job, provide a better course for students, and offer the Instructor regular information on what is working.

Observation: The Instructor should observe at least one discussion section early in the semester and provide feedback on the TA’s strengths as a discussion leader, as well as areas for improvement. This critique offers a valuable occasion to enhance graduate students’ teaching abilities. Comments may be written or oral, but should not take place during the section itself. Students should be aware that this session is for observation only, and Instructors should not participate in the class.

Grading: It is particularly important that the Instructor clearly communicate expectations of the TA’s role in the grading process, especially grades for student participation, essays, midterms, and final exams. The Instructor should regularly provide the TA with suggestions and guidance for most effective and efficient grading. Apprentice Teachers (ATs) should have only a limited role as graders, and only with faculty supervision.

Evaluation: Each semester Instructors are expected to evaluate in writing the performance of their Teaching Assistant(s) and submit those evaluations to Hannah McMillan at the end of the semester. Instructor Evaluations will be filed and a copy will be provided the TA being evaluated.

Each semester, the Graduate Studies Committee will ask Teaching Assistants to evaluate in writing their experience working with their Instructor. Evaluations will be submitted to Hannah McMillan at the end of the semester, who will forward them to the Director of Graduate Studies. Please note: TA reports will be released anonymously to the Instructor one semester after the conclusion of the course, unless the TA requests that the report be filed as permanently confidential (by checking the appropriate box on the form).

Instructor Responsibilities: Instructors are responsible for determining all the readings and other assignments in the course. Although TAs are never responsible for creating assignments, including them in planning could further training of future faculty and provide important insights into where students are struggling in the course.

Scheduling: Working in conjunction with the staff member for undergraduate services, Instructors are responsible for scheduling discussion sections. Under no circumstances should Instructors expect TAs to schedule discussion sections. In a course with more than one Teaching Assistant, Instructors are expected to correspond or meet with their TA’s prior to the start of the semester to assign sections based on TA availability.

Course Materials: Instructors are responsible for ordering and supplying each TA with desk copies of all books and/or course-packets assigned for the semester. TAs will retain these copies at the end of the semester. Under no circumstances should a TA use personal funds to purchase books or other course materials.

Issues that arise: Respect for varied TA responsibilities: TA’s function also as graduate students, with their own courses to complete, papers to write, exams to take, conferences to attend, and grant proposals to prepare. Graduate students should have two weeks to return papers, and Instructors unable to provide that turn-around time should explain their special needs when they request graduate students. This will give potential TA’s notice and allow them to request courses accordingly. Similarly, limiting the number of days on which they meet students will help them complete their own work.

TA’s with disabilities will be accommodated consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Mediation: Under normal circumstances, Teaching Assistants should make a good faith effort to resolve points of disagreement or complaints with the Instructor. If a TA feels that he or she cannot approach the Instructor, or that his or her attempts to reach a resolution are at an impasse, outside mediation is available by speaking directly to either the Director of Graduate Studies, or the chair of the Committee on Teaching.. Such talks will be confidential. The Director of Graduate Studies will take appropriate action to resolve the conflict. Should this further action not result in a satisfactory resolution, any and all participants may refer the matter to the Chair of the Department.