The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Teaching Assistantships (TAs) are the principal source of support for English graduate students. TAs are awarded by the University Writing Program to teach composition, and by the English Department primarily to teach course sections in large general education classes and a handful of smaller literature classes. To be eligible for funding, all prospective students *must* apply for a teaching associateship in the Writing Program.

If you have applied for funding, once you are admitted to an English graduate program, you will be interviewed by the Writing Program. The selection process is competitive, but nearly everyone in our MA/PhD program receives a teaching assistantship. Students who have been hired by the Writing Program and who are in good standing in English and the Writing Program are reappointed annually. Students can count on five years of support (if they are admitted into the PhD program) or seven years of support (if they are admitted into the MA/PhD program).

The Graduate Program aims to enable MA/PhD students to do three kinds of teaching during the course of their studies: as a teaching associate of the first-year College Writing course in the Writing Program, as a teaching assistant for a lecture course, and as the teacher of a “stand-alone” literature course. While the complexities of scheduling are such that this may not occur in every case, the Graduate Program Director (GPD) and the Director of the Writing Program do everything possible to maximize each student’s opportunities for professional development through varied teaching experiences.

Students in the MA-only program are not eligible for assistantships in the department. They may be eligible to apply for positions elsewhere on campus, some of which are listed here.

University Writing Program

Most graduate students begin teaching in our nationally recognized University 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.  For first-year writing courses, the class size is 15 students, and the learning goals include helping students develop an ability to write effectively with purpose and to diverse audiences, and to develop an awareness of rhetorical strategies and their own writing processes; teaching methods include generative writing, drafting and revision, peer response, 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.

Learn how to apply.

English and American Literature

Most graduate students teach for two to three years in the Writing Program. After that period, students are eligible to apply for a teaching assistantship in the English Department. During the academic year, graduate students work as teaching assistants in large lecture courses such as Society and Literature; Gender, Sexuality, Literature, and Culture; Shakespeare; Representing the Holocaust; and Studies in Modern Fiction. Usually after some experience as a teaching assistant, graduate students can apply to teach a stand-alone General Education course: possibilities include American Experience; Ethnic American Literature; Society and Literature; Gender, Sexuality, Literature, and Culture; Reading Drama; and World Literature in English. 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 & Professional Education (C&PE) which offers courses during Winter Session (January), Summer Session (June-July/Jul-August) and in the evenings during the academic terms.

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.

The Writing Program provides extensive professional development for Teaching Associates, including a two-year practicum requirement plus additional opportunities. The required professional development begins with an intensive four-day orientation, bi-weekly workshops in the fall, and bi-weekly meetings in Course Director groups during the first year. These small groups provide an ongoing space to discuss pedagogical approaches, classroom teaching, and other student-teacher issues. Course Directors hold class observations and generally mentor TOs during this first year. During the second year, TOs develop a teaching statement and delve more deeply into specific teaching issues (e.g., teaching with technology, language diversity) in a practica series.

English Department literature TAs 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. The Course Director visits the graduate-student TA’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 TA and Course Director to discuss and reflect on best teaching practices.

Research Assistantships

RAs are offered with two journals, The Sidney Journal and English Literary Renaissance. Both are associated with the Massachusetts Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies.

Assistantship Remuneration

In the Department of English, a full teaching assistantship is considered a two-course load per year (one course each semester); in the Writing Program a full load is three courses per year (one in one term, two in the other). Currently, teaching assistants earn approximately $18,500, along with full tuition and curriculum fee waivers and health and other benefits. Half teaching and research assistantships also carry a tuition and fee waiver.