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Center for Teaching Excellence

Graduate Student

TA Training FAQ

New graduate TA/IAs often have specific questions about TA Orientation, GRAD 701 course completion requirements, and other concerns. The following are the most commonly asked questions regarding TA Training. Please consult this FAQ before contacting the TA Training Program Manager.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do I have to do to complete TA Training?

To complete TA Training, all graduate students who have received an Instructional Assistantship (IA) or Teaching Assistantship (TA) are required to go through the Graduate School's TA Training program. This program consists of two parts: 1) TA Orientation, offered at the beginning of each semester, and 2) GRAD 701, a semester-long TA Training workshop-based course. Both parts of this program must be completed for a graduate student to be credentialed and eligible for instructional duties, and listed in the Graduate School's Trained TA/IA Database.

Do I have to attend both TA Orientation AND enroll in GRAD 701?

Yes. The two TA Orientation Workshops offered prior to the start of the semester and the GRAD 701 ongoing course are required for all new TA/IAs. The TA Orientation Workshops provide USC-specific information you need to know prior to assuming your TA/IA-ship, and GRAD 701 provides you with ongoing training helpful to your particular instructional duties.

Under Academic Affairs policy ACAF 4.0.I.A.1, GIAs and GTAs "must have attended a series of workshops for Graduate Teaching Assistants and Graduate Instructional Assistants sponsored by the Graduate School" prior to beginning your TA/IA-ship. This requirement is fulfilled through TA Orientation. As required by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), GTA/IAs must participate in "regular in-service training" (SACS 3.7.1.f) during your first semester of teaching to be credentialed as a TA/IA. This is accomplished by enrolling in the GRAD 701 course, "Teaching Assistant Development," or enrolling in an approved departmental GRAD 701-equivalent TA Training course.

Contact your Graduate Director or Graduate Coordinator to determine in which ongoing training course you should enroll.

Are all graduate TA/IAs required to attend TA Orientation?

Any graduate student who has been newly assigned an Instructional Assistantship (IA) or Teaching Assistantship (TA) at USC must participate in TA Orientation. If you have participated in TA Orientation in a previous semester, you are not required to attend another Orientation. Even if you have experience teaching at a prior institution, you are still required to attend USC's TA Orientation.

Who should enroll in GRAD 701?

As required by SACS, all newly appointed graduate TA/IAs must also participate in GRAD 701 or your department's approved teaching course, even if you have experience teaching at a prior institution. SACS requires "regular in-service training" (SACS 3.7.1.f) during a TA/IA's first semester of teaching to be credentialed as a TA/IA at USC. Contact your Graduate Director or Graduate Coordinator to inquire about whether you register for your department's approved TA training course or GRAD 701.

What if I don't know if I'm supposed to take GRAD 701 or a departmental-specific TA Training course?

You will need to contact your Graduate Director or Program Coordinator to determine if your department requires you to enroll in a departmental TA Training course instead of GRAD 701.

How do I register for TA Orientation?

 You can register on the TA Orientation page.

How do I cancel/change my registration for TA Orientation?

Please email Dr. Michelle L. Hardee, Program Manager, for any changes or cancellations. Changes to registration dates must be made 48 hours prior to all TA Orientation events, to ensure availability of alternative dates. Remember, it is your responsibility to register for a different orientation date/time if you cancel your first attendance choice!

What is the schedule for TA Orientation?

The schedule for TA Orientation includes two 3-hour workshops: Workshop A, "Policies, Places and People," and Workshop B, "Teaching Tips and Techniques." Each workshop is offered on multiple days and multiple times for your convenience. For a listing of scheduled dates, times, and agenda, go to the TA Orientation webpage.

What's the difference between Workshop A and Workshop B – do I have to attend them both?

You are required to attend both Workshop A and B. The two workshops are very different and cover important information vital for GTA/IAs to know prior to beginning their teaching responsibilities.  

Workshop A provides you with information on FERPA (privacy rights and responsibilities of instructors), guidelines on dealing with issues of discrimination and harassment in the classroom, what to do about cheating and plagiarism, how to deal with a range of behavioral issues or concerns, important University policies and University resources, etc. – all necessary information for a TA/IA to know before you step into the classroom.

Workshop B was designed from comment cards by previous TA/IAs who listed their most worrisome concern prior to teaching. We will discuss how to prepare for your teaching duties, how to establish the teacher-student relationship, managing your workload, grading objectively, dealing with classroom challenges; there will also be an interactive veteran TA panel allowing you the opportunity to ask specific questions not addressed in the TA Orientation Workshops.

Does it matter in what order I attend the TA Orientation Workshops, A & B?

Not at all. The two required workshops are offered on multiple days, at multiple times, for your convenience. You can take Workshop B one morning, then Workshop A the next afternoon, or both in one day, etc. – whatever fits your schedule best!

Do I need to prepare anything for TA Orientation?

No, you will not need to prepare anything, just bring a notebook, pen, and a pleasant attitude! We recommend you consider TA Orientation as a great opportunity to network and meet your colleagues.

What if I miss TA Orientation on the offered dates?

If you miss all four scheduled dates for TA Orientation, you MUST participate in a makeup orientation. Due to Academic Affairs policy, without attending these Orientation sessions, you may be ineligible to receive your TA/IA-ship. If you miss the scheduled TA Orientation sessions, contact Dr. Michelle Hardee at immediately. You will be required to provide documentation and confirmation from your Graduate Director regarding why you missed the scheduled dates and need to attend the makeup session.

How do I register for GRAD 701?

Register for GRAD 701 just as you do with any of your other classes, via the website. Depending on your department, school or college, register for the appropriate section of GRAD 701 following the restrictions listed below:

Section 001 – General registration – open to all departments
Section 002 – General registration – open to all departments
Section 003 – Moore School of Business MACC GIAs only
Section 004 – English Department Writing Center GIA Tutors only
Section 005 – Chemistry and Biochemistry GIAs only
Section 006 – English Department Discussion Leader GIAs only
Section 007 – College of Engineering and Computing GIAs only (When Offered)

In some departments, the Graduate Coordinator will register graduate students for this course. If you have any problems, contact the Registrar or your Graduate Coordinator/Graduate Director.

How can I complete TA Orientation and enroll in GRAD 701 if I am not assigned to be a TA/IA until after the semester begins?

While rare, we recognize this does happen on occasion. In instances where a graduate student is assigned a TA/IA-ship after the first week of classes, have your Graduate Coordinator or Graduate Director contact Dr. Michelle L. Hardee, Program Manager for TA Training, at or 777-1975, to discuss your situation and arrange for TA Orientation makeup workshops and late GRAD 701 registration.

I don't know if I am going to be teaching this semester, but I might be. What should I do?

If you, your Graduate Director or Department Chair think you may be receiving a TA/IA-ship in the coming semester, we highly recommend you participate in TA Orientation and GRAD 701 so that you will be prepared for your teaching assignment, should you be assigned a TA/IA-ship. If it turns out you do not get assigned a TA/IA-ship until the following semester, the TA Orientation and GRAD 701 course you have completed will count towards that credentialing and you will not need to re-enroll in the future.

What if I'm not going to be a TA until the spring semester?

TA Orientation is offered at the beginning of every fall and spring semester, GRAD 701 is offered every semester, so if your TA/IA-ship begins in the spring you should attend TA Orientation and enroll in GRAD 701 in January. You are welcome, however, to attend Orientation in August and enroll in GRAD 701 during the fall semester if you would like to have some early experience with TA Training. If you do take TA Orientation & GRAD 701 early, you do not need to retake these immediately prior to your TA/IA-ship.

If my department has a TA orientation at the beginning of the semester, do I still have to take the university-wide TA Orientation?

Yes. Every new TA/IA is required by Academic Affairs policy to go through a University-wide orientation. (ACAF 4.0.IA1: "[GTAs and GIAs] ... must have attended a series of workshops for Graduate Teaching Assistants and Graduate Instructional Assistants sponsored by the Graduate School.") Beginning-of-semester departmental orientations or workshops do not qualify as a Graduate School-sponsored GTA/IA training workshop as they are specific to that department's teaching needs.

If my department has weekly meetings or occasional workshops during the semester, do I still have to take GRAD 701?

Yes, you are still required to take GRAD 701. Weekly TA meetings or departmental workshops are typically tailored to individual course content, day-to-day logistics, or are academic-related seminars, and thus do not satisfy the SACS requirement for in-service TA Training. The requirements for GRAD 701 are not excessive and will actually be both helpful and applicable to your duties as a TA/IA.

If I am an International Teaching Assistant (ITA) and participate in either the International Student Services (ISS) Orientation, or English proficiency assessment training and workshop provided by English Programs for Internationals (EPI), do I still have to participate in TA Orientation?

Yes, ITAs must attend all three: 1) ISS Orientation, 2) EPI's ITA Workshop and Assessment for English fluency, and 3) University-wide TA Orientation. ISS Orientation covers different topics and concerns that are specific to international TAs, including American student culture, student visa issues, etc. EPI's English proficiency training and assessment are required by South Carolina state law for all non-native English speakers who will be teaching assistants.

I heard that GRAD 701 provides workshops tailored to a TA's particular duties and responsibilities. What if I don't know what my specific TA/IA duty is going to be?

That's okay - that happens on occasion. In these instances, your Graduate Director or Coordinator will have a fairly good idea of what your TA/IA-ship will entail, and should provide you with this information. Further, due to the way GRAD 701 is designed, you can choose your workshops according to topics you are most interested in learning.

I noticed that the Registrar lists the GRAD 701 meeting time as TBA - do I have to reserve class time in my schedule for GRAD 701 during the semester?

No, you do not have to reserve time in your schedule to specifically meet for the GRAD 701 course. GRAD 701 is a workshop-based course, and these workshops are chosen by you based on your interests and schedule. You will obviously need to plan time in your schedule for the ones you choose, but workshops are intentionally offered several times each week on different topics, on varying days and times, so that you can find ones to fit your schedule. Initial information about GRAD 701 will be given during TA Orientation, to inform graduate students how to register, the schedule and topics of available workshops for that semester, and answer questions about the course.

What if I don't complete the requirements for GRAD 701 this semester?

If you do not complete the requirements, you will not be considered credentialed for performing TA/IA duties (even if you were teaching the semester you were enrolled in GRAD 701), and you may lose your assistantship funding and in-state tuition. Do not leave the GRAD 701 requirements till the last minute! GRAD 701 course requirements are not burdensome; with an estimated time commitment of no more than 10 hours over the entire semester, it is expected that you will have no problem completing them in one semester. Only if warranted by extenuating circumstances (as defined by the University) will an assignment of a grade of Incomplete (I) be considered, upon the written request of the student and the approval of the student's Graduate Director.