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University of Massachusetts Amherst

University of Massachusetts Amherst

English Department

Graduate Assistantships




Rhetoric and Composition Program

Most graduate students begin teaching in our nationally renowned writing program.  The Writing Program offers teaching associateships in two freshman writing classes, Basic Writing and College Writing.  Some sections of these courses may be designed and taught as computer-assisted writing classes.  Classes usually enroll 24 students and focus on the students' experience of the writing process; teaching methods include workshops, multiple drafts, peer response and evaluation, and individual conferences with the instructor.  Admission to teach in the writing program is competitive; graduate students must fill out an application, provide supporting materials, and be interviewed by members of the Writing Program staff.

English and American Literature

Students who earn or enter the program with an M.A. in English are eligible to apply for a teaching associateship in the English department. During the academic year, graduate students teach General Education introductory literature courses such as: Man and Woman in Literature, Society and Literature, The American Experience. Class size is approximately 35 students, and instructors have considerable latitude in designing their own syllabi within the General-Education guidelines. Students are also eligible to teach courses through the Department of Continuing Education which offers courses during Winter Session (January), Summer Session (June-July/Jul-August) and in the evenings during the academic terms. Courses available through Continuing Education indluce: Major British Writers, Film and Literature, Studies in Modern Fiction, Advanced Expository Writing, Science Fiction and the Imagination, as well as regular General Education offerings. The Director of Graduate Studies is responsible for making all teaching appointments in English. Appointments, as in the Writing Program, are by application.

Pedagogical Training

One of the special features of our graduate program is its attention to pedagogical practice and training. Graduate students leave our program as well-trained, experienced, and sophisticated professional instructors of literature and composition. They receive consistent and on-going contact with faculty mentors and teachers, and they are regularly evaluated on the teaching skills they are learning in the program. Entering graduate students who have been awarded a TO in the Writing Program meet for a one-week, intensive training session before the semester begins each fall. They are provided with a program syllabus which they can follow outright or adapt to their own uses.

Throughout the academic year, TOs in the Writing Program meet in a bi-weekly Course Directors' Group led by one of the faculty or staff specialists in Composition and Rhetoric. These small groups provide an on-going space in which to discuss assignments, classroom challenges, problem students, pedagogical practice and theory, and anything else pertaining to student teaching. The Course Director visits the graduate student Teaching Associate's class three times during his/her first two years of teaching. These class observations along with each semester's course evaluations provide an opportunity for the Teaching Associate and Course Director to discuss and reflect on best teaching practices. English Department literature TOs also meet in a General Education Course Directors' Group led by a faculty member in English and devoted specifically to issues faced in the multicultural classroom. Meeting once a month, this group also discusses syllabi choices, specific assignments, and the challenges posed by a non-English cohort in a literature class. Faculty group leaders visit each student's class once a semester and produce a teaching evaluation that goes in the student's graduate file.

Research Assistantships

RAs are offered in the journal The Sidney Journal and The Journal of English Literary Renaissance.

Assistantship Remuneration

A full TO is considered a two-course load per year (one course each semester) and earns approximately $14,516 and a tuition and fee waiver. Half TAs and RAs also carry a tuition and fee waiver.