PhD Program Reqirements
To become a formal PhD Candidate, the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research requires students to pass an oral Candidacy Examination no later than six months prior to the final defense. In our department, however, it is recommended that the Examination be taken before the end of the second year of program when most, if not all formal course work has been completed. It can be taken no later than the end of the third year. The Examination must be completed before GTA/GRA support will be provided beyond the third year of program. More ...
The Department has had a graduate teaching requirement since 2009. For trust and full scholarship students, this is normally fulfilled by a one term, 6 hr/wk "half" TA, with the remainder of the salary from the supervisor. A full 12 hr/wk TA may be requested, and we will do our best to accommodate, but this can't be guaranteed. It is up to the student and supervisor to notify the Grad Office as to which term they wish to complete their teaching requirement.
The graduate teaching requirement was approved by Departmental Council in 2009. The rational is that for students on trust or scholarship, a term of teaching will help improve communication skills and develop leadership skills. The value of teaching to improve methodological research skills was recently demonstrated in a paper in Science (attached). This teaching requirement started to apply to students admitted in Sept 2009, and to date 9 trust students have fulfilled their requirement, with more to come next term.
All graduate students in our department are required to teach for a minimum of one term, usually for 6 hr/wk ("half" TA). The original suggestion of a minimum of 12 hr/wk for one term (a "full" TA) was not approved by council.
Most students have a GTA, and therefore this requirement is fulfilled.
Few scholarships now cover an entire program, and since most scholarship students also have a TA offer, the teaching requirement will be fulfilled.
For students on trust or a scholarship for the entire program, they must specifically fulfill the teaching requirement. These students will be normally offered a TA for 6 hr/wk, which is a "half TA". For students on trust, this will cover half their guaranteed salary. The Department will pay them at Step One for MSc or Step Two for PhDs on the salary grid (or at their appropriate funding level depending on their time in the program), and the other half of the salary will be covered by the supervisor.
If the supervisor and/or student wishes to have a 12 hr/wk TA for one term, then they must make this request at least 3 months before the term begins. The request will be accommodated if at all possible (see next paragraph), but the supervisor should budget for a half salary for that term, in case the request can't be accommodated. Fall Term assignments are made in May and Winter Term assignments are made in October. Assignments for new students are made in early June. Note that this is not a change in policy and is how the requirement has been handled from the start.
The approximately 240 lab/seminar sections each term are assigned by considering our projected regular TA commitments, which includes accommodating student and instructor preferences as much as possible, our QEII and teaching requirement commitments, and department need and expertise availability (which includes scholarship holders, trust students and students beyond their guaranteed funding when they have unique expertise). Remaining spaces are then filled in with cTAs, often through requests to the grad list. The whole process is complicated by changes right up to the last minute (some terms over 20 changes occur), including new scholarships, new students turning down their offers, emergencies, etc.
Teaching requirement alternatives for special cases:
PhD students, especially those in the field during teaching term, may opt for a Mentored Lectureship whereby students give 3 distinct lectures as part of a course (not just talks on their research) and are mentored on how to teach and what to teach by the principal instructor. This is open ONLY to PhD students and is usually done in the last year of their program.
For ecology students in the field, a second option is the Biology 208 field trips assignment. This is an intense appointment over 2 1/2 weeks with instruction done in the field, and is only 3 hr/wk (a quarter TA). The rest of the salary will come from the supervisor. There are a very limited number of such appointments, and these are specifically for individuals whose field work interferes with teaching.
Note that it is up to the student and supervisor to notify the Grad Office as to which term they wish to complete their teaching requirement. When Maggie sends around her email to all graduate students to determine who is TA-ing the next term, she does specifically ask if anyone wishes to fulfill their teaching requirement. Since this requirement needs to be done at least a term before graduation, it is important that supervisors and students keep track and have a plan. One thing to keep in mind is that it may be problematic for trust students to TA in their first term due to coursework and proposals. Another possibility is to TA once they are out of the field and writing up.