Purpose of the Teaching Fellow Program
The Teaching Fellow Program is the principal framework at Yale within which graduate students learn to become effective teachers. Learning to teach and to evaluate student work is fundamental to the education of graduate students. The TFP provides opportunities for graduate students to develop teaching skills, under faculty guidance, through active participation in the teaching of Yale undergraduates. Teaching fellows who encounter problems or difficulties related to their teaching role their professional school associate dean.
Teaching Fellow (TF) Levels and Types
There are two levels of teaching fellows at Yale and five types of assignments. Please refer to the GSAS webpage for explanation of TF levels and types.
Associates in Teaching Program
Associates in Teaching are graduate students who design and teach courses in full collaboration with a Yale faculty member. Graduate students and their faculty partners apply each spring to co-teach a course in the following academic year. The program is design to give select graduate students the opportunity to gain the full range of experience in college teaching, with the added benefit that comes from close collaboration with a Yale faculty member. Visit the Associates in Teaching Program, and watch for the call-for-applications which comes out at the start of spring semester (February 12, 2016).
College Seminar Instructorships
As with Associates in Teaching, the appointment of graduate students as residential college seminar instructors differs from the appointment of teaching fellows in several respects. To begin with, graduate students themselves take the initiative to make a proposal for a college seminar. Proposals are made on a standardized form and include both a general description of the course and a week-by-week syllabus, as well as information about the experience and qualifications of the prospective instructor. The proposed seminar is reviewed by the College Seminar Committee of each of the twelve residential colleges, some of which may invite the prospective instructor for an interview. When a proposal is chosen for support by a residential college, it then undergoes three levels of faculty review, following the normal channels of approval for all Yale courses.
College seminar appointments must also be approved by the dean of Yale College and by the student’s associate dean in the Graduate School.
Further information about becoming a college seminar instructor and seminar proposal forms are available at the program website. Proposals should be submitted to that office by the last week of August for the succeeding spring term, and by the first week of January for the succeeding fall term. Instructors are notified of final approval in early May (for fall courses) or early December (for spring courses). Graduate students teaching residential college seminars are appointed as PTAIs.
Teaching Opportunities in the Professional Schools
Although most of the teaching done by graduate students is in Yale College courses, in certain departments and programs there are teaching fellowships that involve the instruction of students enrolled in Yale professional schools. Appointment procedures for these positions vary and are often different from those for Yale College teaching, but the process of approval described on this webpage continues to apply. Here, as elsewhere, it is the faculty member who has final responsibility for both the final determination and the submission of grades.
Becoming a Teaching Fellow
The award of a teaching fellowship begins at the departmental, program, or school level. The first step in this process is the department’s determination of its teaching opportunities. In the spring of each academic year, departments and programs are asked to submit lists of the courses to be taught in the coming academic year that are appropriate for graduate student teaching assistance, describing for each course the teaching structure (e.g., lecture or laboratory with sections, lecture with graders) and the projected number and levels of teaching fellows. Requests are based on standard teaching fellow levels as described on this page, in the Graduate School Programs and Policies Bulletin, and in the Teaching Fellows System (TFS).
Departments and programs are responsible for selecting individual teaching fellows and assigning their students via TFS with the TFP Office. Teaching fellows are selected from the pool of eligible graduate students who have documented their interest in teaching with first priority for students in teaching years, then other graduate students, and finally professional school students. Specific teaching assignments are made on the basis of:
- Academic importance of a particular teaching experience for individual graduate students
- The graduate student’s fields of specialization and academic progress
- Projected enrollments and teaching methodology for the course.
Once the assignment process has been completed, the assigned student will receive an email asking them to accept (or reject) the appointment and once accepted, the student will receive a printable appointment letter.
Responsibility for monitoring and reporting enrollments rests with the faculty member in charge of a class. As enrollments stabilize in the first few weeks of each term, departments are asked to monitor closely course and section sizes, and it is occasionally necessary for departments to change teaching fellow appointments in response to unexpectedly high or low enrollment.
For students in their teaching years (as specified in the letter of admission), teaching assignments are not affected by course enrollment and do not change unless the course is cancelled or the student, DGS, and course instructor agree upon a reassignment. Two exceptions are that discussion sections must enroll at least SIX students and graders must have at least NINE students.
A few weeks after the course selection period ends the TFP Office will send a Verification Survey to TFs so that students and faculty can verify the accuracy of their appointments and any needed adjustments or corrections can be made. Near the end of the term, the TFP Office will post a list of the appointments processed in TFS for confirmation by departments, and will send teaching fellows confirmation of their appointments.
Access to Teaching Fellowships
When departments are considering applications for teaching fellowships, priority is given to qualified graduate students who are expected to teach as indicated in their letter of admission (usually in years three and four in the humanities and social sciences). Students in their fifth or sixth year of study will be permitted to teach as long as there is appropriate teaching available and they have been admitted to candidacy and do not currently hold a dissertation fellowship. Students who are permitted to register beyond the sixth year of study may be appointed as TFs or PTAIs, but only if there is no other qualified candidate available in the first six years of study in any department or program of the Graduate School. In cases where an appointing department must choose between two or more graduate students who are each well qualified to teach a particular course, the student or students who have not yet had a chance to teach or who have taught the least should be given preference.
Conditions of Eligibility and Appointment Letters
A student must be registered in the Graduate School or in a professional school to be appointed as a teaching fellow or as a part-time acting instructor (PTAI).
The Graduate School requires that all students who teach be in good academic standing. In addition, they must be fluent in English, except for those who only grade. Graduate students whose native language is not English are required to meet the oral English proficiency standard before they may begin teaching. The standard may be met by
- Passing the SPEAK test,
- Passing the Test of Spoken English (TSE), or
- Having received a degree from an institution where the principal language of instruction is English. (Degrees awarded en route to the Ph.D. at Yale will not satisfy this requirement.)
In some instances, a student’s director of graduate studies (DGS) may require that students with degrees from English-speaking institutions also pass the SPEAK test to satisfy the language requirement.
Letters of admission inform students of their programs’ requirement for teaching. In many programs there are specific years when students teach and when a portion of their financial aid is derived in part from teaching. For example, most humanities and social science students will participate in teaching in their third and fourth years. In the natural sciences, the timing of teaching is earlier or is flexible across several years. When students are teaching as specified in their letters of admission, teaching assignments will not be adjusted in response to changes in course enrollments (with the exception of SIX students required for discussion sections and NINE for graders). Appointments for these students will change only if a course is cancelled or if the student, course instructor, and DGS all agree upon a reassignment.
Upon admission, many students receive financial aid packages that include teaching fellowships. The admission letter sets the minimum annual total stipend (including the teaching fellowship), which will be awarded even if appropriate teaching is not available or if the teaching fellowship is less than the standard departmental stipend. Such funding adjustments are made with the participation of a student’s associate dean and DGS.
Teaching appointments outside those specified in the letter of admission are contingent on a graduate student’s satisfactory academic progress and on sufficient course enrollment. Because the Graduate School considers teaching experience an integral part of graduate education, every effort will be made to assign students to another course at an equivalent level if enrollments are lower than anticipated. Ph.D. students who teach in their first or second year, or when such teaching is not a departmental requirement, will receive the full teaching fellowship, plus a supplemental fellowship, bringing their combined stipend up to the level awarded in the admission letter. M.A. students will receive the full teaching fellowship; any other financial aid will be awarded according to the policies of their program.
Limits on the Timing and Amount of Teaching
Students are permitted to teach up to a maximum of four TF units or one PTAI in introductory courses per term with a maximum of eight TF units or two PTAIs per year. Except in certain science departments, first-year students may be appointed as teaching fellows only in exceptional cases, and only after prior approval by their DGS, the appropriate associate dean, and the director of the TFP. Students with outside fellowships are eligible to serve as TFs according to the policies of their departments and the conditions of their outside awards.