The recent piece (or was it a hatchet job?) on CBS's "60 Minutes," for its problems, did raise some important issues. One of these was the appropriate role for graduate students who are teaching assistants, an issue Sarah Garrecht addressed in her column ("Clock ticking for UA") today.
I would agree that it's not appropriate to have TAs teaching such a large percentage of the classes, and apparently so does the university. The problem is this: what role should TAs have? The trend appears to be toward removing TAs from the classroom, which I think goes too far the other way. How else are we, as TAs, supposed to get teaching experience?
A better way would be to establish a system whereby TAs gained progressively more responsibility over time. For example, TAs in their first year or two of graduate school could simply serve as graders. The next step could be to allow them to do some guest lectures and take on other instructionally-related responsibilities. Then, once TAs reach ABD status, why not allow TAs to teach their own sections? Such a system would allow graduate students to not only gain the field knowledge they need to be good teachers, but to gradually gain experience which would help them in the job market.
Why such an idea has not been considered is beyond me.
Political science graduate student
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