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TA assignments should match degrees

Nov. 12, 2004


A major component of graduate and post-graduate education involves candidates working as teaching assistants, taking on the responsibility of teaching a course to undergraduates.It seems logical that the TA would be assigned to teach a class directly related to his or her field of study. While the TAs' involvement in teaching benefits the undergraduate students in the class, it is also meant to benefit the TA by providing hands-on experience that they can later refer back to.

What happens, then, when there are not enough teaching spots within a particular field to accommodate all the TAs in need of teaching experience?

Tina Collins, a joint doctoral candidate in American history and education at University of Pennsylvania, was reportedly surprised when she received her mandatory teaching assignment -- a survey course in Latin American history. According to The Daily Pennsylvanian, Collins, who had "never taken a course in Latin American history as a graduate student," could hardly be qualified to teach the subject to a class full of undergraduates.

While the Lariat editorial board agrees graduate students must fill their TA requirements, we believe it is impractical for the assignments to be outside of the individual graduate student's field of study. While it is clearly a difficult situation for the TA -- being responsible to teach a subject that have not studied and therefore are no more qualified to teach it than the students in their classes -- it is perhaps worse for the undergraduate student paying full tuition at a university to be taught by someone with little to no knowledge of the subject matter. It is unfair and irresponsible of the administration to put its students -- both graduate and undergraduate -- in such a position. The university has a responsibility to its students to provide the best education possible. In assigning graduate students to teach courses they have little to no experience in, universities are failing to live up to that commitment, in effect enlisting the blind to lead the blind.

Editorial Board 4-1