Graduate Teaching Assistant handbook
Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) are valued members of the Faculty community. The GTA scheme was designed to enable research students to contribute to teaching and marking/assessment activities, as part of the commitment to provide opportunities for research students to gain teaching experience.
Becoming a Graduate Teaching Assistant offers you the opportunity to gain teaching and marking experience during the course of your doctoral studies. Whether or not you plan to enter academia, experience of teaching will develop your communication and presentation skills.
Contracts and pay
- You should first begin by discussing with your supervisors how the teaching load you take on will affect your research, how much work will be involved and how many classes you will be able/prepared to teach.
- You should apply using your department's application form (found on departmental pages or available on request from departmental offices) and return it to the member of staff responsible for GTAs in your department (usually the Chair of the Department Education Committee, or the Head of Department).
- You must also ask your first or joint supervisors to provide a supporting statement for your application.
- The Department will seek to inform you via email of the outcome of your application by the end of each June of the same academic year.
Please note, Departments cannot guarantee the provision of any teaching for research students, since requirements depend on a combination of available resources, academic staff leave and the needs of the teaching programme in any given year.
Training and mentoring
If you are successful you will be issued with a contract over the summer prior to the September of the year in which you commence teaching. This will cover all the duties you are required to undertake throughout your employment (including seminar teaching, preparation time, marking etc).
You will need to provide evidence of your eligibility to work in the UK. All payments will be taxed at the appropriate rate. GTAs will normally be eligible for the college pension scheme, and you will receive payments in lieu of annual leave.
More specific information on remuneration, rates and hours
is available on the intranet.
What is expected of GTAs
It is compulsory for all GTAs in Arts & Humanities departments to attend the following induction and training sessions:
- the 'Preparing to Teach' course run by the King’s Academy of Educators (formerly King's Learning Institute) covering:
- Small and large group teaching
- Teaching your first session
- Using technology in your teaching
- Faculty induction covering:
- How students learn
- GTA career development
- Faculty marking and feedback policies
- Lecture capture
- Module and teaching evaluation
- Staff/student relationship
- Student support and signposting
3. Department or module induction covering:
- Department practice in marking and feedback
- Mentoring and support mechanisms
- Office hours
- The use of KEATS
College and Faculty inductions will be bookable via SkillsForge.
There is additional training open to all GTAs throughout the academic year, which is bookable via SkillsForge. This is voluntary and is not paid but may aid your personal development. Topics covered include:
- time management
- use of technology
- unconscious bias
- use of Microsoft Office
You will be assigned a mentor throughout your time spent teaching in the department. This will normally be the lead academic on the module on which you are teaching. Your mentor will peer observe your teaching at specific times during the module. This will take place at different times depending on the department in which you based.
For any issues concerning study abroad (e.g. student requests for references to study abroad), please check with your mentor or convenor of the GTA scheme who will be able to assist you. If any situation arises which you are unsure of how to handle and you need advice and guidance, please consult your mentor.
If you have any concerns about training/mentoring issues, either before the start of the teaching year or during it, please contact the chair of the Department Education Committee or Head of Department.
Guidance for class teachers
The exact responsibilities for GTAs will vary depending on which department and module you are working with. As some general guidance, GTAs may be expected to:
- lead seminars and in some cases, lectures
- be involved in marking students work
- be prepared for each session by acquainting themselves with the core reading and ensuring that they have the ability to contextualize the material within the broader context of the module
- answer student emails
- be available to students during one designated office hour per week
- monitor student attendance and liaise with personal tutors over any concerns
- complete short report forms on students, depending on each department's practice.
Preparing to Teach a Class
The roles and responsibilities of GTAs will vary across departments. Your are expected to attend a local induction organised by your department or module convenor where these will be explained in more detail. Below are some links to common areas of teaching that you will need to familiarise yourself with:
Your first class and getting to know your students
The Faculty uses KEATS as a Virtual Learning Environment for its students, providing reading lists and other module materials. The submission of assessments is also managed through KEATS.
If you would like to receive training on KEATS please contact the Faculty Education Team.
The following are some hints and tips that you might want to use in your first teaching session:
- Make a note of the names of the students, which degree programme they are taking, and their reasons for taking the module. Encourage your students to get to know each other;
- Provide an overview of the course; how classes will work, how the students will work with course content and the kinds of skills they may develop;
- Work with the class to agree 'ground rules' and ways you will work together (e.g. discuss expectations around weekly workload/reading, punctuality, meeting assessment deadlines, student contribution to discussions, etc);
- Prepare the group up for the coming week (readings, roles, their next lecture, etc);
- Provide your students with an overview of KEATS and the context within which they will use it as part of the module.
How to deal with common scenarios
When you are running classes you may find it helpful to clarify the following points with your students:
- Your expectations;
- The students' expectations;
- Listening practices;
- Protocols for questioning;
- How presentations will work;
- The timing and ending of classes.
Evaluation and review of teaching
The following points are hints and tips for dealing with common scenarios when teaching:
- The whole group is silent and unresponsive. Ask students to work in pairs to get people talking and energised;
- Individuals are silent and unresponsive. Use open, exploratory questions;
- Sub-groups start forming with private conversations. Break them up with sub-group tasks. 'What is going on?'...';
- The group becomes too deferential towards the teacher. Stay silent, throw questions back, open questions to the whole group;
- Discussion goes off the point and becomes irrelevant. Set clear themes or an agenda. Keep a visual summary of the topics discussed for everyone to see;
- A distraction occurs (such as two students arriving late). Establish group ground rules about behaviour such as late arrivals;
- Students have not done the preparation. Clarify preparation requirements, making them realistic. Share what preparation has been undertaken at the start of each session;
- Members do not listen to each other. Point out what is happening. Establish ground rules about behaviour;
- Students do not answer when you ask a question. Use open questions, leave plenty of time. Ask students to work on a problem or a passage of text in pairs or small groups. Consider nominating someone from the group (perhaps someone who usually avoids speaking) who will speak on behalf of that group. You could also ask the group to choose a spokesperson;
- Two students are very dominant. Use hand signals, gestures and body language. Support and bring in others. Give the dominant students roles to keep them busy (such as note-taker);
- Students complain about the seminar and the way you are handling it. Ask for constructive suggestions. Ask students who are being negative to turn their comments into positive suggestions;
- Discussion focuses on one corner of the group and the rest stop joining in. Use structures. Point out to the group what is happening. Look at the room layout, how the students are positioned and where you sit.
The Faculty has mechanisms for reviewing teaching standards and identifying areas for enhancement:
GTAs should familiarise themselves with the Faculty's various policies relating to marking assessments:
- How to give feedback on KEATS;
- Marking anonymity - this will vary between departments so you should clarify practices with the module convenor or professional services staff;
- Students with disabilities - if a student has declared a disability it is likely that the College will have agreed some reasonable adjustments through the Disability Service. If a King's Inclusion Plan has been produced you will be informed of this by departmental professional services staff or the module convenor. You may also find that students approach you individually to make you aware of any reasonable adjustments, such as the recording of lectures. If you have any questions about reasonable adjustments contact the module convenor or departmental professional services staff.
The Faculty recognises the importance of providing feedback to students in order to help them progress in their academic studies.
The Student Handbook sets out the Faculty's policy on feedback on assessment; namely that it should be returned within four weeks and that it should be of a quality and quantity that will help students enhance their academic performance on future assessments. You will also find it useful to read the Faculty's Feedback Guidelines.
Please discuss feedback on assessment requirements with the module convenor or departmental professional services staff.