Teaching Assistant Checklist: Questions to Ask

Whether you are a new teaching assistant (TA) or an experienced TA for a course that is new to you, you need to know exactly what your responsibilities may be. The following is a list of questions to help you clarify your role, taken from Handbook for Teaching Assistants, University of Delaware, 1989.

  • What is my role? Will I be lecturing, leading discussions, running a tutorial, conducting labs, and/or grading? Will I be working in the online environment through the course management system?
  • How often will I be performing any of the above roles?
  • How does my supervisor define my role? (e.g., what is involved in running a tutorial?)
  • If I am to give individual assistance, how much help is too much?
    • What kind of assistance should I not give?
    • Should I organize group help/review sessions?
  • If I will be leading discussions, how should I run the sessions?
    • Should I stay close to the text or the lectures?
    • Should I encourage all students to talk or should I do most of the talking?
    • Should I only deal with students’ problems in discussions?
  • If I will be conducting labs, what is the scope of my responsibilities?
    • Do I keep track of supplies and materials?
    • Do I obtain supplies and materials?
    • Do I design or revise experiments?
    • Do I give demonstrations?
    • What do I do in case of emergency or accident?
  • If I am to evaluate/grade papers, projects, reports, quizzes, exams, and/or student participation, are the criteria for assigning grades clear?
  • Is the process/formula for determining a final grade clear?
    • Who reviews disputed grades?
    • How much time will I have for grading?
    • Should I make two copies of all grades?
  • What audio visual equipment do I need to know how to use? Am I responsible for getting and returning it, or do I book it from someone?
  • How much autonomy will I have to present new ideas, use different teaching methods, or present perspectives different from the instructor’s?
  • How many office hours should I hold and when?
  • Who will supervise me and under what criteria?
  • What should I do, whom should I contact, if I am unable to attend a class/lab/tutorial?
  • What other responsibilities will I have?

Getting answers to these questions may take time, but knowing the answers will help you approach your new task with confidence. Avoid being caught short by a lack of information.


If you would like support applying these tips to your own teaching, CTE staff members are here to help.  View the CTE Support page to find the most relevant staff member to contact.

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This Creative Commons license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon our work non-commercially, as long as they credit us and indicate if changes were made. Use this citation format: Teaching Assistant Checklist: Questions to Ask. Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo.