Becoming a GTA
Information about becoming a GTA
Why work as a GTA?
The Department of Bioengineering welcomes and strongly encourages doctoral students to undertake Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) work. Although there are a variety of roles that you can undertake, we particularly recommend that GTA’s help contribute to teaching in the Department. This involves working closely alongside our academic staff to provide an outstanding learning experience for our undergraduate and master’s students. In addition to this, you will have an opportunity to develop pre-existing skills and the chance to network with other research groups not only within the Department, but within the College as a whole.
By getting involved in teaching, you will not only learn how to convey complex technical concepts and manage classroom dynamics but improve your own knowledge (both theoretical and practical). As well as this, you will have the opportunity to evolve your written and oral communication skills, and effectively plan your time by prioritising your workload.
Teaching is a significant aspect of working in academia so by working as a GTA you will not only be able to build your own teaching portfolio, but develop your own teaching style as well.
Ultimately, GTA work will enhance your CV. You will be paid for any work you do, and this will be in addition to your usual bursary.
If you wish to undertake any form of GTA work, it is compulsory to have permission from your supervisor. GTA work should not interfere with your research. First year PhD students can begin GTA work as soon as they are registered with the Department.
If you are a PhD student on a Tier 4 visa, you should be aware that you are not allowed to work more than 20 hours per week. The Department will be tracking your hours to ensure that you keep to the visa and immigration guidelines.
As well as permission from your supervisor, GTA’s need to ensure that they have either completed training or have registered to do so alongside working. It is compulsory to attend the GTA training programme offered by the Faculty of Engineering.
Alongside this, you can attend the GTA teaching courses run by the Graduate School. If you are intending to assess students’ work, then you might also find that the workshops offered by the Educational Development Unit are useful. Please note that these courses are offered in addition to the Faculty of Engineering training, and not in place of it.
If you wish to undertake work as an invigilator during the examination period, you must attend invigilator training run by the Student Office.
If you are starting your PhD studies with the Department at the beginning of the academic year in October, then you will be required to attend the GTA introduction session, which we run as part of the welcome week events. Further information, including dates and times, will be sent via email a couple of weeks before the start of term.
Training and support
As a GTA in the Department of Bioengineering, you will have access to a variety of training and support both within the Department and throughout the College as a whole:
Faculty of Engineering: GTA training programme
The Faculty of Engineering runs a training programme for both new and existing GTA’s. This programme focuses on practical and small-group teaching and you will also gain access to teaching specialists to help support your teaching. Please note that attendance at this programme is compulsory, so you must sign up if you are intending to undertake teaching. You can complete this training alongside your teaching, so it does not matter if you start work before your training dates.
Graduate School: Professional skills courses
The Graduate School offers three training courses for GTA’s, which covers a variety of topics such as providing an overview of the GTA role; introduction to key teaching techniques; using a range of feedback approaches; microteaching; laboratory teaching. It is important to note that the Graduate School courses are offered in addition to the Faculty of Engineering training programme.
Educational Development Unit: Workshops related to assessing work
If you are undertaking GTA work that involves assessing presentations or coursework, you may want to consider looking at attending some of the workshops run by the Educational Development Unit, particularly ‘Introduction to Assessment for Learning’. Even if you are not intending to mark work, but you are intending to teach, you should consider attending because you may assess students on a day to day basis without any grade consequences. The workshops will cover key areas such as the role of assessment in learning and the characteristics of good assessment.
Blackboard and Panopto: Teaching resources
Once you have received confirmation that you have been accepted to undertake GTA work, you will automatically be enrolled on Blackboard as a teaching assistant, which is Imperial College’s virtual learning environment (VLE). You will have access to teaching and learning resources through there. You will also be given access to the module area on Panopto, which is the College’s tool for recording lectures. You might find watching the lectures useful for preparing for teaching. If you are taking up work as a note-taker you can watch the lectures via Panopto; you do not have to attend the lectures in person.
Subject-specific briefing by respective academics
The Department will provide you with a GTA/module leader interaction guide before you start work. This will help you to ensure that you are adequately prepared for your duties. We suggest that you take the guide to any meetings scheduled with the module leader to ensure that they are meeting the following expectations:
- Providing you with adequate mark schemes/problem sheets
- Helping you to understand the key concepts of modules
- Scheduling regular meetings to check on progress
Imperial STAR Framework: Recognising and rewarding teaching
You can obtain formal recognition of your teaching role from the Associate Fellowship of the HEA (AFHEA) via the Imperial STAR Framework. This formally recognises your contribution to teaching whilst undertaking your PhD. You will need to submit an application, but you are given support and guided through the application process. For further information on this, please contact Alison Ahearn: firstname.lastname@example.org
As well as this, you are always welcome to either email the Student Office (Samantha Herbert: email@example.com) or pop in in person: RSM 3.21c. You are also welcome to contact the GTA Officer: Dr Rylie Green (firstname.lastname@example.org) and you can talk to your mentor or your supervisor.
GTA opportunities in the Department of Bioengineering include:
- Teaching: study groups, lab demonstrations, journal club leaders and drop-in sessions
- Marking coursework
- Second marking exams
- Invigilating (Exams, masteries and progress tests)
- One to one tutorials
- Sitting exam papers to check for errors
- Assisting with project supervision
- Running revision sessions for first, second and third mastery attempts
Before applying to run any of our study groups, drop-in sessions or assist with lab demonstrations and journal clubs, we recommend that you take a look at the module descriptors for all of our programmes.
Teaching opportunities are distributed via email, along with instructions on how to sign up and other information relevant to the module (class size, likely timetable). You can expect to receive an email with these opportunities during the following times of year:
- For the Autumn term: late September/mid-October
- For the Spring term: late November/early December
- For the Summer term: late April/mid-May
Please note that in the Summer term, GTA teaching opportunities will only be for Y1 and Y2 wet labs.
The examinations period takes place during week one of the Spring term and usually the first five or six weeks of the Summer term. All other GTA opportunities are on an ad-hoc basis throughout each academic year.
How to apply
PhD students who want to get involved should respond to email calls sent out by the Student Office or email them directly.
Remember: any PhD student wishing to apply to work as a GTA must seek permission from their supervisor.
Payment and working hours
Although the College’s employment policy states that full time students should not work more than 10-15 hours per week, the Graduate School recommends that GTA’s should not teach more than 6 hours per week. The Department also advocates this.** Usually, this means that GTA’s can teach up to 2 modules per week. Assuming that there are 25 teaching weeks, you should not work more than 150 hours in total across an academic year. Tier 4 students are reminded that they are legally not allowed to work more than 20 hours per week.
**However, there may be some flexibility for the number of hours per week for those who are not on a Tier 4 visa, during the summer term. Y1 and Y2 have wet labs, and because they typically last for 4 weeks, this means the timetable is condensed and so the number of overall hours available is not as many as the autumn and spring terms. You will still need to secure your supervisors' permission for this. Those on a Tier 4 visa will still be restricted to 20 hours per week.
Payment for GTA work is given at either a lower or higher rate depending on the type of activity. These rates are determined by the College each year and can be found under the ‘Academic and research family’ branch, labelled ‘Student demonstrators rates’. For the 2018-19 academic year:
- Higher rate: £26.03 per hour: study groups, one-to-one tutorials, journal club leader
- Lower rate: £14.86 per hour: lab demonstrations, marking, invigilation, note-taking, drop-in sessions, assessment set-up, sitting exam papers
The Department pays for one hour of preparation for a study group and/or lab per week at the lower rate. We are aware that sometimes preparation takes longer, which is why the Department has introduced this payment of 1 hour; normally, it would be expected that GTA’s know the material and are not paid for preparation. If you think that there is a special situation making the preparation difficult, then please be aware that additional payment of preparation must be authorised beforehand. Please speak to the module leader who will then contact the GTA Officer, Dr Rylie Green (email@example.com), to seek authorisation.
You will be sent an email with detailed instructions about how to register for payment and how to log your hours. It is important to ensure that you submit the relevant documents ASAP. You will not be granted access to the system for logging hours until the Student Office receives confirmation from the Department Finance Office (Based in B215) that you have submitted all paperwork. You will receive an email when you have been granted access to this system and it will include a link, which we recommend you bookmark, and you can log your hours through there.