Teaching Assistantships

These fall into three different categories:


Graders who assist professors by grading assignments and exams. Typically, the following classes employ graders:

260     Philosophy and Law;
280     Ethics and Animals; 
290     Environmental Ethics; 
330     Religions of the East; 
331     Religions of the West.

Teaching Assistants

Graduate students who are Teaching Assistants grading for large courses and leading multiple recitation sections. These large classes typically involve recitations:

110     Introduction to Philosophy;
111     Ethics; 
206     Philosophy of Religion;
270     Biomedical Ethics;


Graduate students who are Instructors of individual sections of some of our introductory courses. These courses typically include single or multiple sections of:

110     Introduction to Philosophy;
111     Introduction to Ethics; 
120     Critical Thinking;
150     Principles of Logic.

Occasionally, graduate student Instructors teach other courses as well, e.g. 225, Philosophy of Woman.
Thus, while all graduate students with teaching assignments (except for research assistants) are TAs in the generic sense of the term, there are three kinds of TAs: Graders, Teaching Assistants, and Instructors. The abbreviation ‘TA’ is used for the generic sense of ‘teaching assistant’, whereas ‘Teaching Assistant’ refers to TAs in category (ii). 

Evaluation of TA Performance

The evaluating of TAs serves the following purposes:

  • to help graduate students to improve their performance as graders and teachers;

  • to ensure that  the undergraduates taught by Philosophy TAs receive high quality instruction in their courses;

  • to assist the Graduate Committee in assessing TA performance, which is an important criterion for assigning teaching assistantships to the department’s graduate students;

  • to gather evidence about a graduate student’s teaching abilities and overall performance as a TA, which will become part of the student’s dossier once he or she applies for jobs.

Faculty members who have TAs in categories (i) and (ii) are expected to evaluate their TAs at the end of the semester. TAs in category (iii) will be evaluated by their assigned mentors. This evaluation—which for TAs in category (ii) and (iii) should involve classroom observation—consists of two parts:

(a)   a brief written report for the TA’s file, to be submitted to the graduate secretary as an e-mail
(b)   a meeting with the TA to provide the TA with helpful feedback on and discussion of his or her
       performance and student evaluations.

Again, the written evaluation is intended to be useful (i) to the student in improving her or his teaching, (ii) to the department in assessing performance and making future assignments, and (iii), in some form, to potential employers in the future. A TA’s departmental teaching letter, prepared when he or she goes on the job market, will include the text of these written mentor evaluations, with some appropriate redactions. TA’s have access to, and are encouraged to review, their evaluations

TA Mentoring and Mentee Responsibilities 

Graduate student Instructors must, for each semester, have a mentor. Mentors are expected to supervise a TA’s teaching and help him or her grow as a teacher. More specifically, the mentor’s role involves:

ii.  Assisting the graduate student Instructor in choosing a textbook.  Mentee Responsibility: Since text books must be ordered by the beginning of student registration towards the end of the preceding semester, the timing of this is important. Graduate student Instructors must, within ten days of receiving their appointment letter, contact their mentors to discuss the choice of a suitable textbook.

ii.  Helping the graduate student Instructor in constructing an appropriate syllabus. Mentee Responsibility: Graduate student Instructors must present to their mentors a draft of the syllabus at least four weeks before the beginning of the semester.

iii   Assisting the Instructor in developing appropriate grading standards. Mentee Responsibility: Graduate students must prepare an outline of their grading standards and present them to their mentors together with the syllabus.

iv.   Mentor-mentee meetings throughout the semester, scheduled as needed, to discuss problems the student might encounter in teaching his or her course. Mentee Responsibility: Graduate students must schedule a monthly meeting with their mentor, or more frequent meetings if needed. 

v.    Arranging for a classroom visit to observe the student’s teaching. Mentee Responsibility: Reminding the mentor to schedule a classroom visit. 

vi.    Submitting a brief written report about the student’s performance as an instructor.

vii.    If needed, meeting with the student at the end of the semester to discuss his or her performance and student evaluations.

Steps (i) and (ii) involve consulting the departmental document Common Contents and Text Requirements, which will be provided to both the mentor and the mentee by the Department Head.

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