Teaching Requirements

Practical pedagogical experience is a program requirement under the Graduate Aid Initiative. During their five years of scholastic residence, GAI students have to fulfill a teaching obligation (also known as “service requirement”). The teaching component is 5 units. Teaching units are calculated as follows:

  • Language Assistant/Drill Instructor: 0.5 units
  • Course Assistant/Lector/Writing Intern: 1 unit
  • Lecturer (stand-alone course): 2 units

Departmental language courses provide the major venue for teaching. In addition, the two-quarter undergraduate course “Introduction to South Asian Civilizations” regularly involves the participation of one or more graduate students as course assistants, and sometimes as lecturers. However, since SALC can offer only a limited number of teaching assignments, students are also encouraged to pursue teaching opportunities outside the department.

Regular teaching positions include those of teaching interns in the College Core, teaching assistants, lectors, writing interns assigned to courses, lecturers, language assistants and drill instructors in language courses, and studio assistants. The teaching positions must be in the Humanities Collegiate Division, the Social Sciences Collegiate Division, the Writing Program, or a departmental course in the College.

We especially encourage students to pursue the position of Writing Intern in the Humanities Common Core courses through the University Writing Program (see the Writing Program jobs page). Being a Writing Intern (functionally a Course Assistant) in these courses provides valuable general experience for the job market. These positions must be applied for well in advance and the process of selection, both for the position and the training sessions they require, is competitive.

It is the student’s responsibility to seek teaching assignments and to apply in a timely manner through established procedures.

Teaching Schedule

Students usually begin teaching in their third year as language assistants or course assistants. Lecturerships (stand-alone courses) are reserved for the fifth year and require prior teaching experience.

While the Department allows for some flexibility, a model teaching schedule will look like this:

  • 3rd year: 2 language assistantships (1 unit)
  • 4th year: 2 course assistantships (2 units)
  • 5th year: 1 lecturership (2 units)


  • 3rd year: 2 language assistantships (1 unit)
  • 4th year: 2 language assistantships (1 unit); 1 course assistantship (1 unit)
  • 5th year: 2 course assistantships (2 units)

Students should discuss these arrangements with the Director of Graduate Studies. Students should also regularly update the DGS on how they plan to discharge their teaching requirements.

All teaching, including teaching done outside the Department and teaching done ahead of schedule, will be counted toward the student’s service obligation until that obligation is fulfilled.

Students who perform additional teaching beyond the requirements will be compensated accordingly. However, when a student has fulfilled the 5 unit teaching obligation, others who have not yet fulfilled their obligations will receive preference for teaching opportunities. Students should not assume extra teaching will be available to them.

A student who has not done the equivalent of 5 teaching assistant assignments before the beginning of year six will not be eligible for further University support from any source until the service requirement has been satisfied.

Lecturerships: Stand-Alone Content Courses

Students may seek to teach a course of their own devising as a Lecturer, which would be an Optional course for undergraduates. Stand-alone content courses must be approved by the Department and the College. Neither the Department nor the College can guarantee that any given proposal will be approved. Proposals for stand-alone content courses in a given year have to be submitted to the Department Chair by December of the previous year. A course proposal should consist of:

  • a brief course description, stating the rationale, principal themes, and objectives of the course
  • a section on course requirements and the grading scheme
  • a syllabus listing required readings week by week
  • a bibliography

Students may also teach a course of their own devising through competitive “prize seminars” offered by the Stuart Tave Teaching Fellowships and Whiting Undergraduate Teaching Fellowships. The Department nominates students for consideration for these fellowships. Students can also apply for the Stuart Tave fellowship through The Center for Gender Studies.

Consult the Office of the Dean of Students in the Humanities Division and its webpages for information about other teaching opportunities in the University's Graham School and Chicago generally, and about many other related matters.

The University sponsors workshops and forums designed to help graduate students develop pedagogically. Contact the Center for Teaching and Learning. The South Asian Language Research Center, housed at the University, also offers workshops on South Asian language pedagogy targeted towards advanced graduate students interested in language instruction.