Responsibilities and resources
As a teaching assistant (TA), you are accountable to the university, the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences (AHS), your Department/School, the course instructor and the students in the course you are assigned to.
You will receive a contract from your Department/School detailing TA hours (typically 160 hours per term), start and end dates, responsibilities and expectations. Review this document carefully to ensure that you understand the expectations of your role.
TA-specific training may change on a year-to-year basis. You will receive information about TA training during orientation week.
All UWaterloo employees are required to complete certain mandatory training courses:
- SO1001 Employee safety orientation
- SO1081 Workplace violence awareness
- SO2017 WHMIS 2015
- AODA accessible customer service training
AHS graduate students are required to complete an academic integrity milestone, which includes the completion of:
- an in-person workshop,
- an online module, Graduate Students and Academic Integrity, and
- a milestone form.
Research ethics training is required for UWaterloo researchers. Please see the Research website for information about mandatory and optional research ethics training courses.
Workshops, professional development, and other training courses are available to UWaterloo staff and faculty:
- Events, programs, and workshops offered through the Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE)
- LEARN for TAs workshop offered through CTE
- Learning and development programs offered through Organizational Human Development (OHD)
- Web based training on LinkedIn Learning
- On-campus professional development opportunities
Communicating with the course instructor
Before the course begins:
- Obtain a copy of the textbook or course notes that the class will be using.
- Find out when the classes will be held and whether you are expected to attend.
- Discuss when and where your office hours will be held and for how long.
- Determine what your responsibilities are as a TA for the course.
- Ensure that you have access to the course on LEARN.
- Identify expectations for responding to student emails or discussion posts.
Once the course is in session:
- Frequently update the instructor on your observations and experiences in the course and discuss any issues that come up.
- When you get a marking scheme from the instructor, ask as many questions as you need for clarification; flag any assignments that you are unsure of.
- You should be comfortable with all the concepts in the course; if you do not understand something, ask the instructor for clarification.
- If you have concerns or difficulties with a student, let the instructor know immediately and refer the student to the instructor to discuss their problems.
- If you are having difficulties with the course instructor, talk to the instructor first to try to come up with a solution.
- If you are unable to resolve the problem, tell the instructor that you will ask the Associate Chair/Director of Graduate Studies in your Department/School to act as a mediator.
- If you are not satisfied that an appropriate solution has been reached or the Associate Chair/Director is not an appropriate mediator (e.g. the Associate Chair/Director is the instructor) then bring the issue to the Associate Dean, Graduate Studies.
Questions that a TA should ask are outlined on the CTE website. Additional administrative duties that a TA may take on include:
Creating or distributing the course outline
Setting up the lecture hall for class and for presentations as necessary
Overseeing scantron exam marking and reviewing print-outs for errors (e.g., missing student IDs, double answer entry, poor quality erasing on response cards)
Entering marks into a spreadsheet
Calculating class averages
Posting marks for exams and assignments
Knowing the course content
Students in your class will ask you a lot of questions; if you do not know the answer, tell the student that you will get back to them once you find out the answer, either by looking it up or asking the course instructor.
Teaching labs, tutorials, and courses
If the course you are assisting with provides you with the opportunity to lead lectures, tutorials or labs, make sure that you are familiar with the course content in order to teach it and discuss any questions you have in advance with the course instructor.
Holding office hours and appointments
Regular office hours should be set during the day, at a different time than office hours of the course instructor, and when departmental facilities are accessible to undergraduate students. It may be necessary to hold extra office hours before an exam or project, or once exams or assignments are graded.
If appointments are made outside of your office hours, arrange them like business appointments; try to avoid endless "drop in" appointments outside of your regular office hours.
Try to avoid excessive communications by email. Posting frequently asked questions on the course discussion boards can help eliminate repetition. Changes to office hours and general announcements can be posted under announcements on Waterloo LEARN.
UWaterloo policy requires instructors to report all academic integrity infractions to the appropriate Associate Dean (Graduate or Undergraduate Studies).
AHS prefers to handle academic integrity cases through formal inquiry, to:
- ensure that cases are handled consistently, and
- maintain a record in case of repeat infractions within or outside of the Faculty.
However, instructors also have the option of handling cases informally.
The steps that should be taken if there is a suspected academic offence are outlined in the AHS instructor handbook.
Information, privacy and confidentiality
Guidelines for student access to student information, guidelines for confidential records, and guidelines on returning assignments and posting grades can be found on the Information and Privacy website.
Resources on campus
Assignments, tests and final examinations
See the current Undergraduate Studies Academic Calendar for academic regulations related to assignments, tests, and final exams.
It is important that you plan your time and ensure that the marking scheme is clear prior to marking. Only discuss student concerns about grades in private. If you are re-grading exams, do so without the student present.
Working with LEARN
LEARN is the University's web-based learning management system, where instructors and TAs can manage course content, post assignments, create virtual dropboxes, manage grades and create discussion forums for students.
LEARN training sessions are available through the CTE Liaison.
In the case that there is a service outage to the online content of four hours or more, instructors may follow the University’s protocol for service disruption in the online learning environment.
You are expected to proctor the midterms and final examinations of your class. Responsibilities may include:
- Distributing and collecting exam papers
Verifying students’ WatCards
Answering questions that students have during the exam
Watching for suspicious behaviour
Knowing how to deal with issues, such as responding to students’ questions and cheating
Proctoring a make-up exam
Posting final grades
Instructors may post student information in a public place provided the identification of the student remains private, as outlined in Policy 46 - Information Management. It is important to note that both final examination and course grades are not to be released prior to the end of the final examination period.
When posting final grades:
- Follow the actions as described in Policy 46 - Information Management.
- Avoid distributing projects or exams by leaving them in a box in a hallway.
- Identify posted grades with student identification numbers and watch for unusual ID numbers (i.e., mature students); in these cases, at least the first two digits may need to be removed from all of the student numbers for confidentiality.
- Final exam marks cannot be posted until after the exam period is over.
Students registered with AccessAbility Services may receive accommodations throughout the term for assignments, tests, and final examinations. It is important that TAs maintain students' privacy and do not ask for details about a student's disability or diagnosis.
Students who have two final examinations scheduled on the same day, at the same time, may fill out the final examination timetable conflict form. Eligible reasons for accommodations during final examinations are outlined in the current Undergraduate Studies Academic Calendar.
University closures and emergency procedures
If there is a university closure during final examinations, rescheduled examinations will be held at the same time of day and in the same location as originally scheduled. The date chosen will be the next available day on which examinations have not been scheduled.
All individuals in charge of proctoring final examinations should be familiar with the fire alarm evacuation process. The evacuation procedures for final examinations are outlined on the Registrar’s Office website.
Updated December 2019