By: Morgan Rooney

Carleton University and Unit 1 of CUPE 4600 (the union that represents Teaching Assistants at the institution) reached a new Collective Agreement in March 2014. If you are a new TA or a returning TA who wasn’t directly involved in that process, there are a few substantial changes with respect to TA training on campus of which you need to be aware.

Compliance Training and Pedagogical Training

According to article 14.01 of the new Agreement, there are now two different categories of TA training.

The first is Compliance Training, which is a new training category. Compliance Training is mandatory, one-time training that all TAs (graduate and undergraduate) must complete in the first 4-6 weeks of employment (by October 15th for TAs with Fall-only and Fall/Winter assignments; by February 15th for all TAs with Winter-only assignments; and by June 1st for all TAs with Spring/Summer assignments). After completing the training, TAs are compensated, one time only, for 5 hours of pay at the regular TA rate (see article 23). [UPDATED Sept. 5, 2014:] The modules that constitute Compliance Training continue to expand. Currently, there are 3 mandatory AODA training modules, the Workplace Violence and Harassment Prevention module, and the Worker Health and Safety Awareness module. There are also other modules you may need to complete for Compliance Training if you work in a lab or are responsible for supervising any Carleton employee (including other TAs). For a complete rundown of Compliance Training expectations, click here. Note that the list of modules that constitute Compliance Training will continue to change and grow.

The second is Pedagogical Training, which, if you were a TA in the last five years, is very similar to the old “TA Training” concept. Pedagogical Training is voluntary, ongoing training available to all graduate TAs holding a 65+-hour assignment, and which is conducted between September–November and January–March each year. Graduate TAs can earn up to 5 hours of payment at the regular TA rate each year they hold a TAship (if you are an undergraduate TA, contact your department directly to inquire about Pedagogical Training). Like Compliance Training, payment for Pedagogical Training is made after it has been completed. As before, training options can be found on Carleton Central, the TA Support website, and FGPA’s Grad Navigate website.

What Do These Changes Mean for You?

These changes in the Collective Agreement will impact all TAs in a number of significant ways:

  • You have more money available to you for training. The distinction between Compliance and Pedagogical Training means that, in your first year as a TA at Carleton, you can earn an extra 10 hours of pay (5 hours for Compliance Training, 5 hours for Pedagogical Training). Those 10 hours are in addition to your contractually assigned paid hours (usually 65, 130, or 260). A PhD student working as a TA at Carleton for 4 years, for instance, would be eligible to earn up to an additional 25 hours of pay (5 hours for Compliance Training, plus 5 hours for Pedagogical Training for each year for a total of 20 hours) for taking part in training. Remember that payment for Compliance Training is only made one time, whereas graduate TAs with a 65+ hour assignment can earn up to 5 hours of payment for Pedagogical Training each fall/winter.
  • You no longer have to wonder what training is “mandatory / compulsory” and what training is “voluntary / optional.” Under the old Collective Agreement, it was possible for TAs to complete their 5 hours of paid training only to learn afterwards that they still needed to complete a “mandatory” (i.e., provincially mandated) training session. The new language captures the distinction clearly.
  • You now face only positive incentives for taking part in Pedagogical Training. Under the old Collective Agreement, TAs were paid for training before they did it, with that payment being spread out in equal installments during the period of the TA assignment in question. At the end of the year, if a TA was found to have not completed that training, the university took back the money for the work not done. This arrangement created the perception that TAs would be punished for not participating in training, which was in fact never the case. Now that TAs are paid for the work after it is completing and the perception of a “claw back” has been eliminated, TAs have only positive incentives to get involved: if you want to improve your teaching and professional skills, Carleton will support you by paying you for up to 5 hours of Pedagogical Training each year.

Conclusions

Universities today are facing tough financial times, and, as a result, the issues of student retention and public accountability are becoming more and more central. Because they must now, more than ever, compete for student tuition dollars and make themselves accountable for their use of public funds, universities are increasingly attempting to foster a strong culture of teaching.

Gone are the days when your research alone would secure you an academic post. Tomorrow’s (actually, arguably, today’s) academics will require, of course, solid profiles as researchers—but they will also need a strong background in pedagogy. They will need to create learner-centred classrooms and draw on tried-and-tested best practices in teaching because a bored or disengaged student, or a student who feels like she isn’t learning anything from a monotonous lecture, is a student who may well take her tuition dollars elsewhere. Tomorrow’s professors will use learning outcomes to structure their courses, and their departments will use curriculum mapping to organize their degrees, because they will need to lay bare the end product they are hoping to produce if they want to retain public funds. The academics, departments, and schools that resist may find themselves without the student tuition dollars and public funds they need to allow them to exist.

As a TA at Carleton, you can actually get paid up to 5 hours, every year, to get involved in Pedagogical Training. It is a fantastic opportunity for professional development for all 2000+ of the institution’s TAs, and the university and the union should be applauded for making such a firm financial commitment to encouraging such training. The financial incentive means you have an economic reason to get involved, while the shifting realities on the ground at universities offer a much deeper and arguably more compelling reason.

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