Grad student assistants not the ideal instructors

By: Justin Jans / Contributing Writer

I have had many classes taught by a graduate student teaching assistant instead of an actual professor. Through my experience, I have found that most graduate students do not want to be teaching the class, nor do they have the time for it.

Most of the graduate students that taught me seemed as if teaching was simply a way to help get through graduate school. These ones were, and are currently, simply using the teaching job as a way to pay tuition and are not adequately helping undergraduate students.

A problem with a graduate student teaching an undergraduate course is that students need someone who will help them understand the subject. While graduate students may know the subject, it does not mean that they can communicate the information clearly. Being able to communicate information to a student is sometimes the difference between passing and failing a class.

Many graduate students simply regurgitate notes that were given to them by the professor. Vanessa Somarriba, junior psychology, said, “I’ve had to deal with grad student instructors who know less of the material than I do and do nothing but read from the book during class.”

It also comes down to the fact that graduate students are still students. Along with teaching classes, many of them are writing papers for their own. Many students tend to become overstressed during finals week. Combine grading a multitude of student assignments with completing required courses, it is a tremendous work load to place on a graduate student.

Looking at the 2011-12 Graduate Assistantship Program Summary Chart, which details the eligibility requirements for a student to become a teaching assistant, a graduate student must be enrolled in at least 9 credits in the Fall and Spring semester, and at least six in the summer while maintaining a 3.0 GPA. If they are hired, they must then work 20 hours per week. All of these responsibilities does not give a graduate student adequate time to concentrate on teaching the class.

Allowing graduate students to teach undergraduate classes is a flawed policy. Many times, graduate students do not have the attitude or the desire to teach the class. They are using this job as a way to help pay for graduate school.

In other cases, the graduate student simply has too many things to do in their own classes, which they prioritize higher than the classes they are teaching. Graduate students simply have too much on their plates with teaching classes as well as attending their own.

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