Understanding teaching assistantship

Forum for the GRE subject test in mathematics.
mathmonk
Posts: 3
Joined: Thu Jan 17, 2019 2:59 pm

Understanding teaching assistantship

Postby mathmonk » Sat Mar 09, 2019 10:29 pm

Hi,

I live in an Asian country where the graduate students are not allowed to teach until they get the job of a lecturer/professor, i.e. only after Ph.D. one has any chance of teaching a class. This is because not many people opt for higher education in my country, so there aren't many classes to teach.

However, in the USA it is mandatory for graduates to teach undergraduates to be able to fund their graduate studies and this is called TAship. While going through various maths graduate program webpages, I have found the following statements regarding TAships:
  1. TA appointments are limited to 15 to 20 hours per week, averaging no more than 15 hours per week.
  2. Typically, TAship has been a 50% appointment (20 hrs/week), which involves teaching recitation sections or lectures, participating in course duties.
  3. A 1/4-time teaching assistantship (TA) requires about 2 classroom hours per week of teaching.

I am unable to understand the terms like "20 hrs per week", "50% appointment", and "1/4-time TA". In particular, I have the following doubts:
  1. Who counts how many hours a week I am working? How does the department ensure that I work exactly 20 hrs per week?
  2. 50% of what equates to 20 hrs per week?
  3. 1/4th of what is 2 hrs per week?

I believe that these questions will sound naive to you all who have been working to fund their education, but until now I was able to receive financial support in the form of government scholarships and parent's savings. Since I am thinking of applying to the USA for Ph.D. and couldn't find anyone who could answer these queries, I decided to post them here.

Thank you very much for your time.

kieroda
Posts: 32
Joined: Thu Feb 16, 2017 8:45 pm

Re: Understanding teaching assistantship

Postby kieroda » Sun Mar 10, 2019 2:19 am

Not a naive question, but the amount of time people work per week TAing and what TA duties are can vary a lot between universities. Thus it’s probably best to ask on a per program basis. At some places TAs might just grade homeworks/tests and tutor in a math lab/workshop, at others TAs will run recitation sessions for classes, and others might have TAs teach full undergraduate courses.

MathCat
Posts: 187
Joined: Thu Oct 23, 2014 12:17 am

Re: Understanding teaching assistantship

Postby MathCat » Sun Mar 10, 2019 2:44 am

Typically, you have a certain set of duties that they estimate to not take more than 20 hours per week (if you are appointed at that level). This likely includes holding discussion section/tutorial (which is not the same as lecturing, usually it means a time for students to ask questions, but I suppose this varies by institution), holding office hours, grading exams and/or homework, and proctoring exams.

You likely will not work 20 hours per week every week, but during weeks where you have to grade exams, you may go over, so it should average out. Just for reference, most people at my university appointed at 20hr/week level work no more than about 10-12hr/week once it's averaged out. Likely, nobody will be monitoring to see how many hours you work. As long as you fulfill your duties to the satisfaction of the course instructor, it should be fine. However, at least in my department, if you find yourself working more than the 20hr/week, you can (and should) tell the instructor so that your workload is appropriately reduced. The 20hr number is more of an upper bound.

Regarding the 1/4 TA or 50% appointment language: many universities consider a "50% appointment" to be a full time TAship. That just means if you are appointed at 50%/full time, you are expected to work (at most) 20hr/week. A 1/4 or 25% appointment would just mean half as much work - max 10hr/week average, probably.

I hope this helps.

mathmonk
Posts: 3
Joined: Thu Jan 17, 2019 2:59 pm

Re: Understanding teaching assistantship

Postby mathmonk » Sun Mar 10, 2019 7:52 am

MathCat wrote:Typically, you have a certain set of duties that they estimate to not take more than 20 hours per week (if you are appointed at that level). This likely includes holding discussion section/tutorial (which is not the same as lecturing, usually it means a time for students to ask questions, but I suppose this varies by institution), holding office hours, grading exams and/or homework, and proctoring exams.

You likely will not work 20 hours per week every week, but during weeks where you have to grade exams, you may go over, so it should average out. Just for reference, most people at my university appointed at 20hr/week level work no more than about 10-12hr/week once it's averaged out. Likely, nobody will be monitoring to see how many hours you work. As long as you fulfill your duties to the satisfaction of the course instructor, it should be fine. However, at least in my department, if you find yourself working more than the 20hr/week, you can (and should) tell the instructor so that your workload is appropriately reduced. The 20hr number is more of an upper bound.

Regarding the 1/4 TA or 50% appointment language: many universities consider a "50% appointment" to be a full time TAship. That just means if you are appointed at 50%/full time, you are expected to work (at most) 20hr/week. A 1/4 or 25% appointment would just mean half as much work - max 10hr/week average, probably.

I hope this helps.


Thank you very much!




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