L&S Guidelines Regarding Peer Instruction by Graduate Student Lecturers
From time to time, departments may find that the best candidates available to meet short-term staffing needs in the undergraduate course range (courses numbered 699 and below) are found among the graduate student body. There is no policy that prevents departments from hiring graduate students as associate lecturers or lecturers in these courses, assuming that other hiring procedures have been followed. In fact, some departments may specifically state that preference in appointments will be given to current graduate students.
This document provides guidance to departments concerning the hiring of graduate students as lecturers.
For courses in the 300-699 range, however, it is important to recognize that graduate student instructors may occasionally be in the position of teaching and evaluating the work of other graduate students. Departments should consider this possibility as they make staffing assignments. As is the case with any staffing assignment, every department ensures that instructors are proficient in the subject matter to be taught; in this case, however, departments need to consider whether their graduate student instructors are sufficiently advanced in their academic programs that they are able to teach other graduate students.
Departments are responsible for monitoring student enrollments in courses taught by graduate student lecturers, and to intervene as needed to ensure appropriate evaluation of graduate student work and to avoid perceived conflicts of interest. Several issues should be considered:
- Analysis of graduate student enrollments in courses taught by graduate student lecturers suggests that most graduate students taking courses in the 300-699 range are enrolled in programs outside the department sponsoring the course. They may be learning a foreign language required for fieldwork, brushing up on Statistics, or working with a new programming language. In cases such as these, the department sponsoring the course may determine that there is no cause for concern about graduate students lecturers teaching these peers.
- If a graduate student lecturer is teaching students who are enrolled in his/her own program, the department may need to consider carefully whether it is appropriate for that lecturer to be teaching and evaluating his/her departmental colleagues. In some cases, the department's determination may be made in light of program structure and the qualifications of the student. One department may determine that an advanced graduate student lecturer who is a dissertator is well qualified to teach an introductory course to master's level students. In another department, the faculty may determine that the instructor may teach his/her peers, but a member of the faculty will evaluate those students.
- In cases where the faculty consider "dissertator status" (or, "ABD") to mean that the lecturer is well qualified, it may be useful to make explicit the criteria that are implicit in that determination. For example, "dissertator status" usually means that these students have completed of all master's level coursework (whether or not they have been awarded the MA/MS). They have also completed substantive doctoral level coursework, and have passed all preliminary and/or other qualifying examinations. Dissertators have defended dissertation research proposals, and some dissertators will have published scholarly work or achieved other important milestones. These activities reflect the high level of qualification that may be sufficient for the rare cases where a graduate student lecturer may be called upon to teach peers.
- Finally, for purposes of providing additional oversight in these unusual cases, as well as for mentoring future faculty, the department may choose to have a procedure for reviewing a graduate student lecturer's evaluation of other graduate students' work.