Instructional Assistant Hiring Process
If you’re curious about what teaching computer science or engineering is like, being an Instructional Assistant (IA) is a great experience to consider.
Being an IA affords you the opportunity to help fellow students and build a community at CSE. You don’t need to have mastered the material in order to be an IA; in fact, being an IA will help you understand the material even better.
As an IA, you can contribute to building a climate of collaboration at CSE and contribute to the teaching mission. Additionally, you’ll be able to build relationships with faculty and open mentorship opportunities. An IA position looks good on your resume when you’re applying for summer internships and post-undergraduate opportunities.
IA position description
Pay rate: $26/hr
Usually, IAs will have a .25 work appointment (10 hours per week). Faculty assign hours to various tasks in the course that are consistent with the 10 hours expected to be worked toward the course each week. IAs submit a bi-weekly time card on hours worked. Hours should meet the allocated level.
The tasks can vary across courses, as they should, depending on the course needs. Tasks include running lab/discussion sections, holding office hours, grading, answering questions on Piazza, contributing questions for homework or exams, attending teaching staff meetings, providing assistance on course administration issues, recording and posting scores and grades, etc.
Faculty are ultimately responsible for the technical content of the course, including lectures and quality of the exams, assigning the final grades, and ensuring that the course is administered properly.
CSE strives to provide an inclusive environment for teaching and IAs are expected to strive to provide that in their responsibilities as IAs.
How to become an IA
The CSE HR department sends out a solicitation email to CSE students each semester which includes a link to the online application. Generally, Fall applications are open from late March to mid-April, and Winter applications are open from mid-October to early November.
Declared undergraduate students in a CE, CS, EE or DSci major or minor have automatic access to the online application. Other students are welcome to apply; they can reach out to Karen Liska to get access to the application and receive important information about CSE orientation dates.
*EECS 183, 203, and 280 allow applications from current students regardless of major.
Applicants can expect to answer a series of questions on technical background, classroom climate, etc. as well as required questions based on the specific courses they’re applying for. Many courses also require applicants to submit a resume and a teaching demo video with their application.
Faculty teaching the class are ultimately responsible for identifying the IAs they want to hire. Often, faculty will retain the existing staff to the extent feasible. Faculty may do short interviews with candidates they are intending to hire for the first time. English communication assessment is required for non-native English speakers. Please reach out to Karen Liska to learn about the process, timing, and requirements. Students may be required to take remediation courses if an assessment identifies a gap.
IA positions for the limited number of EECS courses offered in spring, summer and spring/summer terms are negotiated directly with the instructor for the course. Interested students should reach out to the faculty to express interest. Qualifications for the IA positions during these terms include the following: will be an active student at UM in the coming fall term, have taken and done well in the course of interest, have been an IA in a previous term, and is committed to supporting student success. Any additional questions can be sent directly to Karen Liska.
What makes a good teaching demo video?
The goal of a good teaching demo video is to convey your teaching style and ability. Videos should be 5 minutes long; it’s ok if a video is longer, but reviewers might not watch past the 5-minute mark so make sure you have enough content in the first 5 minutes to convey your teaching style. Don’t spend so much time setting your problem that you don’t get to the teaching of the problem within your 5-minute allotted time. Choose a topic for your teaching demo that you’re comfortable with and is relevant to the course you’re applying to; an ideal topic won’t be the most difficult or the easiest but will have enough content for you to showcase your teaching ability and effective use of teaching tools. After you’ve recorded your video once, take a step back and review the video, looking for mistakes and checking your pacing.
Tip: If you’re applying for EECS 203 or EECS 376, try picking an exam question that you’re comfortable with and walk the viewer through your process of solving the exam question. This is good for EECS 203 and EECS 376 because their exam questions tend to be shorter than homework questions, and this kind of teaching is the bulk of the job of an IA in those two courses. For coding courses, try to find a similar kind of lab question that you can walk the viewer through solving.
IA orientation and training
New IA Training
CRLT-E (Center for Research and Learning in Engineering) runs the New IA Training. It takes place in two parts. Part 1 is an asynchronous canvas course that includes surveys and quizzes, discussions, and reflection prompts. Course content covers teaching policies, the honor code, inclusive and equitable teaching, the science of learning, planning effective lessons, classroom assessment, giving feedback, coaching problem solving, etc. Part 2 is a hands-on practice teaching session. This training is required for all IAs.
CSE orientation and onboarding
CSE also provides some onboarding prior to the start of the term on general guidelines, university rules, and best practices. CSE orientation is required for all IAs.
Inclusive teaching training
Computing CARES offers an IA Inclusive Teaching Training each semester to IAs supporting CSE courses. There’s an introductory workshop for new IAs and an advanced workshop for returning IAs.