Statement Of Policies For Teaching Apprentices

      1. Introduction
      2. TA Rights and Responsibilities
      3. Supervising Faculty Responsibilities 
      4. Departmental TA Issues
      5. TA Consultant Appointment and Responsibilities
      6. TA Group Organization
      7. Distinguished TA Nominations

1. Introduction

The Department of Linguistics generally has a number of Teaching Apprentice positions available. (At present, the Department has a total of 70-80 one-quarter TAships, excluding summer.) About half of these are for undergraduate Linguistics courses with large enrollments (especially Ling 1 and Ling 20). The others are for upper-division core courses with relatively large enrollments of about 40 students or more (especially Ling 103, 110, 120A, 120B, and 130). In addition, a few other upper-division courses involving heavy loads of written assignments and/or extensive tutorial work for technical material and/or supervised use of computers or Phonetics Lab equipment have TAs assigned to them.

TA experience serves two roles from the perspective of graduate students: it provides crucial training in teaching techniques, and it functions as a source of financial support.

2. TA Rights and Responsibilities

A. Teaching Assistant (From Policies & Procedures for Academic Personnel)
B. TA Responsibilities
1. Workload

Teaching Apprentice appointments are generally made at the level of 50% FTE, which is equivalent to a workload of 20 hours per week. This includes time spent attending class lectures by the faculty instructor, teaching tutorial sections, preparing for sections, grading assignments and tests, holding office hours with students, and meeting with the professor. All TAs are expected to gain some experience in both teaching and grading. though the precise distribution of the workload may vary from one course to another. In any event, the workload should never exceed 20 hours per week, on average, through the quarter.

In a few cases, TAs may be appointed at 25% FTE. These “half-TAships” should likewise involve both teaching and grading, and the workload must be at most 10 hours per week, on average, i.e. they should be equivalent to half the workload assigned to a regular (50% FTE) TA position.

2. Section Enrollment and PTEs

Students taking the course will normally enroll in sections through the automated URSA system. In addition, some students who cannot enroll in this way may be assigned PTE numbers by the TA: a list of valid PTE numbers for each section are can be given to the TA beforehand by the supervising faculty instructor. If students request PTE numbers for sections that have reached the enrollment cap, the TA should consult with the faculty member to discuss policies for overenrolled sections. See also Supervising Faculty Responsibilities, Section 3F below.

3. Section Curriculum

The section curriculum shall be worked out in advance between the TA and the professor. In some courses, the professor may ask the TA to cover particular material in the section, and may even provide lesson plans and/or handouts for the TA to use. In other courses, the professor may give general guidelines and leave the details of instruction up to the TA. However, if the TA requests more guidance in preparing lesson plans, the instructor should, within reason, be available to provide such assistance.

4. Desk Copies

TAs will be provided with desk copies of textbooks used for the course, free of charge. TAs will also be provided with any other teaching materials necessary for the course, and will have use of the Department’s photocopying facilities. TAs will also be assigned a desk in an office to prepare lectures and grade written work, as well as place to meet with students.

5. Lecture

TAs will normally be expected to attend lectures given by the faculty instructor, both in order to gain exposure to teaching techniques, and to know first-hand the classroom lecture material that students are exposed to. This is especially important given that TAs will often be asked to grade written work that may be based in part on class lectures.

6. Office Hours

TAs will normally be expected to schedule regular office hours to meet with students enrolled in their sections. These office hours should be announced to students at the beginning of the course, and should be held for at least one hour per week for each section of 20-25 students. TAs may also be asked to hold special sections prior to midterm tests and final exams, provided that this does not entail an excessive workload in terms of the number of hours per week overall.

7. Exam

TAs should be available to assist in proctoring midterm tests and the final exam, and may be required to assist the instructor in grading these. (Some courses with large enrollments (especially, Ling 1) may have machine-gradable exams; in such cases, the TAs normally assist the instructor in tabulating grades. In no case should the TA be given full responsibility for designing the weekly assignments or preparing the midterm tests or final exam. Although the instructor may invite the TA to contribute individual questions for assignments and exams, the instructor should play a central role in designing these.

8. Grading

TAs will normally be expected to grade written assignments and to assist the faculty instructor in grading midterm tests and final exams. The professor will normally provide explicit guidelines for grading each assignment. (See also Supervising Faculty Responsibilities Section 3B below.) If the TA is in doubt about any matters related to grading, he/she should consult the professor.

9. Weekly and Other Meetings with the Professor

The TA will normally meet at least once per week with the professor, to discuss material covered in lectures and sections, grading procedures, student performance, and any other matters of concern to either party.

10. Keeping Old Exams, Assignments, and Grading Records

University regulations require that final exams on which grades are based shall be kept for at least three years. For this reason, while written assignments and midterm tests will normally be returned to the students, final exams and all grading records shall be kept either by the faculty instructor or in the Department archives. It is the responsibility of the supervising faculty member to ensure that these requirements are met; accordingly, TAs shall turn over to the professor any and all grading records, final exams, and any written work that has not been returned to the students, at the end of the course.

11. Illness and Other Emergency Absences

a. Short-term Absences

When TAs cannot attend a lecture or teach a section because of an unforseen illness or emergency, or because they need to travel to a conference to present a paper, they may find another qualified graduate student to fill in for them on an ad hoc basis, provided that they inform the supervising faculty member. In some cases, the professor may fill in for the TA. In general, such absences should be kept to a minimum, because of their disruptive effects on the class.

b. Long-term Absences

If a TA cannot fulfill his or her functions for an extended period, it may be necessary to reassign the TAship. The Department does not have rigid guidelines covering such situations; each case will be worked out by the Department Chair in consultation with the faculty instructor and TA.

12. TA Training

All TAs working in the Department must have completed the Department’s TA training course offered each spring. Exceptions to this policy will be made only in unusual circumstances, such as (a) if the student TA has completed a similar TA training course in another department, or (b) if the TA is urgently needed because of a shortage of available qualified TAs (e.g. for an upper division course requiring specialized technical knowledge about course material).

C. Role of TA Consultant

The TA Consultant is available as a trouble-shooter to assist TAs throughout the year. In addition, the TAC will keep TAs informed of University policies affecting them, and teach the TA training course during the Spring quarter. The duties and responsibilities of the TAC are described in further detail below.

D. Problems

TAs are encouraged to discuss any problems that they encounter with the professor teaching the course. In addition, TAs should feel free to discuss problems with any or all of the following individuals: the TA Consultant, the Director of Graduate Studies, the Graduate Student Affairs Officer, and the Graduate Linguistics Circle representative. It is in the interest of all concerned (TAs, faculty, and students enrolled in the course) for problems to be addressed and resolved as soon as possible.

3. Supervising Faculty Responsibilities

A. Supervising TAs

The professor teaching the course is responsible for supervising the TA(s) in all aspects of TA performance. In the case of TAs with extensive teaching experience, this may require less close supervision than with new TAs. There are no strict departmental guidelines governing this process, but if the professor is in doubt about what is expected, he or she should consult the Director of Graduate Studies and/or the TA Consultant.

B. Written Assignments

The professor will normally be responsible for designing written assignments that students enrolled in the course are required to do. The professor will also provide explicit guidelines for grading each assignment. This is especially important in courses with more than one TA, in order to ensure uniform grading procedures for all students enrolled in the course. In general, such instruction will not only include matters such as the number of points to be assigned per question and what the “right answer” is (if this is applicable), but should also cover matters such as partial credit for incomplete or incorrect answers, and how to handle cases of suspected cheating or plagiarism, etc.

C. Exam Grading

Although the instructor may invite the TA(s) to contribute individual questions for midterm tests and the final exam, the instructor bears primary responsibility for designing tests and exams. TAs are normally asked to assist the professor in grading midterm tests and exams, but the faculty instructor should provide explicit instructions on grading procedures, as in the case of written assignments, as described above.

D. Weekly Meetings With TAs

The TA will normally meet at least once per week with the professor, to discuss material covered in lectures and sections, grading procedures, student performance, and any other matters of concern to either party. If no regular meeting time is scheduled, the professor should nevertheless ensure that the TA has the opportunity to discuss these matters as the need arises.

E. TA Observation and Feedback

The professor may attend one or more section meetings to directly observe each TA’s classroom performance, and to provide advice to the TA on teaching style. This has the advantage of providing feedback to the TA, and of providing the faculty member with firsthand knowledge in evaluating this aspect of TA performance. (Both factors can be advantageous to the TA; the former for helping the TA to refine teaching techniques, and the latter for providing the basis for positive letters of recommendation at a later date.) Some faculty members are reluctant to attend TA sections because they feel that this might make the TA feel uncomfortable or imply a lack of trust in the TA’s ability. University policy on this point is that faculty observation should be considered a normal aspect of TA training, but because faculty opinion is divided on this point, the Department has not adopted an explicit policy requiring such observation; it is left to the discretion of each professor.

Aside from this, the faculty instructor will normally review at least some of the assignments and exam questions graded by the TA, in order to ensure that students’ grades are determined in a fair and competent way. In addition, the professor will be available to students enrolled in the course (for instance, in regularly scheduled office hours) to confidentially discuss any problems that the students may have with their TA, whether it pertains to teaching effectiveness, grading, or any other matter of concern to the students.

F. Section Enrollment

The professor teaching the course bears ultimate responsibility for student enrollment in sections. In general, it is desirable to have relatively even enrollments across sections, and the faculty instructor should ensure that no TA is given an excessive teaching or grading load. In courses with multiple TAs, if certain TAs end up with significantly larger section enrollments than others and if this situation cannot be rectified, the faculty instructor shall take measures to ensure an even distribution of workload among the TAs, e.g. by having other TAs help with grading assignments, or bear a heavier load in grading tests, etc. In general, overenrolled sections should be avoided, not only because of the workload for the TA but also because they have a high student-teacher ratio.

4. Departmental TA Issues

A. Rank of Appointment The qualifications for the various ranks of TA are set by the UCLA Graduate Division:

1. Teaching Assistant

This rank is assigned to TAs with less than three quarters of TA experience at UCLA or approved collegiate teaching experience at a comparable institution.

2. Teaching Associate

This rank is assigned to graduate students who have an MA or who have completed at least 36 units of graduate coursework (not including 375 or 495) and who have at least 1 year of TA experience at UCLA or approved collegiate teaching experience at a comparable institution.

3. Teaching Fellow

This rank is assigned to graduate students who have been advanced to candidacy and who have at least 2 academic years of TA experience at UCLA or approved collegiate teaching experience at a comparable institution.

B. Application Process

Early in the Spring quarter of each year, graduate students in the Linguistics Department and in related graduate PhD programs are invited to apply for TA positions in the Department for the following academic year. Announcements are e-mailed to each student, with regular mail and other communications employed where appropriate. The application form asks students to list their qualifications, including completion of the TA training course, previous TA experience in various courses, and any other qualifications that they deem relevant. (These may include special expertise relevant to a particular course, or any other potentially relevant factor.) Students are also asked to state their entitlements or special needs, including prior support commitments by the Department, or financial need, or a desire for TA experience. (The student may have been granted no prior TAships, or very few prior TAships, or no prior TAship in his or her area of specialization). The application form also asks prospective TAs to state their preferences for which courses they would prefer (not) to be TAs for, which professors they would prefer (not) to work with, etc. In this context, they are invited to state any particular qualifications they may have for particular courses. Professors are also invited to state TA preferences. The Director of Graduate Studies attempts to balance the needs and preferences of individual professors and prospective TAs, so as to accommodate them when possible, while maintaining an effective utilization of TA resources to serve general teaching needs and obligations.

C. Criteria for Appointment

The major criteria used in determining TA appointments are:

(a) Academic record (a minimum GPA of 3-0 and satisfactory progress in the graduate program is required); likewise, completion of the TA training course is required.

(b) Prior support commitments from the department, usually (but not always) granted at the time of admission and recruitment

(c) Other financial support priorities—for graduate students in the Department and for students in associated graduate programs (such as the IDP in Applied Linguistics and the Romance Linguistics program)

(d) Special qualifications for specific TA positions, e.g. expertise in an area necessary for effective TA performance in certain courses, or additional requirements for the TA Consultant position;

(e) The student’s need for TA experience (as outlined under Section B above).

With regard to weighting these criteria, all TAs must satisfy the criteria listed under (a) above. Allotment of TAships then proceeds as follows.

First, the department allots however many TAships are required so as to fulfil prior support commitments listed under (b) above, without regard to the specific courses assigned. Prior support commitments can also be met by a combination of fellowship support and RA support, so there is some flexibility in the number of TA slots assigned according to this criterion, depending on a variety of factors, some of them beyond the control of the Director of Graduate Studies (e.g. the awarding of RAships by grantholders).

Second, the Department awards TAships to other graduate students in the Linguistics PhD program (including pre-MA students), in accordance with the Department’s general priorities for graduate student support. In general, the Department seeks to ensure full support for all students in their first five years in the graduate program. The Department believes that students should normally be able to complete all requirements of the PhD within this time, and does not have the resources to provide full support beyond this period. The definition of “full support” is: (a) Nonresident tuition (where necessary), (b) fees, and (c) the dollar equivalent of three quarters of TA enumeration, at the lowest level. The practical effect of this is that students who are not employed at 50% time as RAs or TAs during a given quarter will normally be awarded stipend support. Owing to funding shortages, this may not always be possible; in such cases, the Department seeks to ensure as equitable a distribution of various forms of support as circumstances permit.

Third, there are specific courses that require special qualifications for TAs assigned to them. Usually, such TAs can be found among the priority pool of TAs selected under the above criteria. In some cases, however, it may not be possible to select a TA from this pool, and it may be necessary to award a TA position to a graduate student who might not have been chosen strictly on the basis of the financial considerations outlined above. For instance, a student holding an outside fellowship with full support, or a graduate student beyond the fifth year in the program, or a graduate student in an associated graduate program might be more qualified than any available member of the priority pool. In such cases, in order to ensure teaching effectiveness, such TAs may be appointed.

Fourth, all other students with special needs for TA experience will be accommodated in as equitable and fair a way as possible. For instance, the Department views TA experience as a valuable part of graduate education, and it may therefore award TAships to students who already have full support from elsewhere (e.g. an extramural fellowship), if they have not had the opportunity to work as TAs. The Department also recognizes that it has an obligation as Cosponsor of the IDP in Applied Linguistics, and of the program in Romance Linguistics, to seek to provide some TAships (when possible) to qualified students enrolled in these programs. The Department also seeks to provide some support for graduate students who are beyond their fifth year in the program, although these students are assigned a lower priority than students in their first five years. Some students beyond their fifth year may have special circumstances beyond their control that have slowed down their Progress to degree. For example, they may have had to take deficiency courses in their first year or their research interests may have required them to take additional courses beyond the basic departmental requirements. Also, certain students may have special employment needs (e.g. in satisfying visa requirements for foreign students). Such special circumstances may merit consideration for support in the sixth year.

In the case of students who do not have support commitments from Linguistics (currently, these are almost all students outside the Department), the Linguistics Department seeks in particular to find TAs who have exceptionally strong teaching qualifications. The interest of the Department here lies in staffing its undergraduate courses with the best available teachers, particularly at beginning levels. For this reason, the Department solicits more detailed information on teaching credentials from outside-department applicants. The application process for out-of-department applicants is detailed on this page.

D. Notification of TA Appointees

TA Appointments are announced during the Spring quarter, for positions effective the following academic year. Successful candidates are notified by e-mail, with regular mail and other communications employed where appropriate. In addition, all other applicants, including those who have been selected as alternates for TA positions, are notified of their status at this time.

E. Alternates

Applicants who have not been assigned TA positions in the initial round of assignments, or who have not been assigned as many quarters of TAships as they requested, will be placed on an ordered list of alternates, on the basis of the criteria mentioned above. Alternates will be advised of their status. As TA positions are declined, alternates will be selected according to their position on the list, and notified of their appointments immediately. In some cases, positions on the list may be adjusted in light of changes in financial need (including alternate sources of support), and/or in light of special qualification requirements for specific TA positions that need to be filled.

F. Criteria for Assigning Classes

Specific TA class assignments are determined on the basis of various criteria. First and foremost, qualifications for specific TA Positions are considered. This may entail, for instance, that a graduate student will be selected whose primary research orientation matches the subject matter of the course (typically for upper-division courses). Alternatively, the course in question may require some specific technical expertise.

G. TA Appointments – Administrative Requirements I – Departmental Limitations

Apart from the criteria listed above, the only special limitations on TA appointments are that TAships are not normally awarded to incoming first year students. The main reason for this is that first year students have a heavy load of required coursework: additionally, they are typically less qualified to serve as TAs: they have not yet taken the TA training course. In exceptional circumstances (generally involving financial need) the Department may assign TAships to first year students during the Spring quarter, concurrent with their enrollment in the TA training course. However, the Department seeks to provide other means of support for them, in the form of fellowships and RA_ ships (or a combination thereof).

2. Graduate Division Limitations

In general, no graduate student may work for more than 12 quarters as a TA at UCLA. Exceptions to this policy require a petition to the Graduate Division, and such petitions will normally be successful only if it can be shown that further TA experience serves a crucial educational function for the prospective TA. In a few very special cases, where the student in question is the only qualified candidate for a particular specialized TA position, exceptions may also be granted, but this is not the norm.

3. Summer TA Appointments

The Department typically has a very small number of Summer TA positions available (often just one or two). Students are invited to apply for Summer TAships on a separate form, at the same time that they apply for regular TAships. The same general criteria apply; however, additional factors may be taken into account, such as special cases of financial need or the necessity of holding a job in California in order to establish or maintain residency in the state. In general, Summer TA positions do not count towards the computation of annual support; i.e., a student who is awarded a summer TAship will not be given less support during the following academic year because of this.

4. Interruptions in TA Appointments

The Department has no special policies in this area.

5. TA Consultant Appointment and Responsibilities

A. Application Process

Graduate students applying for any kind of TA position are automatically considered for the TAC position. Applicants are asked on the application form to state their preferences for the course(s) they would like to TA for, and they may explicitly ask to be considered for the TAC position; however, all senior TA applicants are considered as possible TACs.

B. Criteria for Appointment

The selection of the TAC is determined on the basis of several criteria, First, as in all TA appointments, acadernic eligibility and financial need play a role (see above). Second, the TAC should be a senior graduate student (typically in the 4th or 5th year of the graduate program) who has extensive TA experience in the Department, in a variety of courses. Third, the TAC should have established a record of excellence and effectiveness as a TA, as determined (primarily) on the basis of evaluations by supervising professors and evaluations by students. Fourth, the TAC should, in the ideal case, exhibit qualities of leadership an/or rapport with other graduate students, in a way that would enhance his or her effectiveness.

C. Notification of TAC Appointment

The selection of the TAC will normally be announced at the same time as other initial TA appointments, during the Spring quarter of the preceding academic year.

D. TAC Job Description

During the Fall quarter, the TAC will attend the Graduate Division’s TA Training Seminar and the series of TAC training sessions, which normally run weekly through the Fall quarter. Throughout the year, the TAC will be available to TAs working in the department, to provide advice and assistance in matters that cannot more appropriately be resolved between individual TAs and supervising professors. These matters may include questions of excessive or uneven workload, problems in finding short-term replacement TAs in case of illness or emergency, questions of University policies governing TAs, and so on. In all cases, individual TAs are also free to discuss these matters with the Director of Graduate Studies, but the TAC is in principle available too.

The TAC will teach a course to train prospective new TAs, under the supervision of a faculty member appointed by the Chair. This course involves weekly 2-hour class meetings with the TA Trainees. The course provides training on TA duties and responsibilities, and training in effective teaching techniques and grading procedures. Trainees will be required to teach practice TA sessions under the supervision of the TAC, who will provide critical commentary and advice on their performance. In some cases, the TAC may invite members of the faculty to address the Trainees on teaching techniques. Other aspects of TA training may also be included, as determined by Graduate Division requirements and departmental needs. The TAC will meet on a regular basis with the supervising faculty member to discuss the progress of the course.

6. TA Group Organization

A. Selection of TA Representative

At present, there is no organization of Linguistics Department TAs per se, nor is there a TA representative. Since the Department is relatively small, virtually all graduate students have the opportunity to serve as TAs at one time or another, and in any given year, approximately half of the graduate student population is employed as a TA during at least one quarter. TA interests have, in general, been represented by the Graduate Linguistics Circle (the GLC). However, as noted above, the Department often hires TAs who are graduate students in related graduate programs (such as the IDP in Applied Linguistics and the Romance Linguistics program), and these TAs are without direct representation.

Thc TAs working within the Department are free to form a distinct TA group organization and to elect a representative to meet with the Department Chair and/or the TAC to represent TA interests and to discuss matters of TA Policy.

B. TA Representative Responsibilities

If the TAs working in the department decide to form an organization distinct from the GLC and to elect a representative, they are free to establish the responsibilities of such a representative.

7. Distinguished TA Nominations

A. Time Schedule for Nomination

During the Fall quarter of each year, the Department solicits suggestions from members of the faculty, graduate students, and students in undergraduate classes for nominations for Distinguished Teaching Awards, both for professors and graduate student TAs. (Such nominations are not only for courses currently being taken but also for courses taken in previous years.) The Director of Graduate Studies, in consultation with an appointed faculty committee, shall consider graduate TA candidates for the Department to nominate for this award. After the Department has selected a TA to nominate for this award, a dossier will be compiled during the Fall quarter for submission during the Winter quarter.

B. Criteria for Nomination

At the end of each quarter, TAs are evaluated on their performance, both by their students and by the supervising professor. These evaluations are kept in the Department office. The Department shall nominate a TA for the Distinguished TA Award on the basis of four factors: (a) course evaluations by students; (b) professors’ evaluations of their TAs; (c) Letters of recommendation received in resprise to the solicitation as outlined above; (d) academic record of the TA and likely prospects for a future teaching career.

C. Departmental Assistance in Compiling Dossiers

The Department shall provide assistance in compiling the dossier, in the form of compiling the TA’s teaching evaluations, transcript, nominating letters, letters from faculty supervisors, and a letter from the Department Chair. In particular, the Department shall keep all TA teaching evaluations on file, and make them available to the TA on request.

D. TA Responsibilities in Compiling Dossiers

The TA who is nominated for the award shall furnish the Director of Graduate Studies with a statement outlining his or her TA experience and future plans for teaching and research, as well as any other materials that the Chair deems necessary.

E. Departmental Award Acknowledging the TA Selected for Nomination

The Department has not given any special award for the TA selected for nomination in the past, but the current Chair is open to the possibility of initiating such a tradition.

Appendix A: Form Used by Faculty to Evaluate TAs