Teaching Assistant & Research Assistant Policy

Teaching Assistants

The Department of Cultural Anthropology regards teaching assistantships as an important part of graduate education. As a condition of their fellowship, students will serve as either a TA or an RA each semester they are receiving Duke/Cultural Anthropology support. This includes the "banked" year of funding (after fieldwork, compensation for an outside fellowship). While on University Fellowship, all students are expected to stay at Duke University until the end of undergraduate finals unless other arrangements are made with the professor. 


The work of TAs is crucial for sustaining the quality of undergraduate course offerings in the department. TAs are expected to attend every class meeting and to complete all readings. At the same time, faculty supervisors bear responsibility for mentoring their teaching assistants in the process of becoming good teachers. Each faculty member using TAs should meet regularly during the semester with their TAs. The purpose of these meetings is to discuss grading and other practical matters as well as broader questions of teaching philosophy and strategy. Whenever possible, a TA will give a lecture and/or lead discussion at least one time during the semester. As part of faculty mentoring, the faculty member must attend the class led by the student and offer constructive feedback.


The Director of Graduate Studies makes TA assignments for each semester. The Director will endeavor to do so with as much advance time as possible so that students can arrange the rest of their schedule accordingly. At the start of each semester, all faculty members using TAs must inform the Director of Graduate Studies by e-mail what they will expect of their TAs during the semester. A copy of this message must also be sent to the TAs. Normal TA-ing duties should take up no more than 10 hours a week on average during the semester (it may be more in cases where students are TA-ing for credit). Time attending class and doing class readings count as part of these hours. If faculty members expect TAs to do substantially fewer than 10 hours some weeks and more than 10 in others, they should discuss this with the student early in the semester. Faculty should not expect a TA to work more than 10 hours in any given week unless they have made prior arrangements with the student.

Course Credit

The department offers students the opportunity for one of their TA-ships to count for course credit. To do so, the student must inform the faculty member teaching the course in advance of the semester’s start. The student should register to receive credit as an Independent Study from the professor teaching the class. To receive credit, the student fulfills regular TA responsibilities and can be expected to work as many as 19 hours a week; in addition, the student helps to write at least 1 of the course exams and, finally, draws up a syllabus for a course of their own. This syllabus does not necessarily have to be related to the subject material of the course for which the student is TA-ing.


If complaints about TA-ing should arise on the part of either a TA or faculty member, they will be heard by the Teaching Assistant Committee. This committee, appointed by the departmental chair, consists of 2 faculty members and 2 graduate students.

Research Assistants

Depending on departmental needs, a student may work as a research assistant instead of a teaching assistant in some semesters beyond their first year. Occasionally, the student will work part of the semester for one faculty member, and the rest for another. The duties of an RA should not exceed 10 hours a week.