Paul Catalano, ScD
Senior Lecturer, Department of Biostatistics
Teaching Fellows (TFs) are a vital part of successful teaching at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, as they are across the University. While not all courses include TFs as part of their teaching teams, many do, and we have heard that a page such as this one could help to facilitate course instructors and TFs working together with clarity about their roles, with the ultimate aim to develop and deliver courses that are excellent learning experiences for our students.
This content is meant to help you—course instructors and TFs—to meet those goals of having clear expectations as a teaching team and teaching successfully, by providing a common framework. As a framework, it is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to TFing. It is meant to facilitate alignment around a concise set of school-wide expectations, while recognizing and embracing that there is considerable variation in the specific expectations across the range of the School’s courses and disciplines.
If you have any suggestions or feedback about your experience or additional content that would be helpful for TFs, please reach out to the Office of Education (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Expectations. What are the School's expectations for TF-Instructor teaching teams?
TFs play a significant role in the success of a course. Evidence from Harvard Chan course evaluations suggests that two qualities are common to highly rated TFs:
- Being prepared, organized, and knowledgeable
- Being engaged with and responsive to students in an inclusive and welcoming way
To better prepare TFs to present these qualities, the School has determined seven expectations for successful TF-instructor teaching teams.
1. Upfront and regular communication.
Instructors and TFs are expected to discuss and ideally document expectations in writing before the class begins, and to have open channels of communication throughout the course. Regular and consistent communication from the beginning and throughout helps to confirm expectations, build trust and rapport, and address issues and problems that arise. Written documentation can be useful for ensuring aligned understanding.
2. Dedicated time on task.
TFs are ordinarily expected to work on average ~10 hours per week for a standard 2.5 or 5 credit course (~5 hours per week in a 1.25 credit course). TF responsibilities may start before and end after a term (the paid appointment period can be beyond the duration of the course itself). Time pressures vary over the course of a term, so responsibilities may be lighter in some weeks, heavier in others. Course instructors and TFs are expected to discuss when the work starts and ends, should plan for variations in workload, and should ensure that total hours worked are not unreasonably high.
3. Clearly defined scope of duties.
The scope of a TF’s responsibilities will vary based on the course instructor’s goals, the learning outcomes of the course, enrollment, the number of other TFs, modality (in-person or online), and other contextual factors. A clear scope of duties is expected to be established between course instructors and TFS. A typical set of standard responsibilities includes the following:
- Attending the School-wide TF orientation, required for first-time TFs, as well as any required departmental TF training
- Updating or modifying the syllabus
- Updating or modifying the course Canvas site
- Attending class sessions
- Grading (with review and oversight by the course instructor)
- Holding regular office hours (usually weekly)
- Preparing handouts, rubrics, exams, homework, problem sets, solution sets
- Running sections/lab sessions (if applicable)
- Attending regular meetings with the instructors and other TFs
- Answering questions from students over email or discussion platforms
- Connecting students to support resources as needed (e.g., Office of Student Affairs)
- Bringing forth issues or concerns to the course instructor (e.g., concerns about academic integrity)
4. Meeting deadlines.
TFs are expected to fulfill their responsibilities in a timely manner. Course instructors and TFs should ensure that the expectations for meeting deadlines is clear, the time commitment is appropriate, and have a way to address any unforeseen issues (e.g., if the TF is ill, have a backup plan for grading).
5. Gaining experience.
Being a TF is a valuable professional development opportunity. Many TFs gain important skills and the opportunity to practice teaching as part of their roles. Beyond the experience gained from engaging as a member of a course’s instructional team and undertaking the typical TF tasks, TFs may also be invited to, for example, give a mini-lecture, run a class session, or suggest ideas for a diversified set of readings. The course instructor is responsible for determining whether this is appropriate. TFs should feel empowered to ask for opportunities to expand their pedagogical skills and teaching experiences beyond the TF standard duties, though should not expect that these opportunities will always be appropriate or granted.
6. Receiving feedback.
TFs will be evaluated and are eligible for teaching awards. Students in courses with TFs complete evaluations of their TFs, and TFs should have the opportunity to discuss and receive feedback from their instructors. TFs will automatically be considered for the School’s teaching awards through the course evaluation system. Administering an early or mid-semester feedback survey in the course, including asking for feedback about TF performance, can be an invaluable tool for making changes that are beneficial before the end of semester evaluations. For PhD students, teaching is often a required part of their training, and feedback in these roles is meant to help them gain competency as teachers.
7. Knowing course policies and how to refer/draw on school and University resources.
TFs should know the specific policies of the course and know how to make use of School and University resources. Courses vary in their policies on participation and attendance, how late work is penalized, how student complaints or academic integrity issues will be handled, etc., and TFs are expected to know and discuss these policies with the course instructor for the courses they are TFing. Resources exist to help students gain access to needed accommodations, and in some cases to additional tutoring; TFs should understand how to appropriately refer students to those resources. In addition, TFs should work collaboratively with course instructors to determine how to handle incidents of suspected academic misconduct, sexual harassment, or unprofessional behavior.
Sample Written Expectations for TFs
Positions. Who can be a TF and what positions are available?
There are a number of ways to become a Teaching Fellow (TF), and specific requirements may differ based on the course and department. Below are some general guidelines around eligibility and positions.
Who can serve as a TF?
Masters and Doctoral students are eligible to apply for TF positions. Students in a doctoral degree program may have a TF Requirement. We recommend you reach out to your academic administrator or consult your program curriculum guide for more details. In general a TF should have some prior knowledge of the course content. However, there may be specific opportunities where previous knowledge is not a requirement.
Note: TFs are not the same as Course Administrators, Head TFs, or Pedagogy Fellows (PFs). Head TFs (sometimes called Lead TFs) have additional responsibilities for organizing and leading a team of TFs. There may be visa-related restrictions as to who can be appointed as a Head TF. Pedagogy Fellows are hired through the School to work with departments and programs on a variety of teaching improvement activities.
How do I find available TF positions?
To inquire about possible TF opportunities, we recommend reaching out to the faculty of courses you have taken and/or to specific departments. Each academic department is responsible for hiring appointed TFs. The number of TFs assigned to a course is determined by departments, based on enrollment and anticipated duties.
Once a position is available, students are matched in different ways at Harvard Chan—for example, by request of an instructor who may have had the TF as a student in their class, by a department or program administrator, sometimes informed by a student’s advisor, etc. PhD students can also access the FAS Central Application for Teaching Sections tool that posts some FAS TF opportunities. (those not filled in other ways; note though that PhD program administrators may need to review whether academic requirements will be met by TFing in courses outside of Harvard Chan).
For further information about positions, requirements, and matching contact your department/program academic administrator.
Training and Support. Where can I receive training and support as a TF?
TF Training Workshop
TF Training Workshops are offered twice during the academic year (before Fall and Spring semesters). These sessions are mandatory for new TFs, and returning TFs are more than welcome to join again. TFs are also encouraged to engage in any other pedagogy and skills-based training offered throughout the academic year to enhance their effectiveness in their positions.
The Fall 2023 TF training will have both synchronous and asynchronous components. The topics for this training will include: Faculty members sharing their experiences working with TFs and the value TFs bring to the teaching and learning experience at HSPH, Supporting Students Academically and Personally, Establishing a Good Working Relationship with Faculty, Value of Rubrics & Grading Across Disciplines, Engaging Diverse Groups of Learners, and Canvas Tips & Tricks. Components will include approximately an hour’s worth of recorded informational content across a variety of topics and will be followed up by two evenings of interactive synchronous sessions on Monday, August 28 from 5:30-7:30pm ET and Wednesday, August 30 from 5:30-7:30pm ET.
TFs are encouraged to reach out to the Office of Educational Programs at OED@hsph.harvard.edu with any questions.
Ongoing Support for Teaching Fellows
- Canvas support: feel free to send an email any time to Academic Technology at email@example.com.
- Office Hours with Pedagogy Fellows: The Pedagogy Fellows one-on-one office hours are designed to support teaching fellows, course assistants, and other instructional staff members throughout the semester with tailored advice and resources.
- Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) links:
- Teaching overview with policies related to all PhD students at the University
- FAS’s description of the Teaching Fellow appointment
- The Bok Center’s “Hit the Ground Running” Canvas site (Harvard ID pin required) includes links to orientation materials, teaching fundamentals, and other workshops and resources
- Resources from other institutions
- Carnegie Mellon University Collected Wisdom: Strategies and Resources from TAs for TAs
- Johns Hopkins University Teaching Assistant Manual
- For instructors working with TAs/TFs
- For TFs working with instructors
- Northwestern University’s Questions to ask as a TA
Payment. How much and when do I get paid as a TF?
Harvard Chan TF & CA Payment Policy
The goals of this Harvard Chan School-wide policy on payment for Teaching Fellows are to set a minimum floor for payment of Teaching Fellows (TFs), Lead Teaching Fellows (LTFs), and Course Administrators (CAs); to make a distinction between TFs/LTFs who have teaching responsibilities, and people who provide other forms of course support that are mainly administrative in nature; and to ensure that those who provide teaching and course support receive appropriate training.
The Teaching Fellow Payment Policy comprises three components:
- A classification system for positions that provide course support
- Guidance for the payment of Teaching Fellows and Course Administrators, including minimum pay rates
- Training for Teaching Fellows and Course Administrators where each component is discussed
Classification system for positions that provide course support
The School encourages departments to use different titles to distinguish among the types of activities performed by LTAs, TAs and CAs. However, departments may make their own decisions about titles.
|Role||Brief Description and Example of Responsibilities|
|Lead Teaching Fellow (LTF)||LTF and TF roles are distinguished from CA, Grader, and Hourly administrative roles in that they must include pedagogical responsibilities. Just as an instructor who doesn’t have a TF would edit their own syllabus and course website, LTF and TF responsibilities will include administrative tasks such as those of a CA but broader.||Supervises other TFs in large courses; has significant responsibilities for design and instruction of course.|
|Teaching Fellow (TF)||Runs required or optional sessions, holds office hours, helps develop assignments, grades student assignments when knowledge is required beyond the rubric|
|Course Administrator (CA)||Manages course website, helps edit syllabus, liaison with AV, monitors chat function in Zoom, logistics for guest speakers.|
|Grader||Grades assignments/ tests per rubrics/answers provided by instructors. Graders may be paid hourly depending upon experience and task.|
|Hourly Administrative||Updates Canvas pages, finds and replaces reading materials, schedules rooms, assembles materials for a class poll, etc. Pay varies by pre-doc/post-doc and years of experience.|
AY 2023-2024 Guidance for Payment of Teaching Fellows and Course Administrators (including minimum pay rates)
|Role||1.25 Credit||2.5 Credit||5.0 Credit|
|Junior Teaching Fellow*||$1,423||$2,845||$5,690|
|Senior Teaching Fellow**||$1,596||$3,193||$6,385|
|Lead Teaching Fellow||$1,596||$3,193||$6,385|
|Hourly Administrative||Contract minimum is $21 per hour|
*Junior Teaching Fellow Rate: Paid to PhD students in G1 and G2 years, and all other TFs.
**Senior Teaching Fellow Rate: Paid to PhD students in G3 year and beyond
Additional Guidance on Minimum Pay Rates
This rate will be paid to any TF who does teaching (e.g., runs required or optional sessions, holds office hours, helps to develop assignments, grades student assignments when knowledge of the material beyond a rudimentary grading rubric is required).
Some departments now vary the payment rate for TFs based on course size; this payment method is permitted under the new policy provided that the (2.5 credit) minimum rate applies to any course with at least 25 students or more. Other departments pay TFs an hourly rate, up to a maximum number of hours per course; this payment method is permitted under the new policy provided that it produces a minimum payment of the (2.5 credit) minimum rate for any TF who works the maximum number of hours allowed by the department in a 2.5 credit course (and the minimum rate above for courses bearing other credits).
Departments may also choose to pay higher rates. For example, a higher rate might be necessary when a course uses TFs who are GSAS students and so eligible to TF in courses at other graduate schools that would provide higher rates of payment.
Additional Guidance on Payment for Course Administrators
Course Administrators may be paid on an hourly basis or a flat amount per course, up to a suggested amount of $1,215 per 2.5 credit course (or the equivalent for departments that use a centralized approach to providing Course Administrator support). The hourly rate should be based on the current University “Pay Rate Guidelines for Paying Students as Research or Teaching Fellows,” with a suggested cap of $1,215 per 2.5 credit course.
The academic department associated with the course is responsible for processing your payment. TFs who are members of the Harvard Graduate Student Union will need to fill out a hiring contract prior to receiving payment. First-time TFs may also need to submit additional paperwork in order to be registered in the University’s payment system. Department administrators will be in touch with each TF prior to the start of the semester regarding hiring contracts and employment paperwork.
Not all TFs receive payment in the same way: it depends upon their appointment/role. For example, postdocs may TF, and the schedule and manner of payments is likely to differ from a PhD student, or an advanced master’s degree student.
Minimum LTF/TF rates pertain to base work done to support a course and are processed in the Monthly Teaching Fellows Payroll.
CAs are paid through the Weekly Temp + Student Payroll based upon hours entered and approved by the department.
The LTF/TF rates apply to any LTF/TF who does teaching (e.g., runs required or optional sessions, holds office hours, helps to develop assignments, grades student assignments when knowledge of the material beyond a rudimentary grading rubric is required). Some departments vary the payment rate for LTFs/TFs based on course size; this payment method is permitted under the policy provided that the minimum rates are applied to any course with at least 25 students or more. In addition, a higher rate might be necessary when a course uses TFs who are GSAS students and thus eligible to TF in courses at other graduate schools that would provide higher rates of payment.
Other Compliance Issues to Consider
- Departments and students are responsible for understanding and documenting student eligibility for working in these roles.
- If you are hiring a non-student to do this work, you must contact HR or OFA for processing instructions.
- Students must be entered into the payroll system and paid in a timely manner. It is important to obtain required I-9 and other documentation, and complete the hiring process before a student begins
- In order to comply with the University’s “Pay Rate Guidelines for Paying Students as Research or Teaching Fellows,” TFs and LTFs may not work more than the maximum hours outlined separately for pre- and post-doctoral trainees – see Table Above.
- Federal immigration law for students on F1 and J1 visas limits employment to 20 hours or less per week while school is in session. All Harvard jobs held by a student must be considered when evaluating total hours worked by the student. http://www.hio.harvard.edu/campus-employment
- The Affordable Care Act mandates that employees, including student employees, who work more than 30 hours per week be offered an employee health plan. This makes it imperative that Harvard accurately manage and report graduate student appointments and the hours associated with them. https://hushp.harvard.edu/affordable-care-act
Please contact Jennifer Betancourt in the Office of Educational Programs for more information (firstname.lastname@example.org).