Teaching Assistant Appointments

Initial appointments to regular teaching assistantships are made by the chairperson on the recommendation of the Department Committee on Assistantships and Fellowships. Criteria for appointment as a teaching assistant include:

  • A good academic record in an undergraduate physics major, as a graduate student in physics, or other firm evidence of mastery of undergraduate physics.

  • Working knowledge of oral and written English.

  • Ability to communicate effectively with undergraduate students.

  • Good standing as a graduate student in the University of Wisconsin. This is a University requirement for holding an assistantship. “Good standing” is defined in terms of quantity of academic work carried (number of credit hours) and the quality of the work (B average for a graduate student).

When several candidates are qualified according to the preceding criteria, we give preference to those who show the most promise for Ph.D. research as judged by the Committee on Assistantships and Fellowships.

Last-minute or short-term appointments may be made on a temporary (one semester) basis by the chairperson. Such limited term appointments do not carry any assurance of continuing support.

Reappointments (from limited-term status) to teaching assistantships with assurance of continuing support are made by the Department after receiving the recommendation of the Teaching Assistant Review Committee. In addition to the criteria listed under (1), The criteria for reappointment as a teaching assistant include:

  • Satisfactory performance as a teaching assistant,

  • Satisfactory progress as a graduate student, as discussed above. Whenever possible, teaching assistantships are half-time appointments. However, appointments less than half-time may be used to meet a special need of an individual appointee, or to cover special, often last-minute, teaching assignments.

If a teaching assistant transfers to another department, the commitment to continuing support is terminated. However, exceptions may be made for joint Ph.D. programs or in other special circumstances, at the option of the Department.

Regular Half-Time Teaching Assignments

The following assignments are typical half-time assignments. A teaching assistant should be able to do a satisfactory job in one of these assignments without exceeding the 360 hour per semester workload for half-time appointment. The amount of time spend on the assignments may, of course, fluctuate from week-to-week.

Courses // Assignment

103, 104 // 3 laboratory-discussion sections 109 // 4 laboratory sections 201, 202, 207, 208 // 2 laboratory-discussion sections

Representative breakdowns of allocation of the 360 hours among duties such as preparation, meeting classes and labs, attending lectures and course meetings, conferences with individual students, helping with registration, etc., is available in the department office.

Evaluation of Teaching Performance

The teaching performance of each teaching assistant is evaluated every semester by the TA Review Committee. The appointments of teaching assistants who are given unsatisfactory ratings may be terminated. Outstanding teaching assistants may be nominated for one of the campus-wide teaching awards. Material considered in the review will include the results of teaching evaluation questionnaires filled out by the students in the teaching assistant’s sections, the evaluation of the teaching assistant by the faculty member in charge of the course, and any other relevant information submitted to the Committee by students, faculty, the teaching assistant in question, or other teaching assistants. A summary of the results of the evaluation is sent to each TA, and a copy is maintained by the Department. Teaching assistants are required to look at this information after the review, since it is often valuable for self-evaluation and improvement.

Other Support Available

Research Assistantships