Teaching Assistantships

Graduate teaching assistants play an indispensable role in the department's provision of General Education (100 and 200 level) courses for undergraduates. Funding for Teaching Assistants to help staff these courses is provided by the university, and is administered through the department. The department regards the teaching experience as an important part of our graduate program, which will enhance the student's employment prospects. We value our excellent teaching reputation and attempt to assist new and continuing Teaching Assistants with the Teaching Workshop and guidance in constructing a teaching portfolio.

Teaching Assistants are generally chosen from among the students in their second year and later, although a few Teaching Assistantships are given to incoming students who enter with a Master of Arts and/or teaching experience. Applications for the Teaching Assistantships from current students requires completion of the Financial Appointment Request Form and the Teaching Assistantship Application (under “Forms”)

Almost all graduate students can expect at least two years of teaching assistantships if they are progressing satisfactorily through the program. The varying needs for our courses, and declining history enrollments (a national trend)  mean that Teaching Assistants cannot always be given assignments that match their specific field interests or training, although we make great efforts to match students with fields.

Applications are solicited as part of the general financial aid application process. By late April, we are able to extend written offers of Teaching Assistantships. Students are required to return a signed acceptance within a set period of time. Assignments to Advanced Composition sections are made in the first round of offers (on these, see below). The department gives serious consideration to the preferences expressed by students to teach in particular courses, or particular types of sections.

The student teaching load for regular Teaching Assistantships (50% appointment)  is three sections of up to 25 students each.

Criteria for TA assignments are a combination of a department teaching needs (decided in consultation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies), a student’s progress in the program, evaluation of previous teaching (if a renewal appointment). The decisions involve the financial aid committee (a subcommittee of the Graduate Studies Committee), the Director of Graduate Studies, and the Graduate Teaching Mentor.

Beginning Teaching Assistants

Decisions about awarding beginning Teaching Assistantships are based on a combination of the following: the interviews held in the spring semester, the student's academic record including transcripts and a first semester report from faculty in the courses they have taken, and two letters of recommendation. The letters should preferably come from History faculty, but may come from UIUC instructors in other departments or even from faculty who may have supported the student's entry application to us. Students in doubt about what letters they should solicit can consult the DGS or the Teaching Assistant Coordinator. As with all financial aid applications, incomplete grades may prevent students from obtaining Teaching Assistantship appointments.

The grounds for a decision on beginning Teaching Assistantships are a combination of academic promise/progress, and the Department (and University) need for Teaching Assistants.

Teaching Renewals

Students who have completed a year as a Teaching Assistant will be reappointed unless they have had serious difficulties in their first year in the job, either in the teaching capacity or in maintaining their academic progress while teaching. The expected course load for a Teaching Assistant's coursework is two courses per semester, plus language study if acceptable. All students should be aware that Incomplete grades are going to be a serious impediment to appointment or reappointment as a Teaching Assistant. Other evidence about "progress in the program" would include passing of language requirements, entry into the Ph.D. program and/or filing of a Ph.D. Program Plan. For A.B.D. students, the Teaching Assistant Coordinators consider supervisor-reported progress in research and writing of the thesis.

Decisions about renewing Teaching Assistantships are with the help of the Financial Aid Committee. The student teacher's records are reviewed; this involves both the teaching records (ICES results and faculty visits) and the academic records (one faculty letter, transcript). ICES results are always evaluated with regard to the course being taught (e.g. Transition sections.)

Renewals for a third year are possible but by no means automatic. Faculty teaching any General Education course will be asked to prepare for the Teaching Assistantship Evaluation by ranking their Teaching Assistants for such a third year or later year appointment. All cases are examined individually; but students should also be aware that a third year or later year appointment will likely impede their progress towards the degree, and should only be entered upon as a backup to applications for research grants.

Policy approved by the department, January 27, 1999

Advanced Comp Sections

In general, the Department prefers to give Advanced Composition (ACP) assignments to students who are teaching for the second or third year. The Advanced Composition assignments are typically of two sections, each of 15 students maximum, and the undergraduates in such sections are required to write a total of 35 pages, involving several drafts of papers. These sections are created for History 141, 142, 171, and 172. These assignments can only be made to students who have completed or are enrolled in the two-day Writing Across Curriculum (WAC) workshops, for which places are limited. Students nominated for the Advanced Composition sections are enrolled in these two-day workshops at the department's expense. The department wished to make this opportunity open to many of our best Teaching Assistants. These assignments usually require solid writing skills.   Other criteria include previous success as a Teaching Assistant (usually a successful two-semester stint, as evidenced by ICES forms and faculty evaluations); teaching portfolio if submitted; overall quality of academic work as evidenced by transcript and faculty references; and match of the Teaching Assistant for a particular course.