Most graduate students in the English Department serve as instructors or teaching assistants for part, or all, of their graduate careers. Teaching in the department is crucial professional preparation for a career in the academy and provides a measure of colleagueship with other faculty. The standard teaching load for graduate students in the program is two courses per semester. Each semester, in September and February, graduate students fill out a form, selecting their top choices for teaching from the variety of courses taught by graduate students in the English Department.
Courses Taught by Graduate Students:
English 1000: First year PhD students teach English 1000, and anyone who teaches two courses per semester should generally expect that at least one of these will be English 1000. In their first year, funded MA students receive teaching training through the Composition Program and through tutoring in the Writing Center during their first semester; they teach one section of English 1000 in their second semester. In addition to the traditional sections of English 1000 (capped at 20 students), the department offers a number of sections for international students (English 1000 IS, capped at 15) and for Honors students (English 1000H, capped at 20).
English 2010 (Intermediate Composition): Usually 3-4 sections per semester, capped at 15 students. Students can request to teach English 2010 once they have successfully taught English 1000.
English 2030 (Professional Writing): Usually 3 sections per semester, capped at 20 students. Meets in a computer classroom. Students can request to teach English 2030 once they have successfully taught English 1000.
English 1160 (Themes in Literature), 1210 (Intro to British Literature), and 1310 (Intro to American Literature) are the usual course assignments for new teachers of literature. We typically offer between 8-10 sections of these courses per semester, with 30 students in each class. Students must take English 8020 (The Theory and Practice of Teaching in English) to be eligible to teach any of these courses. Preference will be given to 1210 applicants who have successfully completed an 8000-level seminar in British Literature and to 1310 applicants who have successfully completed an 8000-level seminar in American Literature.
English 1100 (Reading Literature) is a large-lecture course especially for freshman and sophomore non-majors. The course topic and readings vary depending on the faculty member who is teaching it, but most often it presents contemporary literature as a way to get college students thinking about how and why they read literature. This course usually uses 2 graduate student TAs, who are asked to attend all lectures and read the assigned texts; to teach a breakout session (of usually 30 students) one day a week; to facilitate and monitor small group discussion during lectures; collaborate with the professor on creating course assessments (tests, exams, group work etc.); and grade the assessments for their respective breakout groups. Experience teaching a literature course is preferred, but not required.
Teaching Assistants in Large Enrollment Classes: These are arranged by and with individual faculty members who are teaching larger courses at the 3000 and 4000 levels. Such assignments are contingent upon the class enrolling enough students to support a TA position, and are usually given to advanced graduate students in their particular field of study.
Creative Writing Workshops: Usually after one semester or more of teaching in the composition program, Creative Writing graduate students can teach introductory-level workshops (1510- Intro to Fiction, 1520- Intro to Nonfiction Prose, 1530-Intro to Poetry) and, at times, Intermediate workshops (2510, 2520, and 2530). These classes are capped at 15.
On occasion, sections of the advanced workshops are available to graduate students.
Each semester the department offers 3-4 sections of English 1800, some taught by Film Studies faculty and some by English graduate students. English/Film 1800 is one of the core courses for the Film Studies major at MU, and is the prerequisite for many upper-division courses in Film. The course focuses on introduction to terms and concepts for film analysis, including mise-en-scene, cinematography, editing, sound, narrative, genre, and other elements. Instructors organize a common screening on Monday evenings together with a course coordinator and teach independent sections of 30 students, using film clips and a film textbook. Graduate students from all areas of the department are encouraged to apply. The primary criteria for selection are 1) graduate coursework in film and 2) teaching experience (especially experience teaching film). To apply, please submit (along with the teaching request) a brief letter describing your interest in and qualifications for teaching film.
Folklore/English 1700 (Intro to Folklore Genres): This class is capped at 30. Priority is given to graduate students studying folklore. On occasion there are upper-level folklore courses that are available to graduate students.
While the department first and foremost aims to provide graduate students with a variety of teaching experiences, including those specifically relevant to their fields of study, it also takes other factors into account when making teaching assignments:
Recommendations for assignments for film and folklore classes will be sent to the committee by faculty in those areas.
Support for Teaching:
The department offers two pedagogy courses, English 8010: The Theory and Practice of Teaching Composition and English 8020: The Theory and Practice of Teaching Composition, and 2 Creative Writing Pedagogy workshops each semester. Further support for graduate student teachers, such as assistance with syllabus and assignment design, is provided by the DC and Assistant Director (for composition classes), the DUS (for literature classes), and the DCW (for creative writing workshops).
In addition to taking English 8010 in their first semester, all students teaching or preparing to teach English 1000 for the first time receive extensive professional development support, including participating in a week-long pre-semester orientation, participating in peer mentor groups in their second semester, and engaging in pedagogical workshops and peer observations throughout the year. Additionally, MA students shadow experienced instructors of English 1000 in their first semester.
New teachers of literature and creative writing will attend an informational session about their assigned course in the semester before they teach it. Syllabus support and help with assignment designs will be included in this session, and these sessions will be run by the DUS and DCW respectively. All syllabi must be submitted to them for approval prior to the beginning of the semester.
Evaluation of Teaching:
In the first semester of teaching composition, instructors are observed by the DC. In the second semester of teaching, they are observed by their Composition Program Assistant mentor. In the second and third year, they are observed by a Composition Program Assistant. Advanced teachers are urged to ask the DC, the Assistant Director, and/or members of their committee to observe their classes and provide feedback.
All students who are teaching literature and creative writing for the first time, must ask a faculty member to observe a class period and engage in follow-up activities, such as meeting to discuss the course and writing a letter of observation. It is best to choose a faculty member with whom the student is otherwise engaged, but the DUS (for literature course) and the DCW (for creative writing courses) are also available to do teaching observations.