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Teaching in the History Department

Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTA’s) – A Short Guide about Teaching in the History Department

What follows supplements the section in the PGR handbook relating to teaching Student Opportunities ( which includes the form that you complete to apply for teaching and contains a link to the Academic Professional Pathway courses that lead to affiliation to the Higher Education Academy (a qualification what would be recognised wherever your academic career takes you).

You won’t be expected to design a module but you will be contributing, usually in the form of seminar tutoring, on core or specialist modules convened by a permanent member of staff. The latter should be your first point of call in case of any queries and for advice. They should also offer you teaching observation to give helpful feedback to you. On some modules there may be an opportunity for you to gain some lecturing experience. You may well have a good deal of flexibility, within the framework of the module, to deliver seminars in your own way but ask the module convenor about this.

The text that follows is some highlighted information culled from the staff handbook relating to teaching, and the information there is the full and complete reference guide to which you should refer.

Seminar design

Core / Essential Reading 

Undergraduate students are expected to spend approximately 3-4 hours per week in preparation for each seminar. You should take this into account when setting core reading.

You may choose to have all students read the same material for a given seminar. If this is the case, this material should be available electronically so that all students can access it. Best practice is to use the Talis Aspire Reading List for this, with direct links for students to access the reading.

If the reading you want to set is not already available online (e.g. as a journal article or ebook) then you can request for it to be scanned and made available to your students using the library’s Course Extracts. Note that there are copyright restrictions on what can be scanned, especially if work is published outside of the UK. If it is not possible to have a particular chapter scanned, you should choose a different reading to assign to students. It is not legal to scan the work and upload it yourself.

If you do not require all students to read the same texts for their seminar preparation, then you should make sure that clear instructions about what to read are provided.

Further Reading 

Students should be provided with further reading lists for each topic on the module from the start of the module.

Seminar Activities

All students should be expected to contribute in some way to each seminar, and tutors should aim to guide this discussion rather than to repeat information provided in lectures. Tutors should work to ensure that their seminars are inclusive environments in which all students feel comfortable to share their views on the topic under discussion. For more information, see this page compiled by the Equality and Diversity Reading Group.

Seminar Questions and Activities

Students should be provided with a short list of seminar questions (usually 3-5) to aid them in their preparation for their seminars and to help guide their reading. Tutors should give clear instructions about how to prepare for seminars, bearing in mind that students are expected to spend approximately 3-4 hours per week in preparation for each seminar. As well as reading, you can also set research activities, presentations, or other tasks for students to complete either during or in advance of seminars in order to enhance their learning. Note that any activities that are expected to be completed before the seminar should be taken into account when setting the amount of reading required.


Registers should be taken at all seminars (or as soon as possible once the seminar has concluded) via the Small Groups Teaching tab on Tabula. For more information see the EPQ pages on monitoring student attendance and progression.


Assessment Patterns and Deadlines

All modules in the History Department follow set patterns of assessment with particular deadlines. You cannot deviate from the assessment pattern approved for your module by the Education Committee, nor can you change the deadlines for assignments. The administration system for assessment, marking and feedback is Tabula. Full manual and short guides are available giving step by step instructions of all processes.

The Department's Deadline Map for each academic year can be found here.

Guidance for Students and Marking Criteria 

Most assessment in the department takes the form of an essay, an exam, or seminar contribution. There is department marking criteria and further guidance for these types of assessment available in the UG student handbook and in the PGT student handbook. All staff use the same marking criteria for the same type of assessment; please bear this in mind when advising students on their assignments.

The assignments should all have been designed by a permanent member of staff.

Marking documentation

The Department's policies for marking and assessment are hosted on the Department's webpages for current students. All staff with responsibilities for any marking and assessment should ensure they read and understand all of the information provided on the 'Assessment' webpage. These include details on essays, submissions, examinations, special circumstances, mitigating circumstances, feedback, penalties, marking, and degree classification.

Marking scales

All teaching staff should be aware that the University uses the 20 Point Marking Scale for all undergraduate work, which directly maps to the different degree classifications. The 100 Point Marking Scale is used for work made up of multiple marks. For instance, an exam with four questions might receive marks of 65, 68, 62, and 74 for the individual questions and therefore an overall mark of 67.25 for the whole exam; this figure would be rounded to the nearest point on the 100 Point Scale, 67 in this case. A mark of 67.5 would be rounded up to 68; marks below 67.5 but above 67 are rounded down to 67. More detail on these two scales is available on the EPQ website.

The pass mark for UG assessments, and for UG modules, is 40%.

Marking timelines

Feedback on all summative work must be provided in writing via Tabula within twenty working days of submission (details here). In addition, all students must be given the opportunity to attend a one-to-one tutorial to support the written feedback if they wish, except for core modules. For summer term assessments, feedback is still returned via Tabula within 20 working days, even if this is prior to the central University results dates.

Marks and feedback are released to students twenty working days after the due date for the assignment, irrespective of when the marks and feedback are entered on Tabula. There are several reasons for this, the main one being consistency across students. Markers may wish to give informal feedback before the marks are released, eg. by giving generic feedback to the whole class, or by taking written feedback into account when advising students on future assignments.

Sometimes work is submitted after the normal due date for the assessment, eg. when a student has an extension, or when they submit late. In such cases, the university’s 20-day-feedback rule applies to the date of submission, not the normal due date. That said, the maximum extension is 10 working days. And, from an admin point of view, it makes sense to release all marks for the same assessment at the same time. So, markers are encouraged to mark all assignments (even those submitted late) within 20 days of the normal due date. Assignments marked after this will need to be looked at by the moderator if they are a fail, over 82, or on a class boundary.

Unsubmitted work

Some pieces of work are simply not submitted, and have no extension, by the time the marker is about to send their marks/feedback to admin or to the moderator. In such cases, the marker selects ‘0 (Zero)’ in the mark box, writes ‘F’ in the grade box, and writes ‘no submission’ in the feedback box.


The department follows the university-wide guidance on moderation. The main aim of moderation is to ensure the accuracy and consistency of student marks.

The type of moderation depends on the year of the module and the weighting of the assignment:

  • First-year assignments are not formally moderated. Module convenors are responsible for ensuring the accuracy and consistency of student marks on team taught modules.
  • Second-year, final-year, and PGT assignments are subject to sampled moderation (explained below). This excludes assignments worth 3 CATS or fewer. For example, a 10% component of a 30 CATS module, or a 20% component of a 15 CATS module, does not need to be moderated
  • UG and PGT dissertations are subject to double-seen marking (explained below).

Your marking may well be moderated. This is a university practice to ensure equity and quality. Team-taught modules are moderated by people who do not teach on the module. Moderators may wish to liaise with you about your marking, so please respond quickly to such interventions. You should also liaise with the module convenor if you have any questions about marking standards.

There is no formal deadline for first-marking assignments that are subject to moderation. When first-marking, please bear in mind the time constraints of the moderator.


The following draws on best practice for providing written online feedback (via Tabula): 

Start with a positive comment

The strengths of this answer were…

Provide balanced feedback

The argumentative structure was clear, however at times it was repetitive…

Provide specific feedback

Your assessment of the historiographical debates on page 3 were excellent. However, ensure you always include full references.

Use a positive tone

As a rule of thumb around 2/3 of feedback should be positive and reinforce what has been done well.

Try the ‘sandwich’ approach

Start and end with a positive comment.

Use the marking descriptors

For example, ‘high quality work’ for assessments of a 2(i) standard.

Provide ways in which this essay and also future work could be improved (even for work of a high first class category)

For future essays consider using some specific examples that you have researched in the primary sources. This will add richness and depth to your work.

Provide an opportunity for a dialogue about the feedback

Offer students the chance to discuss the feedback with you (either by email or online chat/video) and provide further detail if necessary.

In January 2021, the Department approved the following guidelines for feedback:

  1. The feedback should be constructive, as specific as possible, refer to the marking criteria and include ways in which the assignment could be improved (even for work of high first class quality).
  2. As a rule of thumb there should be at least 2 sentences on the following:

    a) what was good about the assignment;

    b) what was not so good and

    c) ways to improve the assignment which may be helpful for future work.

  3. Feedback should not be too lengthy, but students should be offered the opportunity to discuss their work, the mark and feedback with tutors in office hours.
  4. Markers are not editors, there is no need to correct every typo or referencing error but poor spelling, grammar and expression and/or failure to follow correct scholarly protocols should be pointed out in the feedback with an example if necessary.
  5. Substantive feedback must be written or pasted directly in the feedback box in Tabula so that it is clearly visible to moderators and external examiners.


    The University recognises two kinds of plagiarism, called ‘poor academic practice’ and ‘cheating.’ The former is an academic matter, to be dealt with by the marker and in the same way as any other scholarly shortcoming, such as poor grammar or poor paragraph structure. There is no fixed number of marks that are deducted for poor academic practice; these marks are simply not earned under the marking criteria.

    By contrast, cheating is a disciplinary matter. It results in a formal penalty, as determined by the Deputy Head of Department, assisted by the Academic Conduct Panel.

    If a marker suspects a student of cheating, they should fill out this webform, which will be forwarded to the Academic Conduct Panel. The same applies if the marker has found plagiarism in a piece of work but is unsure whether it is cheating or merely poor academic practice.

    As a rough guide, the threshold for serious cases has in the past been three full sentences of clear plagiarism in the course of a 1,500-word essay. ‘Clear plagiarism’ here means verbatim copying with no quote-marks and no citation. Work with this amount of plagiarism, or equivalent, is usually worth sending to the Panel. Work with less plagiarism than this can usually be dealt with by the marker, as a case of poor academic practice.

    Whether to deduct marks for poor academic practice, and if so how many to deduct, are decisions made by individual markers using their academic judgment. As a rough guide, 1,500-word essays with two sentences of clear plagiarism have, in the past, lost up to one point on the twenty-point marking scale.

    When marking, it is good practice to check the Turnitin score of each essay marked, and to look closely at work that has a Turnitin score of 25% or more.

    More on plagiarism is available on the plagiarism page of the Undergraduate Handbook. There is also an interactive example to illustrate common kinds of plagiarism and to explain how to avoid them.

    Contacting Students

    Ensure that you have provided students with information about how to contact you if they have any questions. This should be provided on your personal webpage and to all students on your modules.


    The primary way that most students will get in touch is via email. You are not expected to respond to students immediately, outside of working hours, on weekends, or during periods of annual or other leave. However you should respond in a timely fashion both in term time and vacation times, even if you are conducting research or are conducting other university business.

    Department policy is that student emails should be responded to within 3 working days. If for any reason you know you will not be able to respond within that time, you should use an “out of office” automatic response to indicate why you cannot respond, and when students should expect a response from you. If this is a period longer than a few days, include a suggestion of who students can contact for urgent advice in the meantime. If you are not able to answer a student’s query because you need further information or don’t know the answer, then best practice is to respond with a holding email that assures the student that you are finding out the answer to their question.

    Office Hours and Appointments 

    You should hold two office hours, on separate days, each week so that students can drop in without an appointment to ask questions or seek advice. You must be available to meet with students in your office hours, including during Term 3. If for any reason you cannot attend your office hour, you should both email your students to let them know and also leave a note on your office door. In these cases you should provide an alternative time when students can meet with you.

    Your office hours are not the only times that you should be available to meet with students: they should be able to make appointments to meet with you (either in person or virtually) at other times as they may have classes that clash with your office hours. Please make sure students know how to arrange appointments with you outside of office hours.

    Cancellation of Teaching 

    If you have to cancel a class due to illness or for other reasons, you should notify the History Office immediately, especially if it is at short notice. The office can email your students and send out a notification via the MyWarwick App. If you are absent from work you should also contact the Head of Department.

    Any cancelled classes should be rescheduled wherever possible. This should usually be done during Term 3 due to the complexities of the timetable and room bookings, but if you are able to arrange an ad hoc class that all of your students are able to attend then that is permissible. At the very minimum, class notes or a Powerpoint should be provided to students.