Working with Teaching Assistants

TA Considerations

As an instructor, it's not uncommon to have TAs who are less focused or don't always meet your expectations. Here are some facts to consider.

  • TA duties are not the students’ only commitment and rarely their highest priority.
    • Graduate students often take their own courses in addition to research papers, projects, etc.
    • Many graduate students have families which might include children.
  • A single TA unit is an average five hours’ work per week for the term, giving a total of 80 hours per unit over a four-month term.
  • TA duties are assigned to students as a means of providing monetary support; there is no “application” process aside from soliciting their preferred courses. You can read more about the TA assignment process under the TA/IA support section.

Please refer to our Expectations for all TAs/IAs to understand their expectations, duties, and their understanding of their role in the course.

TA evaluations

Online TA evaluation forms are available for Instructors and ISCs near the end of the term in Odyssey. In the evaluation TAs are rated by the following categories:

  • Quality of Work
  • Timeliness
  • Communication
  • Preparedness
  • Initiative
  • Overall Rating

It’s recommended that you keep notes of work done by the TAs so that you can contribute to the evaluations for the TAs at the end of the term.

In-person communications of TA evaluations are required by the school when the outcomes have potentially negative impacts on students such as an unsatisfactory rating to be delivered to them.

TA performance management

Performance management is more than filling out an evaluation form. Effective TA performance management requires ongoing communications between instructor and TAs. For example, to provide along-the-way feedback during the term to let them know what they did well and what need to be improved. Please remember that the relationship between a TA and their instructor is based on collegiality and mutual respect.

In some special situations where you feel it’s necessary to get school management involved, you should always communicate with your TA first before you contact school management. Especially if you feel a TA didn’t meet your expectations, you should contact the TA as soon as possible to discuss the situation and provide constructive feedback. 

The initial stages of performance improvement focus on identifying the underlying causes of poor performance and working together to develop a plan to bring performance in line with expectations. In most cases when the TA and the Instructor/Instructional Support Coordinator (ISC) work together, performance is successfully corrected.

In situations where there is no, or insufficient improvement in performance, the instructor/ISC should report the situation to the Director of Graduate Studies. They will decide if any discipline actions will need to be taken, which may include a formal warning and/or cancellation of TAship.

Assistant Professor, Yizhou Zhang, standing next to three graduate students and an undergraduate student

ISG tips for TA managment

Based on the ISG's previous experiences with all sorts of TAs and instructors, here are some suggestions for keeping a good working relationship with your TAs. In general, it is best to communicate all expectations clearly and regularly.

  • Provide, if possible, a schedule at the beginning of the term that shows how the 80 hours of work will be spread over the term.
  • Set consistent and reasonable deadlines for returning marked papers.
  • Send email reminders about meetings, exam proctoring or marking deadlines. 
    • Meetings generally should not fall on weekends or university holidays.
  • Encourage TAs to communicate any problems with the marking scheme to you as soon as possible so that any clarifications can be passed on to everyone.
  • Solicit individual feedback from TAs especially those who don’t ask questions.
  • Keep notes of work done by the TAs so that you can contribute to the evaluations for the TAs at the end of the term.

TA grievances

TAs should not be assigned more hours than they are assigned. They are encouraged to track their working hours if they feel that they are being overworked and can voice concerns to the Graduate Office if they feel the need.

TAs are encouraged to communicate with the course instructor/ISC when a question arises about a decision or action affecting them.

If they are not satisfied with the result, they may seek a resolution by following procedures described in Policy 30: Employment of Graduate Student Teaching Assistants, in particular the Graduate Studies Calendar guidelines on Resolution of Disputes between TAs and Instructors.