Political Science

Teaching Assistantships and Undergraduate Advising

To qualify for the Ph.D., a graduate student must acquire teaching experience under the supervision of a faculty member in both his/her main field of expertise and in a second field. A minimum of two semesters of Teaching Assistantship are required.

Assignment of Teaching Assistantships

Prior to the start of each semester, the Graduate Program Coordinator will send a list of available TA assignments asking for students top three or more preferences of classes they would like to TA for.  Every attempt will be made to match students with their preferences.

Holding more than one TAship at a time or more than one appointment (in the same semester) is specifically and directly prohibited by the Graduate School.

International students are required to complete English language proficiency training and certification. This process is managed by the English for International TA program (EITA). That office will contact new TA’s for an evaluation prior to the start of the teaching appointment.

Final TA assignments will not be made until enrollment counts are confirmed following add/drop period. 

Teaching Responsibilities

Although the precise terms of each TAship may vary depending on the course instructor, serving as a TA in the Department of Political Science generally entails attending all undergraduate lectures, leading up to two 50-minute discussion sections for a total of up to 50 students, holding regular office hours of two hours per week, grading papers and exams for up to 50 students, and posting documents to Canvas, and giving occasional guest lectures as requested.  You may do more in some weeks (e.g. midterm; end-of-semester) and less in others, but the average should remain at or below the maximum limit. 

The Department strongly urges all of its graduate students to contact the Harriet W. Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning and to make full use of its programs, literature, and seminars.

Teaching Evaluations

Teaching Assistant evaluations are done online as part of the course evaluation. At the end of the semester, Teaching Assistants should remind undergraduates to complete the online evaluation and give them your full name, first and last. It’s remarkable that even by the end of the semester, undergraduates are unsure of their TA’s name. Undergraduates select their TA from a drop down list. Some undergraduates will invariably select the wrong TA. There is no way to change or swap comments from one TA’s evaluation to the next. TA’s can read their evaluation scores and comments online in Banner after the end of the semester.

TA’s will be given an overall evaluation score in relation to the average score of all Political Science TA’s who taught section in that semester. 1.00 being the best and 5.00 being the worst. If a TA’s score is worse than the average score, students are recommended to visit the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning and encouraged to take their Teaching Certificate programs. The expectancy is that the following semester a TA will show improvement as indicated by evaluations and instructor feedback. A TA’s responsibilities and teaching is an important piece of graduate training. Therefore it is evaluated as part of the annual status letter. 

Teaching Award

The P. Terrence Hopmann Award for Excellence in Teaching was created to honor the outstanding work of Teaching Assistants. Terry Hopmann, Professor Emeritus and former Chair of Political Science, retired in 2008 after more than 25 years of dedicated service to Brown University. He was known for his tireless commitment to the students of Brown, both graduates and undergraduates. This award is a tribute to his innumerable contributions to students of all ages during his tenure with Political Science. 

The Graduate Affairs Committee will select winners based on section leader evaluation scores and comments, and nominations by the students' faculty instructor. This award will be given to a minimum of one student per semester. Award winners will be announced annually in the second semester for the previous spring and fall semesters. Students cannot win in consecutive semesters. This award carries a cash prize of $350.

Advising Undergraduates

As of 2009, graduate students are permitted to serve as readers for undergraduate senior honors theses. Undergraduates need a faculty member to serve as the primary advisor but graduate students can be secondary readers/advisors. Typically, the graduate student will be an advanced graduate student who has completed their coursework and passed their comprehensive exams. In exceptional cases, however, less advanced graduate students may be permitted to serve with the permission of the DGS. The main consideration is that graduate students serving as a reader not interfere with their own work and progress in the program. Undergraduates must apply to the honors program and have their readers selected by the middle of the second semester of their junior year in order to be eligible to take the Honors thesis class their senior year. Undergraduates reach out directly to the person they are asking to be a reader.