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How and when do departments decide who is teaching which course?

I am a graduate student at a state school in the U.S. The process has never seemed clear to me, as it seems that when none of the faculty particularly want to teach a course, sometimes graduate students are asked if they want to teach them.

I ask because I really like to teach courses, and want to ask if I can teach a 300-level undergraduate course, but I want to know the best time to do it.

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    I don't think there's any standard answer. I could tell you how my department does it, but would have no reason to think your department would be similar. But in any case, the best time to ask is "now" - let the appropriate people know you're interested, and that you'd like to be kept in mind if there is an opening. – Nate Eldredge Jan 10 at 1:13
  • You would hope some months in advance, but some places manage to ask people just days before the start date of the course... – Solar Mike Jan 10 at 10:15
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The department head/chair is the go-to person for such requests. Sometimes there is a curriculum committee that may or may not have some responsibility for seeing that courses are covered.

When you ask, it would be useful if you go with a plan and some evidence that you are or will be prepared for it.

You might also talk to someone who has taught it recently.

Don't wait to make your request. It may take a while if it is unusual for grad students to teach at that level where you are.

If the faculty is unionized you might run in to a problem. I've been places where the union for adjunct professors might want to complain even though the regular faculty wasn't unionized.

  • I'd probably start with the person who leads the graduate program (graduate director / vice-chair / whatever) instead of the department chair. But in either case, if they're not the right person, they can tell you who is. – Nate Eldredge Jan 10 at 1:34
  • @NateEldredge, the lead for grad studies probably doesn't have anything to do with undergrad courses, but, yes, can point you in the right direction. If there is an undergrad dean (for the department) then that might work. I'm assuming 300 level is UG. – Buffy Jan 10 at 1:37
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    Well, in my experience, the graduate director is often responsible for the teaching assignments of graduate students, and so such a request would go through them (though the department chair and others might eventually have to sign off). – Nate Eldredge Jan 10 at 1:45
  • @NateEldredge: In my experience, the graduate director is also often not responsible for the teaching assignments of graduate students. As you said above, there's no standard answer here. In any case, either the department chair or the graduate director would be a good person to ask, since either could point the student in the right direction. – Mark Meckes Jan 11 at 16:26

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