Composition & Teaching Assistants
mentoring program is designed on the principle that teaching within
a community of teachers is better than teaching in isolation. To
foster our community of teachers, we encourage each other to
construct sound teaching practices that provide our undergraduate
students with a consistent and fair education in composition (see
the goals for our courses). Our
mentoring program is intended to:
support, prepare, and train our new teaching assistants who
will teach composition courses.
provide knowledge and a degree of comfort in the basics of
classroom management, ethics, fairness, time management, and
promote a community of teachers who are concerned with
teaching, writing, research, and student success.
In consultation with the Chair, the Writing Coordinator
recommends faculty suited for mentoring teaching assistants (or
adjunct, part-time, or new hires as needed). This
service is important to the department and program and should be
noted in annual reports. Candidates for mentoring
should have an excellent teaching record, be full-time faculty
members, be willing to take on the duty of mentoring, should have taught ENG 100, 101, 200, or 201 in the past two
years, be willing to use and follow our textbook policy, and be
scheduled to teach a composition course during the semester
mentoring occurs. Typically, first year MA students work with a
teacher of ENG 100 or 101 in the fall and ENG 200 or 201 in the spring.
In the event that there are more mentors than teaching
assistants, full-time, tenure-line faculty will receive teaching
assistants first. Those not selected to mentor
teaching assistants may be asked to mentor part-time or adjunct
faculty, a duty also important to our program.
Expectations of Mentors
Teaching Assistants are usually assigned to a mentor shortly
before the semester begins. Mentors should do a
number of things to prepare the teaching assistant, noting that many
teaching assistants have never taught a class before. Below
is a list of what the teaching assistant should learn from the
The teaching assistant should teach class multiple times.
The teaching assistant should develop an ENG 101 syllabus.
The teaching assistant should learn how to design assignments,
present lectures, organize group work, and grade/evaluate essays
The teaching assistant should attend each class meeting.
The teaching assistant should hold conferences with students.
The mentor and teaching assistant should meet to discuss the
course, pedagogical strategies, grading, developing assignments,
etc. Typically these meetings occur directly after a
class meets but meeting times should be determined by the mentor
and the teaching assistant. It seems reasonable that the
mentor and teaching assistant would meet at least once a week
but no more than three times per week.
The mentor and teaching assistant will submit a one-page
evaluation of the mentoring experience at the end of the
Things to Consider
While you may have your teaching assistant grade essays and teach
classes, please remember that the first year of our graduate program
is more time-consuming than the second year. Teaching Assistants are responsible for three courses (nine
hours), working with a mentor (10 hours), working with a program
coordinator (five–seven hours), and working in the writing center
(three hours). They are busy adjusting to their
A teaching assistant should not become the sole teacher of the
A teaching assistant should not be asked to grade all
assignments or essays for the course.
Teaching assistants are asked to contribute 10 hours to
learning how to teach composition courses; think about how much work
or time the teaching assistant needs to complete requests or
Teaching assistants should not be part of departmental
Evaluation of First-Year Mentors and Teaching Assistants
At the end of the semester, the Writing Coordinator will ask
for a one-page evaluation from the mentor concerning the performance
of the teaching assistant. In addition, the
Writing Coordinator and/or chair may request a meeting with the
mentor to discuss the teaching assistantís progress and potential
for teaching. Mentors are expected to
evaluate the teaching assistants, indicating strengths,
weaknesses, and areas of improvement (or those in need of
improvement). The mentor should indicate in the
evaluation whether or not s/he thinks the teaching assistant is
ready to move to the next year of mentoring and teaching.
Likewise, the teaching assistant is asked to submit a one-page
evaluation of the mentor. For example, the
teaching assistant will be asked to describe what he or she learned
in terms of grading, teaching, developing assignments, and to
evaluate the experience as a whole. Briefly,
teaching assistants should gain experience teaching class, grading
essays and assignments, and learning about how to manage a
classroom. The basics are important because,
again, many first-year teaching assistants are also
Responding to unusual situations
Sometimes it is necessary to take action during the course of a
semester. For example, if a problem arises in the
classroom, the Chair or Writing Coordinator may reassign an
adjunct or part-time faculty member to another mentor. The Chair or the Writing Coordinator also may ask a mentor to visit the classroom of a part-time or
adjunct faculty member. A current
mentor may be asked to take on an additional mentee, or other
full-time faculty may be asked to step in to fill this duty. We try
to respond to each situation with the best resources available, so
we ask that our mentorsóthe very best resources we haveóremain
flexible if we need to adjust mentoring arrangements.
Should there be a problem of any kind between the mentor and
teaching assistant, please notify the Writing Coordinator as
early as possible in the semester so the issue can be resolved. With your help and the guidelines above, we can help our
teaching assistants gain the confidence and competence they need to
become successful teachers.
Evaluation of Second-Year Teaching Assistants
GTAs teach composition courses independently and are observed twice
in the fall semester and twice in the spring semester by the
Writing Coordinator and a member of the Composition Committee. If serious issues are discovered via classroom observations,
the Writing Coordinator, Graduate Coordinator, and Chair will meet to
discuss the appropriate course of action.
the conclusion of the second year the Writing Coordinator will
write a formal evaluation of each GTA and will meet with the GTA to
discuss the evaluation as part of the on-going mentoring
process. A copy of the evaluation is given to the GTA and placed
in his or her personnel file. The evaluation will be based on
the following components: