Teaching (AI) Information

This page is intended to provide graduate students an overview of the teaching opportunities and resources available to them that that are directly related to their role as a graduate student at the University.  Most Ph.D. students at Princeton University serve as teaching assistants at some point during their enrollment.  To what extent and when a Ph.D. student may serve in a teaching role depends on the student’s length of enrollment and program of study, which may require teaching either as part of its curricular requirements for the degree, for financial support, or both.  If teaching is required by a student’s program of study, the student’s performance as an assistant in instruction (AI) may be taken into account when determining academic and degree progress in the program.  Depending on the program, some master’s degree students may also serve as teaching assistants.

The primary internal teaching opportunity available to Princeton graduate students is to serve as an Assistant in Instruction (AI).  An AI can hold the following roles: Precept AI, Lab AI, Section AI, Grader AI, Head AI, Practicum AI, Collaborative Teaching AI.

Assistantship in Instruction

Assistantships in Instruction are teaching assignments awarded to graduate students by the academic departments and programs.  Graduate students serving in these roles are referred to as Assistants in Instruction, or AIs.  They may also be referred to as teaching assistants. Most Ph.D. programs require some teaching during a student’s enrollment period, often in specific years of study.  Individual programs specify whether and when such teaching may be required. With very rare exceptions, first-year students in Ph.D. programs may not be appointed as AIs.  In all cases, graduate students should have the permission of their DGS and adviser before taking on an AI appointment.

Each term, the Office of the Dean of Faculty provides each department with a budget or allocation of the AI hours that can be assigned to its graduate students.  The AI budget is based on the teaching needs for undergraduate courses.  AI hours are then assigned by departments and programs to graduate students, who may serve in a variety of teaching assistant roles under the direction of a faculty member.  The most common roles are preceptors (who lead small discussion sessions, called precepts), laboratory assistants, and graders.

An Assistantship in Instruction includes a tuition component and a stipend component. The stipend component is discussed here as the tuition component varies based on degree type and status. (Two relevant knowledgebase articles can be found here and here.) The stipend for an AI is the same for students across all divisions and is higher than both the University Fellowship and Assistantship in Research stipend rates.  This stipend rate is approved as part of the overall University budget, which is approved by the Board of Trustees. Budget recommendations are made by the University’s Priorities Committee, on which two graduate students sit. The portion of a student’s stipend that comes from an Assistantship in Instruction may be full or partial, depending on the time commitment associated with the teaching appointment. Like the stipend, tuition for the AI appointment is also apportioned on a pro rata basis, depending on the associated time commitment.  Support from an AI appointment therefore replaces, in full or in part, any other funding provided from the University. Candidates for master’s degrees, who hold an AI appointment, are generally not eligible for the tuition grant component.

A student may have an AI appointment that ranges from 1 to 6 AI hours.  AI-hour appointments are generally associated with the number of contact hours per week that a graduate student has with students.  For each hour of AI appointment, approximately three hours of time commitment are assumed.  A full appointment of 6 AI hours is the maximum appointment possible for a semester and assumes a time commitment of 18 to 20 hours per week associated with the appointment.  If less-than-full AIs are assigned, the tuition and stipend amounts are prorated according to the percent AI assigned. For example, if a three-hour AI appointment is assigned, or a 50% AI appointment, the AI appointment would provide ½ of tuition and ½ of the AI stipend. The balance of a student’s support would then come from other sources.

Note: AI appointments and associated pay begin at the start of the academic semester as defined by the enrollment and funding schedules in effect for graduate students. Graduate student enrollment and funding schedules begin in August for the fall semester and in January for the spring semester. This means that graduate students taking up an AI appointment in the fall or spring should be prepared to take on preparatory work for those appointments in August or January, respectively, even though classes may begin a few weeks later.

AI Eligibility

The following categories of student are NOT eligible to serve as AIs:

  • First-year students in Ph.D. programs may not be appointed as AIs. Exceptions to this must be approved by Academic Affairs in the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School.
  • Students who have entered ET/DCC status are not eligible to serve as AIs, as such appointments are only available to enrolled graduate students.  Such students may be appointed by a department in lecturer or other appointments that are not reserved for enrolled graduate students.
  • Students who are on a leave of absence from the University or are enrolled in absentia are not eligible to serve as AIs.
  • No category of non-degree student is eligible to be appointed as an AI.  This includes VSRCs, non-degree trailing students, visiting students, exchange students, and qualifying students.

Open AI position listings

Occasionally academic departments and programs have AI positions that they are unable to fill and for which they would welcome expressions of interest from eligible graduate students enrolled at the University.  Open AI postings can be found via the following link.

Grievance Process:

Graduate students serving as AIs have resources and support available to them if they encounter situations in their teaching where they believe they have been treated unfairly or have experienced inappropriate conduct.   The venue for a grievance depends on the nature of the concerns. Grievances related to sexual misconduct or discrimination based on a protected characteristic are reviewed by the Title IX Office and the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, respectively. If the grievance relates to academic progress, enrollment and standing, research, or teaching, a graduate student should typically attempt to resolve the matter with the faculty member(s) overseeing the work in question.  Directors of Graduate Studies and/or Department Chairs are the next venue for review.  Outside the department, a student may turn to   Academic Affairs in the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School. If the grievance is related to faculty misconduct, the Office of the Dean of the Faculty may be involved in a review as well.  To find a description of the Academic Affairs process, please visit this link.

The McGraw Center and Mandatory AI Orientation

To make graduate students’ teaching here as effective and fulfilling for them as possible, the Graduate School requires first-time Assistants in Instruction (AIs) to attend a multi-day orientation to teaching at Princeton given by the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning. This event is meant to supplement those AI training programs that may have already been established by departments and provides an introduction to teaching issues and skills for all first-time AIs. Students take the orientation at the beginning of the term that they are scheduled to teach for the first time, and not earlier.  More information around timing and format of AI Orientation is distributed each semester Academic Affairs in the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School. A student’s department notifies the Graduate School if that student is appointed as a first-time AI, and the Graduate School sends the student reminders about this mandatory orientation. The McGraw Center staff report back to the Graduate School on attendance and successful completion of the training program. Those who do not successfully complete orientation will not be allowed to hold an AI appointment for any term in the future.

To explore the above and other resources through the McGraw Center, including pedagogy workshops, please visit the following link.

Collaborative Teaching Initiative in the Humanities and Social Sciences

Graduate students in the humanities and social sciences who have successfully completed their general examination and who have already demonstrated excellence in teaching as an AI in a previous semester may apply to participate in an initiative that allows them to co-design and co-teach an undergraduate course at Princeton with a faculty mentor. The aim of this initiative is twofold: first, to facilitate graduate student intellectual development and pedagogical and professional experience under the guidance of a seasoned mentor, specifically through the design and full co-teaching of a course; and second, to provide innovative new team-taught classes for Princeton’s undergraduates.

Consistent with Princeton's policy on instructional responsibilities, faculty involved in the initiative must still assume primary responsibility for the course and must teach no less than half of lectures or precepts. Nonetheless, both faculty and graduate student collaborators are fully engaged in teaching through the duration of the course, and both meet with staff from the McGraw Center for consultations on their goals and methods for co-teaching. Graduate student participants are listed a co-instructors of record with the Registrar. The initiative supposes genuine and experimental team teaching, combined with intellectual and pedagogical development for the graduate student instructor.

Faculty in the humanities and social sciences receive a call for proposals in December with relevant deadlines and application requirements; the call invites course proposals for both fall and spring courses in the subsequence academic year. The call goes only to faculty because only faculty can propose courses at Princeton, but graduate students are encouraged to express interest to and discuss possible proposals with their faculty adviser(s) and director of graduate studies. If funds remain for the spring term, an additional call for proposals will be distributed over the summer, intended to fund a small number of additional courses for the subsequent spring term.

Submitted proposals are evaluated first by a departmental committee consisting of the chair, director of graduate studies, and departmental representative. The chair then passes the most promising proposals along for consideration by representatives of the Office of the Dean of the Faculty, the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School, and the Office of the Dean of the College. This program is currently restricted to the humanities and social sciences departments that offer Ph.D. programs, including the School of Architecture and the School of Public and International Affairs.

Graduate students participating in the program receive a three-hour AI appointment, regardless of the size of the course, and the appointment may include courses that would not otherwise qualify for an AI allotment. The three-hour AI appointment is the same for lecture and seminar courses.

Please visit this ODOC page for additional information on this initiative.

Quin Morton Teaching Fellow Program

Princeton graduate students who will be in Dissertation Completion Enrollment (DCE) status in the following year are invited each spring to apply for one-year positions as Quin Morton Teaching Fellows. Quin Morton Teaching Fellows teach one topic-based, multidisciplinary writing seminar of their own design each semester and participate in an intensive faculty development program, which includes meetings and workshops on seminar design and writing pedagogy. Teaching Fellows are paid at the salary rate for half-time lecturers without the Ph.D. (a minimum of $32,900 for the year), receive full DCE tuition and Student Health Plan coverage, and enjoy all the benefits of fully enrolled graduate students.  Those interested in applying to become a Quin Morton Fellow should visit this page on the Writing Program's website.

Graduate School Teaching Award

The Graduate School Teaching Awards honor those graduate students who have made a significant contribution to undergraduate teaching. Students are nominated each spring by academic departments and programs. Winners are selected by a committee chaired by Cole Crittenden, deputy dean of the Graduate School, and comprising the academic affairs deans and staff from the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning.

For teaching support and opportunities not directly related to your role as a graduate student at the University, please see the following link:

GradFutures - https://gradfutures.princeton.edu/