This document aims to describe the goals, rights and responsibilities of graduate students and faculty with regard to graduate student (GA) teaching in the Mathematics Department. The document is not intended to be exhaustive, but rather to give general goals with some specific guidelines.
Success depends on the responsible and good faith effort of both graduate students and faculty.
The goals of the department with regard to GA teaching are the following:
1. Excellent teaching by GAs.
2. Professional development of GAs.
3. Workload support for GAs.
The faculty shall provide GAs with appropriate training, supervision and support.
The general teaching responsibilities of GAs include the following.
- A GA should treat students with politeness, fairness and respect.
- A GA should be well prepared to teach.
A GA should plan ahead to use class time efficiently. For example, in a section where the GA expects to answer questions about homework problems, a GA should review the homework problems before the class meeting.
- A GA should conduct class in the general manner prescribed by the course supervisor.
This includes question-answer, lecture and small-group styles of class conduct.
- A GA should teach as scheduled.
The absence of a teacher from the classroom is disruptive. The guidelines governing absence are as follows. An Assistant should not be absent during the first week of classes, the last week of classes, or during the final exam and grading period. Special circumstances must be discussed beforehand with both the Undergraduate and Graduate Offices. In all cases the preconditions for being absent are:
1. In all cases, including illness, the Undergraduate Office must be notified beforehand by either Voice Mail (55053) or email (wrs@math and mrh@math).
2. All planned absences must be cleared beforehand with the course chair.
3. Absences of more than two classroom days must be approved by both the Graduate Office and the Undergraduate Office.
4. In general an Assistant who will be absent should find the substitute; the substitute should be an experienced Teaching Assistant and the name should be communicated to the Undergraduate Office and to the course chair. In the case of last minute illness or an emergency the TA should contact the Undergraduate Office; the UG Office opens at 7:30 AM and can be reached at 405-5053 or mrh@math.
The Undergradate Office is committed to resolving matters which disrupt instruction. In the circumstance of repeated and flagrant lapses of responsibilities, a disciplinary action (a letter of reprimand, the "docking" of pay, or termination of the Assistantship), may be necessary.
- A GA should respect students' privacy.
For example, a GA should not discuss a student's grades with anyone who does not have a legitimate professional need to know. Additionally, a GA should not post a student's grades on the internet, except for posting by secure aliases (not Social Security Numbers or some portion thereof).
- A GA should uphold academic integrity.
A GA should take reasonable measures to prevent cheating and should report instances of suspected cheating to the course supervisor. It is the responsibility of the course supervisor to confront such students. The GA should be aware that the University has a Code of Academic Integrity
- and well developed procedures for supporting it.
- A GA must satisfactorily complete MATH 695, and complete the SHPP (Sexual Harassment Prevention Program) Seminar. (These only need to be done once, usually in the first year of teaching.)
- A GA must hold office hours for 3 hours each week and serve in the tutoring room as required.
The University's Handbook for Graduate Students contains further information on responsibilities of GAs.
Every GA is under the supervision of a course supervisor. The GA is obligated to follow the direction of the supervisor, and to attend meetings called by the supervisor. To the extent feasible, meetings should be at mutually convenient times. A GA will not be required to attend a meeting on a weekend or holiday or in conflict with a religious obligation.
The GA and supervisor are expected to operate on a basis of good communication and mutual respect. In particular the supervisor is expected to consider carefully issues and suggestions raised by a GA; and the GA is expected to discuss with the supervisor problems which arise in teaching the course.
Disruptive or abusive student behavior violates the University's Code of Student Conduct. A GA should report such conduct to the course supervisor, who should intervene or consult the Undergraduate Chair.
It is the responsibility of the Undergraduate Chair of the mathematics department to attend to reports from any party regarding problems, disagreements or suggested improvements in the arrangements of a particular course.
The assembly of all exams and makeup exams is the responsibility of the course supervisor; however, a course supervisor may request or require GAs to provide some candidate exam problems. The course supervisor may require GAs to create and administer quizzes (shorter tests taking only a fraction of the class period).
A GA is expected assist in the proctoring of all regularly scheduled exams. Any absence should be cleared in advance with the course supervisor. The course supervisor may require a GA to schedule and proctor makeup exams.
The course supervisor is responsible for the assignment of the course grades which appear on student transcripts. The course supervisor, while setting the grading policy, will generally consult with GAs on individual borderline cases, and may delegate much greater responsibility, particularly when the GA is the sole classroom contact person for students in a section. The GA will generally keep the grading records and execute as necessary the computations which are the basis for the course grade. It is important that the GA leave a clear and complete grading record at the end of the course, because grades are not infrequently reviewed.
GAs are responsible for grading of exams, quizzes and homework, as directed by the course supervisor. In general, the course supervisor may choose to participate in this grading, but is not required to. When the course supervisor is the sole contact person for a course section (for example in Stat 100), the course supervisor is responsible for the grading of that section, or for a corresponding fraction of the uniform grading when grading is shared over sections.
The course supervisor should provide solutions of exam problems and reasonable guidelines for grading. It is the responsibility of the grader to grade carefully and uniformly within the given guidelines. This will almost always involve decisions about partial credit; these should be reasonable and they should be applied uniformly.
Grading arrangements are chosen by the course supervisor. In particular, when the same exam is given over several sections, the supervisor for purposes of uniform grading may arrange that each question be graded by just one or two persons.
Grading should be completed promptly. This is especially important for the grading of uniform exams. It may be appropriate for a course supervisor to allow a modest delay in grading in response to academic demands on a GA (such as an exam).
PERIOD OF RESIDENCE
In general, the course supervisor may not schedule a meeting earlier than the last working day before the first day of classes. (This provision is intended to make careful use of GA time. It is not intended to circumvent the longer orientation and training period for new GAs, or to preclude a longer preparation period in cases where GAs have been given, well in advance of the start of class or the making of plane reservations, a definite assignment for which some additional preparation is required.)
One specific pre-teaching responsibility should be emphasized. It is the responsibility of every GA to be available on the last working day before the first day of classes. (The first day of classes is the day, given in the academic calendar, on which classroom instruction for the semester begins.) In particular, the GA must attend any activity scheduled for this day by the course supervisor. If a GA has any uncertainty about the schedule, then it is the responsibility of the GA to be available and in the mathematics department during the period 10 A.M. - 3 P.M. on that last working day before the first day of classes.
It is the responsibility of every GA to be available for work through the third working day following the administration of the uniform final examination. For example, if the uniform final is given Thursday, then the GA must be available through 5pm Tuesday. A GA should never make plane reservations to leave earlier, without the prior written permission of the Undergraduate Chair.
GAs are half time employees of the University. However, the primary purpose of GAs in the department is the successful completion of their own mathematical and professional training. Therefore the mathematics department supports arrangements which reduce the GA teaching workload, whenever this is compatible with teaching excellence and reasonable professional development. Every course supervisor, in considering demands on GAs such as attendance at meetings or lectures, should carefully consider such demands and their organization with an eye to the value of GA time and its wise use. In particular, time consuming activities with only a marginal impact on teaching excellence should be avoided. Any GA with concerns about excessive workload should contact the Undergraduate Chair of the mathematics department.
A course supervisor should generally give GAs good guidance as to the content of teaching sessions. In a traditional section, this might amount to a list of homework problems the GA should be prepared to answer. In the case of Close Contact Calculus, this may involve the provision of worksheets to the GAs. In a sole-contact course such as Stat 100, the course supervisor should give the GA a day-by-day schedule of material to be covered.
A GA may expect a classroom visit or visits from the course supervisor, particularly during the first semester. Such visits can provide useful feedback for the GA and course supervisor (and in addition, provide documentation for letters of recommendation on teaching).
A GA would benefit professionally from a range of responsibilities during his/her Maryland career (e.g., elementary math, calculus, 246 computer assistant, linear algebra, Stat 100, tutoring room, grader for graduate course, computer helpdesk staff, etc.). Problems of scheduling, the professional interest of the GA and significant commitments to study and research will naturally limit the range of courses that a GA will be assigned. All these constraints limit the optimality of course assignments from the viewpoint of professional development.