All graduate students are required to serve as a Teaching Assistant in at least one course for academic credit before the Ph.D. degree is awarded. Appropriate courses may be undergraduate, graduate, or medical, but must be in the Biological Sciences Division (exceptions may be made for students in the Biophysical Sciences program).
To be eligible for credit, a course must offer the TA significant teaching experience, such as giving a full-length lecture, running a lab or field trip, or leading regularly scheduled, weekly discussion sessions. Faculty should be prepared to mentor the teaching assistant in the development of their teaching skills. Both the Teaching assistant and the faculty mentor must complete the Teaching Assistant Compact.
For those students who feel unprepared for teaching, a TA Training Course is offered every academic year (usually in Autumn or Spring). This course may count as one of the two TA credits.
Students may not TA for pay before completing the requirement; they may only TA the same course twice IF there is significant changes in responsibilities and opportunities to learn new skills in teaching.
FAQs for the Evaluated Teaching Requirement
All BSD graduate students are required to fulfill the evaluated teaching requirement by serving as a teaching assistant to at least one course. Evaluated TA experiences are tracked through the registration system as a Pass/Fail course. You must pass your TA experience, and also complete a second professionalization requirement—which for most students will be achieved by a second evaluated TA experience—before receiving the Ph.D. degree. You may not be paid to be a TA until your professionalization requirement has been completed.
- Talk to your program’s faculty about courses they teach.
- Talk to your program administrator, who may have ideas about which courses are looking for teaching assistants.
- Talk to senior graduate students about courses for which they have served as teaching assistants.
- Occasionally, notices go out regarding teaching opportunities through the BSD graduate student listserv.
- Contact the course instructor directly to apply for the TAship.
It must meet the following criteria:
• The course must be offered in the Biological Sciences Division to undergraduates, graduate students or medical students. Courses in other divisions are not eligible (exceptions may be made for students in the Biophysical Sciences graduate program).
• The course must require significant student contact and a high level of teaching-related activities. Eligible TA-ships must contain at least one of the elements listed below:
o Running laboratory sessions or leading field trips.
o Giving one or two formal, instructor-monitored lectures in the course.
o Leading weekly TA-run discussion sessions that are a required part of the course. Giving only one or two review sessions before exams is insufficient to meet the requirement.
• The course instructor must be willing to fulfill certain obligations, both formal (written evaluation, grade recommendation) and informal (communication with the TA on goals and expectations of the course at the beginning, continual monitoring and feedback on problems and progress throughout, and discussion about instructor’s evaluation of the TA at the end of the course). Students should expect this kind of interaction with the course instructor of a teaching assistantship.
• If it is your second time teaching the same course, you must have teaching responsibilities that reflect your increased skill level (see below).
You may not TA the same course if you will have the same responsibilities the second time.
You may TA the same course if the second time offers you an opportunity to expand your teaching skills. For instance, if the first time you served as a teaching assistant you were assigned primarily to lead discussion groups and review sessions; then the second time you would be assigned to give one or more course lectures instead of leading discussions. Or if the course has been substantially redesigned between the first and second time you have taught for the class.
Yes, there are several options:
• You may choose to take the TA Training Course (BSDG 50000; offered once per academic year) to complete one of the two Professionalization requirements. If you take the TA Training Course to meet one requirement, then your second requirement must be met by serving as a TA. The course is limited to students who are 4th year and earlier; it is designed for students who wish to improve their skills as teaching assistants before their first teaching assistantship, or for students who need to build additional skills after a challenging teaching experience. It may also be helpful for students who are planning to teach as part of their future career path. Students who wish to take the course at a stage beyond their 4th year must petition to do so (please contact Melissa Lindberg for details).
• Serve twice as a Course Assistant to the annual week-long Quantitative Approaches ‘Bootcamp’ (contact the Dean for Graduate Affairs if you are interested in being a TA to the Bootcamp).
• TA an intensive course offered to UChicago students at the MBL; note these are typically 3-week long residential courses offered in Spring Quarter or September.
• Complete a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Assistantship (DA-ship). DA-ships can take a variety of forms, including pedagogical experiences outside the University that enhance STEM training for disadvantaged or underrepresented groups. While BSD has a long tradition of allowing such experiences to substitute for a TA-ship, the broader-based DA-ship program is being piloted for the first time in the 2021/2 academic year.
After you have secured a TA position in an eligible course, you must:
- Register it as BSD TAship for 100 units of credit:
- Autumn: BSDG 100-50100-01
- Winter: BSDG 100-50600-01
- Spring: BSDG 100-50300-01
- Summer: BSDG 100-50500-01
- Complete the TA COMPACT;
- Meet with your faculty mentor to go over your responsibilities for the course (there is a section of the Teaching Assistant Compact that your mentor will need to complete);
- Attend a meeting of TAs that will be held in the first weeks of the quarter (except summer: there is no meeting held in summer quarter).
If you do not complete the TA Compact or the registration on time, credit will not be granted. No credit will be granted retroactively.
Follow the instructions at Teaching Assistant Compact. A second link will be sent to your faculty mentor so they may complete the second part.
You will want to meet with your faculty mentor to define your responsibilities, and clarify expectations for the teaching assistantship. Your faculty mentor should agree to give you feedback during the quarter, and must agree to complete the online evaluation after the course is completed.
The number of TA-ships listed for any course is based on a projection of the number of students who will enroll in that course. If the enrollment is very different from the projection, this may decrease or increase the number of TAs required for the course. Students should be aware that even though they may have made arrangements with the course director to serve as TA for a particular course, there is no guarantee that their services will still be required if the number of students enrolled in the course is less than initially anticipated.
You must complete the TA self-evaluation, your faculty mentor must complete the TA evaluation, and your students should complete their TA evaluations before credit is granted.
These evaluations are currently completed in online surveys on REDCap. Links to the evaluations will be sent out at the end of the quarter; each link is individual to the person to whom it is sent.
Course evaluations are not an acceptable substitute for the TA evaluations.
All evaluations will be reviewed by the Dean for Graduate Affairs before grades are posted. Evaluations will be made available to all teaching assistants in a report that will include your TA Compact, your course director's evaluation, your self evaluation, and your student evaluation report.
- Graduate students have the option of taking the Teaching Assistant Training Course for credit, to fulfill a Professionalization requirement. This course, offered every academic year, covers a range of theoretical and practical aspects of teaching in a variety of formats including lectures, panels, and much interactive discussion and presentation. Videotaping students while they present formal, prepared minilectures to the class, followed by self- and class critique, is a hallmark of this course. Faculty participants are selected on the basis of student recommendations as well as high visibility and demonstration of interest in the future of teaching at the University of Chicago.
- The driving force of the course is two “super” TAs, advanced graduate students with extensive teaching assistant experience. Since the TA Training Course involves intensive student participation, enrollment is generally limited to 25 participants. The course number for the TA Training Course (worth 100 credits) is BSDG 100-50000-01.
- The course is designed for students to acquire the skills they will need before they TA; it can also be used to build or refine skills after a challenging teaching experience. Students who are considering teaching as part of their career path may also find it helpful. Starting with the entering class in Autumn 2019, the course will be limited to students who are in their 4th year or earlier. Students who wish to take it later in their career must petition to do so.
- Anyone wishing to sign up for the course should let the Office of Graduate Affairs know (Melissa Lindberg, firstname.lastname@example.org), since space is limited and places are allotted on a first-come, first-served basis, based on a list that is started the quarter before the course is offered. Additionally, the student must register for this course for credit during registration.
- After completing the professionalization requirement, students may hold teaching assistantships for additional pay in courses with unfilled TA positions. Please be aware that teaching is time consuming and may not be appropriate at some stages of your dissertation work; excessive teaching could significantly increase your time to degree. Before considering taking a paid TA-ship you must consult with your faculty advisor, and you may also wish to seek advice from members of your thesis committee and/or the head of your graduate program.
- Medical students, undergraduates, graduate students who do not have to meet the teaching requirement, and graduate students from outside the Division may also hold Teaching Assistantships with remuneration in unfilled positions.
- An exception to the above policy is half-time TA-ships, or “grader” positions, generally carrying a $600 stipend. Half-time TA-ships are never eligible to fulfill a teaching requirement.
- Students with extensive previous teaching experience at a graduate student level are permitted to petition for waiver of the teaching requirement. The petitioner must provide documented evidence of prior teaching with enough detail that the Committee on Teaching Assistants, which decides on petitions, can properly evaluate the previous experience in comparison to the teaching assistant experience at the University of Chicago. Teaching experience acquired while an undergraduate also may be considered, if the students taught were also undergraduates. Teaching experience acquired teaching high school students is not eligible for waiver.
- Exemptions are considered approved only when the Committee on Teaching Assistants delivers its ruling. Questions about petitioning should be addressed to the Graduate Student Affairs Administrator (Melissa Lindberg, email@example.com), 2-3905.
- The TA Handbook
- For more information about teaching resources at the University of Chicago, see the Chicago Center for Teaching.
- If you need help finding resources, if you want to continue to improve your teaching skills beyond the two required assistantships, or if you have questions about anything from how to get students in a discussion section talking to what to do if an undergraduate student disappears from class, the Chicago Center for Teaching has a variety of useful resources. These include their staff and the CCT fellows and teaching consultants. BSD students serving as CCT fellows are an especially useful resource. BSD students serving as CCT fellows are an especially useful resource.