This page is currently undergoing edits courtesy of Nathan Sandford (05/19/22)

Teaching Requirements

From the Astro Graduate Student Handbook (p. 27; c. 12 May 2022):

The Department requires students to teach for at least two semesters. This requirement is typically fulfilled in the first year in the program, though for various reasons (e.g., fellowship requirements, not enough teaching openings) it can be fulfilled later in consultation with the HGA and/or Department Chair. In line with other departments in the Math and Physics Sciences Division, the normal teaching load is a 50% GSI appointment. Students may opt to teach for more than the required two semesters; decisions to do so should be made in consultation with the student’s research advisor.

Each semester, the GSAO sends out a poll to students asking their teaching needs and preferences for the following semester. The department will make reasonable efforts to accommodate preferences, but there are no guarantees of teaching assignments as budgets and teaching openings can vary year-to-year. In some cases, students may GSI outside the Astronomy Department. Teaching outside of Astronomy will not count toward the department two semester teaching requirement, unless it is approved by the HGA and Department Chair.

Some external fellowships (e.g., from the Department of Energy) have specific teaching requirements (e.g., only teaching one semester). In such cases, the department will comply with these requirements.

First-Time Teaching Requirements

First-time GSIs have the following requirements that must be completed before or undertaken concurrently with their first semester of teaching.

Online Ethics Course

The GSI Professional Standards and Ethics Online Course must be completed prior to a GSI interacting with any students, whether online or in person, in their role as an instructor. The ethics course consists of 5 45-minutes modules on the following topics:

  • GSI Ethics and Professional Responsibilities
  • Promoting Learning through Diversity: The Inclusive Classroom
  • Teaching Students with Disabilities
  • Creating an Educational Environment Free of Sexual Harassment
  • Fostering Academic Integrity

Teaching Conference for First-Time GSI's

The Teaching Conference for First-Time GSIs is a two-day event held the week before classes start each semester to orient graduate students to their GSI role and equip them to begin teaching. The first day (Thursday) is only required for new international GSIs and addresses teaching in the U.S. classroom, while the second day is required for everybody and consists of intensive teaching preparation for all new GSIs.

300-level Pedagogy Course / Ay375

It is required for first-time GSIs to be concurrently enrolled in a 300-level pedagogy course—Ay375 for Astronomy. Ay375 is typically taught by two senior Astronomy Grad Students and seeks to:

  • Pass on practical pedagogical knowledge
  • Provide an environment where we can discuss AND practice a wide range of teaching techniques.
  • Provide resources and develop practices that will not only help you immediately in your current roles as GSIs, but also into the future in whatever (in)formal teaching/instructing roles you might find yourself holding.

Even if you are not teaching in your first semester at UC Berkeley, it is still recommended that you take Ay375 if it is offered as Ay375 is typically only taught every other semester.

Rumor has it that Fall 2022 will diverge from past traditions, and Ay375 will be replaced with an MPS-wide pedagogy course led by an instructor out of the Physics Department. This is not officially confirmed as of May 19th, 2022.

Union Orientation

All first-time GSIs, tutors, and readers must attend a 30-minute orientation held by UAW 2865, the union representing all academic student employees across the UC system (see below). The orientation provides an introduction to your contractually protected rights, the grievance process for cases in which these rights are not upheld, and the status of ongoing collective bargaining for better working conditions. Orientations are offered at both the department (recommended) and campus-wide level. Astro's union orientation is usually built into the general Astro Department orientation. If you attend the department orientation, you do not need to attend the campus-wide orientation and vice versa.

Teaching Resources

UCB Campus Teaching Resources

  • The GSI Teaching and Resource Center is a fantastic all-around resource for new and experienced GSIs. They provide regular workshops on teaching target to graduate student instructors.
  • The Berkeley Center for Teaching & Learning has lots of resources and programs “to inspire, enrich, and innovate Berkeley's collective teaching and learning community.”
  • The Berkeley Disabled Students' Program (DSP) primarily serves disabled students by equipping them with appropriate accommodations and support, but they also provide resources to instructors to assist with meeting their students' needs.
  • bCourses is UC Berkeley's official learning management system built upon the Canvas platform. It provides excellent resources for managing class logistics, hosting course materials, grading assignments, and communicating with students. GSI's might not have full control over their class's bCourse page, so work with your instructor-of-record or head-GSI to maximize its usefulness to you.

UCB Astronomy Teaching Resources


The Electronic Big Red Binder (EBRB) is a super valuable resource chock-full of lesson plans, worksheets, activities, and quizzes from years gone by. Reuse and modification of any and all of the materials in these resources is highly encouraged! So is uploading your own course materials for future generations.

Your Peers

While teaching can be challenging and a lot of work, you're not doing it alone! Don't forget to ask your peers, whether past or present GSIs, for advice and even past instructional material (that may not have made it on to the EBRB). Collaboration and coordination with your co-GSIs can make teaching a lot more manageable (and fun)!

UAW 2865

While not an instructional resource, UAW 2865, the union of UC Academic Student Employee (ASEs), is a fantastic occupational resource. If you have concerns over unsafe or discriminatory working conditions, unrealistic expectations, late, missing or incorrect pay, or any other breach of your contract, reach out to the department union steward (currently Kiran Eiden). Remember, as GSI, your working conditions are your students' learning conditions.

While UAW 2865 contract applies to you whether or not you are a dues-paying union member, becoming a member (as the majority of Astro grads are), directly helps build our power to work towards a more democratic, equitable, and inclusive university. The union is run by and for ASEs like you! If you would like to get involved, reach out to the department union steward (currently Kiran Eiden).

External Teaching Resources

  • CAST is an organization that seeks to remove barriers to learning by “helping educators and organizations apply insight from the learning sciences and leading-edge practices to educational design and implementation.” Perhaps most notably, they have put together thorough guidelines for implementing a Universal Design for Learning framework.
  • This blog on Trauma-Informed Teaching and Learning provides lots guidance and tools for bringing a trauma-informed approach to higher education. What does that mean exactly? You can read up on it here!
  • And more! (Feel free to add any external resources you've found particularly useful)

Teaching Certificates

UC Berkeley offers the following teaching certificates to encourage and recognize additional professional development of pedagogical knowledge and skills. Importantly, the teaching certificate is not a primary or secondary teaching credential. For educational credentialing, consult the Graduate School of Education.

Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education

The GSI Teaching & Resource Center at UC Berkeley offers a Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. No application is necessary. The certificate seeks to provide

an overall structure within which to help graduate students develop their classroom skills, prepare for the teaching they will do as future faculty, and professionally document their activities as post-secondary instructors.

Briefly, the certificate program's requirements are:

  • Unordered List ItemAttend the Teaching Conference for First-Time GSIs (see above)
  • Complete a 300-level pedagogy course (e.g., Ay375; see above)
  • Attend 6 qualifying Workshops on Teaching
  • At least 2 semesters of teaching as a GSI at UC Berkeley
  • A classroom observation by, and consultation with a faculty
  • Syllabus, including learning objectives, week-by-week assignments, course policies, evaluation criteria, and narrative course rationale for an original course
  • Implement and respond to a mid-semester evaluation
  • A teaching portfolio

Many of these requirements will be satisfied naturally of the course of your teaching responsibilities.

Learning Sciences Certificate in Instructional Design, Learning Technologies, and Education Research

The Graduate School of Education at UC Berkeley offers a Learning Sciences Certificate in Instructional Design, Learning Technologies, and Education Research. According to the program website, students who complete the certificate will be prepared to:

  • Design courses for undergraduates and graduate students
  • Use learning sciences research in design, implementation, and assessment of educational programs
  • Use and refine learning technologies, including online courses, learning management systems, interactive models and simulations, and educational games
  • Succeed in K-12 settings; undergraduate, graduate, and research institutions; out-of-school settings; non-profits, education startups, and industries that develop technical training and novel approaches to learning
  • Meet the needs of students with varied cultural, educational, and personal experiences, including emergent bilinguals, underrepresented minorities, and students new to technology.

Unlike the teaching certificate offered by the GSI Teaching & Resource Center, the Learning Sciences Certificate requires an application to the program and the completion of several formal courses.

Misc. Glossary

  • GSI (Graduate Student Instructor): UC Berkeley's term to describe what almost every other university calls a TA.
  • UGSI (Undergraduate Student Instructor): Identical role as a GSI, just held by an undergraduate students.
  • Reader: UC Berkeley's term for someone who grades assignments.
  • ASE (Academic Student Employee): Formal catch-all term describing all student employees represented by UAW 2865. It includes all TAs, (U)GSIs, Tutors, and Readers across the UC system.
  • IOR (Instructor of Record): The faculty formally responsible for the instruction of a course.