Teaching Assistant Handbook

Compiled by Prof. Gary E. Ford, September 1999
Revised by Prof. Richard R. Spencer, July, 2000

TA Appointment and Assignment

The ECE philosophy behind the appointment and assignment of teaching assistants is the following:

  • A teaching assistantship is an educational opportunity for professional development of graduate students, providing them with training and experience to become effective teachers if they choose to pursue academic careers.
  • The teaching assistant is an important contributor to the undergraduate educational programs provided by the department.

This document outlines the policies regarding the appointment of graduate students as Teaching Assistants in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The department follows the basic regulations in the UCD Policy and Procedure Manual Section 390-24 and the Academic Personnel Manual Section 410, and has established additional policies which are described in this document. For detailed information about the policies and procedures for the appointment of graduate students to academic positions, consult the following:

Academic Appointment of Students and Post-Doctoral Researchers

General Eligibility Requirements

Campus Requirements - There are several campus and departmental requirements that students must meet to be eligible for a Teaching Assistant (TA) position.

  • An appointee must be a full-time registered graduate student in good academic standing during the period of appointment. A one-time, one-quarter exception for employment as a TA for a student in non-registered status may be approved by Graduate Studies based on department recommendations.

  • An appointee must have a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 in previous graduate work if a continuing student, or in the last two years of upper-division work if a new graduate student.

  • The number of quarters for which graduate students may be appointed to academic titles is tied to normal academic progress. Graduate students may be appointed to a maximum of 12 quarters in one or a combination of graduate academic titles prior to advancement to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. The titles used in this department are: Teaching Assistant, Associate-In, Research Assistant, Student Postgraduate Researcher and Graduate Reader. After advancement, students may be appointed for up to a 15th quarter without an exception request (with approval from Graduate Studies).

  • An applicant must demonstrate adequate ability to comprehend, write and speak the English language. Foreign students must satisfactorily pass the SPEAK test, which assesses the student's oral and written communication skills. The department reserves the right to withdraw TA offers if the graduate student does not satisfactorily pass the SPEAK test.

Departmental Requirements - In addition to the regulations of Graduate Studies, a TA also must meet the criteria of the departmental policy outlined below:

  • Eligibility for a Teaching Assistant Appointment
    • Students in the Ph.D. Program must take and pass the Departmental Preliminary Evaluation at the first opportunity.
    • An applicant must furnish at least three letters from college instructors or other appropriate persons, testifying to his or her qualifications/potential to serve as a Teaching Assistant.

  • Criteria for Initial Appointment of Teaching Assistants
    • Departmental needs
    • Courses requiring TA support
    • Desire to attract outstanding student teachers

  • Academic Qualifications
    • GPA from U.S. institutions
    • GRE and TOEFL scores, where required for admission
    • Letters of recommendation from faculty members testifying to candidate's academic promise.

  • Teaching Qualifications
    • Prior teaching experience
    • Communication skills
    • Variety of courses and/or specialized courses candidate can TA
    • Letters of recommendation testifying to teaching qualifications

  • Other Qualifications of the Candidate
    • Industrial experience
    • Experience in the use of electronic instrumentation
    • Willingness to practice and teach proper safety practices from industrial supervisors
    • Other letters of recommendation
    • Ability to work cooperatively with faculty, staff, and students

  • Criteria for Continued Appointment of Teaching Assistants
    • Criteria given in Section III above
    • Appraisal of candidate's performance as a TA from evaluations by faculty, staff and students
    • Appraisal of candidate's progress toward completion of degree requirements

    NOTE: The department reserves the right to offer support on a quarter-to-quarter basis and guaranteed reappointment for subsequent quarters is not implied.

  • Appeal Process - Candidates who are not satisfied with appointment decisions should follow the appeal process: (a) write to the ECE Vice Chair for Undergraduate Studies and thereafter, if necessary, by (b) writing to the Dean of Graduate Studies.

  • Financial Need - Financial need is NOT a criterion in the selection of TAs. It is the department's goal to provide the best possible teaching environment/learning assistance to students in addition to providing assistance to faculty members teaching courses.

Application and Appointment Procedures

TA applications are submitted on a quarterly basis each academic year. If an application is not submitted, you will not be considered for a TA appointment.

Appointment decisions are made by the TA Appointment Committee, consisting of the Vice Chair for Undergraduate Studies, the Vice Chair for Graduate Studies, and the Studen Affairs Officer (SAO).

You will be expected to follow the instructions in your appointment letters and related attachments regarding reporting dates, signing employment papers, hours of work, etc. It is especially important that you acknowledge your TA assignment and send back any forms requested on time. Late submission will result in the loss of your appointment.

Course Assignment Procedures and Policies

Course assignments for TAs are made on a quarter-to-quarter basis and are the responsibility of the Vice Chair for Undergraduate Studies. Assignments are based on the following considerations

  • Course needs
  • Faculty requests
  • TA preferences
  • Past TA experience and evaluations

At about the seventh week of a quarter, prospective TA's will be asked to submit their TA course preferences and the list of courses they will be taking the following quarter. Assignment decisions will be made available by email by about the eighth week of the quarter.

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