Undergraduate Instructional Assistants? A great idea!

Undergraduate Instructional Assistants (or UIAs, also known as peer instructors) play an important and integral role in the success of UK’s undergraduate students. UIAs can function similar to UK’s graduate student teaching assistants in that they are mentored by their faculty or teaching staff instructor and they can spend some of the class instructional contact hours in leading activities or discussions.

Faculty or teaching staff who teach undergraduate courses are encouraged to include peer instructors as part of their course design strategies. This is an important way for our undergraduate students to gain leadership experience and to enrich their own academic careers. Peer instruction is a valuable enhancement of leadership, communication, and presentation skills for students from any academic major.

Those who choose to use peer instructors in their classes should consult first with Dr. Ben Withers, Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education, to assure that they are following UK policies for UIAs. (You can download a .pdf of the policy here Undergraduate Instructional Assistants – Provost Policy 2010.) This discussion could include a review of stated expectations, hiring procedures — will they be paid by wages or in-kind compensation such as faculty mentoring for earned academic credit through EXP 396 — as well as the types of training workshop(s) and evaluations. Here is a summary of the UK Policy for using peer instructors in undergraduate classes:

  1. Expectations for peer instructors should be clearly defined by the teaching faculty or unit and tied directly to peer instructor evaluations.
  2. Regular orientation/training on good practices must be held for all peer instructors before entering the classroom.
  3. Considerations for awarding college credit (e.g., EXP) or compensation through Student Employment should be discussed in advance with the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education.
  4. Peer instructors may be included in the course syllabus as important contacts for students, but their names will not be entered in the official UK Course Schedule nor should they be allowed to enter final grades.
  5. Peer instruction must be evaluated in a regular and systematic manner and results analyzed to ensure quality. Evaluation results must be maintained by the hiring department and available to the Provost (or designee) in the case of a review deemed necessary to ensure instructional quality.

Notice that the Provost’s Policy classifies three different types of UIAs and there are certain obligations by the hiring department based on the type of functions allowed:

  1. UIA-I: assisting instruction in laboratory and discussion sections
  2. UIA-II: supporting class instruction (e.g., UK101 peer instructors)
  3. UIA-III: providing academic support and enhancement (e.g., peer mentors in The Study)

There are lots of resources for those who are training their UIAs. Becky Jordan and Lauren Goodpaster in the Dean of Students Office have offered example documents from the work they do in training UK101 peer instructors (Type 2 UIAs). Download the UK101 training workshop outline and handouts (.pdf file) here.

Morris Grubbs in the Graduate School’s Office of Graduate Student Development has plenty of extra handbooks from the New TA Orientation, if you would like to use them. For those who are training the Type 1 UIAs (assisting instruction in laboratory and discussion sections) this training is mandatory. Included in them are printouts of slides used by the Ombud and information on discrimination and harassment from Terry Allen’s Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity and on institutional policies about FERPA from Sean Cooper in the Registrar’s office. You can download the handbook as a .pdf here.


About UK Student and Academic Life

Undergraduate Education is now recreated within the Division of Student and Academic Life in the Provost's Office at the University of Kentucky.
This entry was posted in Peer Mentoring, Student Success, Undergraduate Curriculum and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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