Teaching guidelines


We consider the training in the art and process of teaching that our graduate students receive to be a vital part of their development, as well as a major asset in their subsequent careers. We are therefore committed to training them as teachers.


Students with multiyear fellowship packages are expected to teach for a total of six semesters. As a rule, students teach in the fall and spring semesters during the second, third, and fourth years of study in the program. Those who receive certain outside fellowships, such as a FLAS, for a year when they would otherwise be teaching are exempt from teaching that year.

In order to teach, students must be in good academic standing and be making satisfactory progress towards the Ph.D. Consult GSAS regulations governing student teaching positions at Columbia.

Selection and Assignment

By March 31, all students who are currently in their first through fourth years of graduate study should complete and submit to the Director of Graduate Studies a questionnaire that addresses (a) the student’s assessment of his or her progress towards fulfilling degree requirements, (b) academic plans for the following year, (c) preferences for teaching assignments, and (d) information about other applications for teaching or for fellowships that are pending for the upcoming year. It is the student’s responsibility to inform the DGS in a timely fashion of any subsequent developments with outstanding applications.

Students who are currently in their fifth and sixth years should also submit a questionnaire if they would like to be considered for openings for teaching within the department that are not filled by students who will still be on GSAS fellowship in the upcoming year.

Assignment Process: Decisions about teaching assignments are made by the Teaching Committee (which consists of the Chair, Director of Graduate Studies, and the Director of Graduate Student Teaching) in consultation with the faculty as a whole as well as with the individual faculty members who supervise or teach the specific courses that require a teaching fellow.

Members of the Teaching Committee meet with individual students to discuss progress, plans, and possible teaching assignments. Students may also be interviewed by the faculty members who will be supervising.

In making decisions about assignments, the Teaching Committee balances various considerations: the needs of the department and also the student’s preferences, the student’s language skills (in language courses) or knowledge of the field (in other courses), the student’s prior teaching experience, the student’s need to develop a broad teaching portfolio. It is desirable for students in the Russian literature program to have experience teaching both first-year and second-year Russian language courses.

Notification of Teaching Assignments: By the end of the semester, the Teaching Committee informs students of their probable teaching assignments in writing. However, assignments are subject to change as late as the beginning of the semester, depending on course offerings, course enrollments, and the pool of graduate students available to teach. The pool can change as students are awarded fellowships or teaching positions outside the department.

Students are free to discuss teaching assignments with members of the Teaching Committee. See below on formal grievance procedures.

Assignments: Types, Duties, Training

There are three types of teaching assignments for graduate teaching fellows in Slavic. Teaching fellows in all courses are expected to hold regular office hours.

(a) Russian language teaching: Each teaching fellow is responsible for conducting a section of either first- or second-year Russian language. Russian language teaching fellows teach the course themselves and work in close, regular consultation with one of the supervisors of Russian language instruction. The teaching fellow teaches all classes, develops forms of classroom work, quizzes, and corrects students’ written work. Teaching fellows in Russian language participate in a workshop for new language teaching fellows in the Slavic Department and they are encouraged to attend the workshop run by the GSAS Teaching Center.

(b) Teaching of languages other than Russian: Teaching fellows for these languages teach the course themselves and work in close, regular consultation with the faculty member responsible for instruction in the relevant language. The teaching fellow teaches all classes, develops or modifies existing homework assignments, quizzes and exams, and corrects students’ written work. They should also participate in a the workshops for new teaching fellows run by the GSAS Teaching Center and by the Slavic Department in the week before the beginning of the fall semester.

(c) Teaching fellows in literature and linguistics courses: when it is justified by enrollment, teaching fellows with the relevant background and training may assist faculty members in courses in Russian literature or in general linguistics. The duties vary depending on the nature of the course. Duties include: grading homework, papers and exams; responding to student questions; advising students on course projects; proctoring exams; keeping records of attendance and grades; conducting review sections; and possibly other teaching duties. The teaching assistant receives training for these duties from the faculty member who conducts the course and meets with him or her regularly.

Evaluation of Teaching

Teaching is evaluated in three ways. First, the immediate faculty supervisor is responsible for monitoring and observing the student’s teaching in an ongoing fashion. Second, the teaching fellow should ask one faculty member (normally the faculty mentor or dissertation adviser) to visit his or her class at least once a semester and provide feedback, either orally or writing. Third, students in the courses fill out course evaluations that are reviewed by faculty supervisor. Student evaluations are included in the teaching fellow’s portfolio.

The ongoing evaluation of teaching is intended both to improve the quality of teaching and to allow the teaching fellow to create a teaching portfolio that will be useful, even necessary, in applying for teaching positions.

Policy on Absences

Below is an addendum to the department's Teaching Guidelines, at:


Graduate Teaching Fellow Absences

Teaching Fellows are expected to meet all class sessions, appointments and other obligations associated with their teaching assignment. Teaching Fellows should consult with the supervisor of their course to make sure that they fully understand their responsibilities at the start of the semester.

In the event that a Teaching Fellow must miss a class, office hour, appointment with supervisor, or other meeting, or is unable to perform other teaching-related duties due to illness or other extreme circumstances, he or she should follow the procedures outlined below.

If the absence is anticipated in advance, the Teaching Fellow should do all of the following:

a) contact his or her immediate supervisor and the Russian Language Coordinator (in the case of a language class) about the need to miss a class or meeting and consult with them in making appropriate arrangements for covering the class or meeting.

b) once these arrangements have been made, also inform the chair, academic department administrator, and the administrative assistant of the plan. Copy all three plus the supervisor on one e-mail message. Send this message as soon as possible and in advance of the missed class.

If a Teaching Fellow will miss a class or meeting (or substantive part of one) due to an unanticipated, last-minute emergency (medical or other), the Teaching Fellow or a proxy should do all of the following as soon as feasible:

a) call the Slavic Department at 212 854-3941. If there is no answer, leave a message and then also call 212 854-5157 (John Lacqua's direct line). If there is no answer, leave a message on that line, too.

b) e-mail the supervisor of the course, the Russian Language Coordinator, and the chair of the department to let them know the situation.

c) attempt to make last-minute arrangements for the class to be covered by a faculty member or another teaching fellow.

d) continue to communicate with supervisor, administrators, and chair about the circumstances, including the anticipated date of return to teaching.

Teaching Fellows should provide to the Department (both to their supervisor and the Academic Department Administrator) written documentation of emergencies, illnesses, and other causes of absences.

If absences recur or become disruptive to the class, or if a Teaching Fellow fails to perform duties associated with the teaching assignment, the Department will work with GSAS to determine appropriate action in order to maintain the continuity and integrity of the course for the students.

Questions about this policy should be directed to the chair of the department.

Other Teaching Opportunities and Resources

The Slavic Department also recommends that its students consider applying to teach in Columbia’s Core Curriculum, both in Literature Humanities and in Contemporary Civilization, as well as in the University Writing Program. Interested students will need to apply directly to these programs and follow the eligibility guidelines established by GSAS.

Every year the Department offers advanced graduate students an opportunity to compete for the chance to teach an undergraduate literature or culture course of their own design. For details, please consult the "Professional Development" section of the Graduate Student Handbook.

Students are encouraged to avail themselves of the resources of the GSAS Teaching Center and to participate in the events it sponsors.

Resolving Problems and Grievances

Teaching fellows are encouraged to consult, in person or in writing, with their immediate faculty supervisor or any member of the Teaching Committee about problems that arise in the course of teaching. If the problem cannot be resolved within the department, the student should contact the Assistant Dean for Ph.D. Programs at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 109 Low Library.