College of Arts and Sciences

School of Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs

Teaching Assistantship Awards, Assignment, & Duties

Criteria for Teaching Assistant Awards

The awarding of teaching assistantships is a very competitive process. There are two types of T.A.'s, support and independent section T.A.s. Support T.A. positions assist a faculty member teaching a large course, usually more than 40. Independent section T.A.'s teach their own class. These T.A.'s must have at least an M.A. and significant professional experience. See the next section for more on the specific expectations for both types of T.A.'s. The following criteria (not necessarily in order of rank) are used in awarding T.A.'s:

  1. Grades: This typically includes overall GPA, but may also focus on grades in more recent years (especially for students whose education covers more years than usual or for students whose grades show substantial change over time) and on grades in the degree area.
  2. GRE Scores.
  3. Letters of Recommendation for Students Applying to Our Program: New students who are interested in receiving a T.A. appointment should encourage their referees to speak to their potential classroom strengths.
  4. Faculty Evaluations of Current Students: All Ph.D. students will be evaluated in writing by the chair of their committee in terms of their performances in the program. Faculty evaluations of T.A.'s will also be used.
  5. Relevant Course Background: Students who have had a substantial amount of course work in the field of their graduate degree are more likely to receive funding, other things being equal, than are students with little or no relevant course work.
  6. Field Distribution Concerns: We try to maintain some degree of balance in the overall distribution of T.A. slots to the distribution of T.A. support needs for courses and to provide some spread of support across Ph.D. fields. We need grading help in a number of fields, and if we are particularly shorthanded in a field, a graduate student with some background in that field will have an advantage in competing for funding relative to a student with little or no background in that field.
  7. Work Performance: Current T.A.'s who have performed well on the job are more likely to be continued than are T.A.'s who do not perform well.
  8. Special Concerns: Some of the T.A. slots include instructional duties, including teaching independent sections and leading sections of large Pol S 101, 102, or 103 classes. For these slots, previous T.A. or teaching experience is important (particularly for independent sections). In addition, a record of excellent performance in relevant courses is also important, especially for the independent sections. Some effort is also made to assess potential for effective performance in the classroom.

Procedures for Application

The deadline for application for departmental teaching assistantships for the following academic year is February 1. Students may obtain the school's uniform funding application from the academic coordinator.

Assignment of T.A.'s to Courses

  1. The director of graduate studies will be responsible for preparing initial T.A. teaching assignments. Independent section assignments for the SPRING semester will be discussed in December; assignments for the FALL semester will be discussed in May. Instructional support T.A. assignments cannot be made until final enrollments are available, the Friday before the first day of classes for each semester.
  2. Teaching assignments for each semester will be made and submitted for faculty approval before the first week of the relevant semester.
  3. Appeals of T.A. assignments should be directed to the director, who shall have final determination of the matter.
  4. Both support and independent section T.A.'s are expected to work 20 hours per week for a half-time appointment and 10 hours per week for a quarter-time appointment. If students are working more than this, the graduate director should be contacted. Under no circumstances should students on a T.A. appointment accept any other remunerated employment, such as grading DDP courses, working on research grants, etc. Violation of this rule constitutes a violation of school policy as well as Graduate School, university, and state regulations, and will result in the loss of the assistantship and tuition waiver. Any exceptions would have to be negotiated with the Graduate School.
  5. WSU political science graduate students should not evaluate other graduate students in this program, under normal circumstances.
  6. A one-day orientation will be given each fall for graduate students. Attendance is mandatory.

Evaluation of T.A. Performance

  1. All political science students who are performing T.A. work for the school, either as assistants in classes or having independent responsibilities, will be evaluated. The evaluation of T.A. work will be based on the completion of agreed upon T.A. responsibilities (see T.A. Contract Appendix III in the Graduate Handbook). Evaluation criteria will be specified in an agreement and should include expectations concerning a) grading, b) attending lectures, c) office hours, and d) guest lecturing. Any changes in T.A. responsibilities will require consultation and agreement between faculty advisor and T.A.
  2. Each T.A. will have a faculty supervisor. In the case where the student is assisting in a course, the faculty supervisors will be the course instructor. During the first week of a given term, both the advisor and the assigned T.A. will meet to discuss T.A. responsibilities. At this time, the T.A. and the advisor will agree, in writing (on the Advisor/T.A. Agreement Form) to these duties. Any changes in T.A. responsibilities will require consultation and agreement between the faculty instructor and the T.A.
  3. For T.A.'s teaching independent sections, prior to the first departmental meeting of the semester, the director of graduate studies will nominate individual faculty members for advisory duties for T.A.'s teaching independent sections. The faculty supervisor and the graduate instructor will sign a T.A Agreement Form. The graduate student will see to it that all educational materials relating to his/her teaching responsibilities are made available to the advisor. The advisor and the student will discuss the minimum teaching expectations and the criteria for evaluation of teaching performance.
       The advisor will review the student's teaching materials and will arrange times when he/she can observe the student's classroom/discussion group and/or advising performances. When the T.A. is involved primarily in grading, these opportunities are recognized to be limited. In these cases, advisers are encouraged to have their grading T.A. present at least one lecture and/or have primary responsibility for conducting review/study sessions. At the mid-point of the semester, the student and his/her advisor will meet for an informal session where course progress and teacher development skills should be discussed. This meeting is to be viewed as an informal "mid-course correction" and not one which results in any official report.
       Based on whatever form of feedback the advisor has developed for the assessment of the student's performance, the advisor should give the student a good sense of her/his performance of responsibilities. Suggestions for change or alteration of performance should be a feature of this discussion as well. Students are encouraged to ask faculty for additional help in improving their performance.
  4. After the semester is over, the advisor will issue a report on the student's performance of her/his duties and a general evaluation of their potential as classroom instructors. This report will be shared with the student, the student will sign the report to acknowledge having read it, and it shall be placed in her/his graduate file. The graduate coordinator will be responsible for ensuring that this is done.
  5. The student has the right, and will be given the opportunity, to comment on the semester report if he/she wishes. These rejoinder comments will be shared with the advisor and placed in the student's file as well.
  6. It should be remembered that T.A. appointments qualify the student to be an employee of both the University and the state. Students are expected to uphold the standards of professional conduct that is implied by this status. In particular, students should be familiar with policies regarding inappropriate workplace conduct, amorous relationships, and respect for undergraduate students. Unsatisfactory performance of T.A. responsibilities could result in a discontinuation of funding as determined by the director in consultation with the graduate director and other relevant faculty.

Contact Us

School of Politics, Philosophy, & Public Affairs
Washington State University
801 Johnson Tower
PO Box 644880
Pullman, WA 99164-4880
Phone: 509-335-2544
Fax: 509-335-7990

Graduate & Student Records Coordinator

Bonnie Kemper

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School of Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs, PO Box 644880, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-4880 • 509-335-2544 • Contact Us