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Frequently Asked Questions

What are graduate teaching assistantships and how can I apply for one?

A list of the number and combinations of graduate teaching assistantships vary depending on the year and funding available. Typically, a detailed list of job descriptions and the application form are sent out by the Department Chair mid-March.


A Graduate Assistant in Psychology is appointed by the Psychology Department to assist with teaching activities, scholarly activities or administrative support activities. There is an agreement between the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education and the Graduate Assistants United/American Association of University Professors (see GAU/AAUP contract

The duties of a Psychology Graduate Assistant consist of assisting with instructional, scholarly activities, or administrative support activities under the supervision of a Psychology faculty member. For a full-time assistantship, the average weekly workload is twenty (20) hours (see Article XIV of the GAU/AAUP contract), not more than ten hours of which may be in classroom contact hours.

The status of the Graduate Teaching Assistant is clearly differentiated in the Graduate Student Manual from that of Graduate Research Assistant. The following guidelines refer to the former position only.

A. Graduate Assistantships should be understood as opportunities for graduate students to gain valuable job-relevant experience and to provide important services to the department. Assistantships will vary in the percentage of time that is devoted to:

a. teaching duties (as in tutorials or recitation sections)

b. direct student contact

c. preparation/grading of exams

d. administrative duties

e. technical duties (e.g. computer/web work; care of equipment)

Some assistantships will involve only one or two of these functions. Other assistantships may involve more functions in varying proportions.

B. Criteria for Assigning Students to Assistantships.

1. Current graduate students must be in good standing and making satisfactory progress as indicated by the evaluation of the student's program committee and/or the Graduate Program Director.

2. The Department of Psychology strives to assign assistantships to students who best meet the requirements for each specific job as described, in terms of prior experience, academic background, and/or career interests and goals.

3. Assistantships that involve a considerable amount of teaching (under supervision) in laboratories, tutorials, or recitations, require: prior teaching experience or the completion of PSY 695 prior to or concurrent with the assistantship. Attendance at the Instructional Development Program Fall Workshop Series is also required. Courses to which these requirements pertain include: PSY 103, 113, 255, 200, 301, 532-33, and Instructional Assistantships.

4. Each program area utilizes individual criteria for establishing priorities in the assignment of assistantships. Check with your Program manual and/or Program Director.

C. Implementation

1. Each Graduate Program Director will use the program area’s criteria to determine assignments of students in his/her program. There will be 7 TA’s for each of the School and Behavioral Science programs and 8 assistantships for the Clinical program. Directors will recommend to the Chair the allocation of assistantships to meet course and other departmental needs and the assignment of students to these positions utilizing the criteria specified above.

D. Evaluation

1. According to the GAU/AAUP contract, the purposes of evaluation of GA’s are to encourage the improvement of individual professional performance and to provide a rational basis for employment decisions. One factor in the evaluation process must be direct observation of graduate assistants’ work, including teaching, research activities, and administrative duties.

As specified in the contract, an evaluation conference will take place annually between a graduate assistant and his/her supervisor to discuss job performance. Within ten (10) working days after this conference, the supervisor will prepare a written record of the evaluation conference. The supervisor shall give a copy of this written report no later than April 15th to the graduate assistant who may accept it as written, or append his or her comments to it.

2. Graduate assistants will formally evaluate, in writing, the quality of their experience as students. (Appropriate forms will be provided.)

Note: Assistantships are awarded with the following expectations:

That, having accepted the award, you will actually carry out the Assistantship or give adequate notice to the Department that you cannot do so.

That you will maintain good academic progress.

All full assistantships require 20 hours per week, over a 38-week period beginning 5 business days prior to Advising Day and ending on Commencement Day. Please note that this includes the period of time between semesters (although students receive two weeks of unpaid vacation, with the timing to be negotiated with the supervisor). All assistants will be expected to discharge their full commitments to these hours, and you may be required to be on campus to do so (e.g., admissions work between semesters must be completed on campus).

That you will not hold other employment during the Assistantship. (A request to work an additional 5 hours a week may be made to the Graduate School and approved if it can be shown that your academic progress will not suffer.) Level III graduate assistants may be permitted to work up to an additional 10 hours over the standard workweek with prior approval of the major professor, department chair, and the Vice Provost for Academic Programs. Taking Incompletes in courses, or significantly delaying a proposal or defense, can be taken as evidence that the Assistantship has actually been harmful to your progress. Students are strongly urged to take on only the amount of paid work that can be done without jeopardizing their academic progress or standing.

All graduate assistantships require concurrent registration for a minimum of 6 credits.

All graduate teaching assistantships require direct supervision. When a student has an appointment as an Instructional Assistant (with full responsibility for teaching a course) the student must be concurrently enrolled in PSY 696 for 1 credit to obtain supervision.