Expectations for all Teaching Assistants and Instructional Apprentices

General TA expectations

As a Teaching Assistant (TA) or Instructional Apprentice (IA), your job will start officially on the first day of classes and end once the final course grades have been submitted. You are expected to be responsive to communications from the instructors, ISC, or ISAs once you sign your TA contract. 

In order to hold a TA position, you are required to be on-campus for the duration of the term. If you anticipate absences/travelling during the term, you must contact both your supervisor and the instructor of the course ASAP. Some courses will allow for remote TA work but others may require in-person meetings or tasks.

The University's Centre for Teaching Excellence (CEL) highlights information relevant to all University of Waterloo graduate students in its TA Handbook. The Faculty of Mathematics also has its own Math Faculty TA guidelines. Both sources encompass the following information, but the information below is what the ISG deems to be most relevant to you as a TA/IA for a CS course, ISG-supported or not.

Scene in a lecture hall where a student raises there hand

TA units and workload

A single TA unit will require 80 hours of work across four months, with 5 hours of weekly work on average. The workload will not necessarily be distributed uniformly throughout the term however. For example, marking assignments may not occur in the first two weeks, and midterm and final examinations may require more than five hours of proctoring and marking for those weeks.

Students who are assigned double TA units as part of their degree requirements can expect a total of 160 hours of work with an average of 10 hours per week. 

All TAs are expected to learn/familiarize themselves with the course content in their own time. This preparation does not count towards your hours worked. 

If you find that you are exceeding the number of hours each term, you are expected to communicate these concerns with the instructor or ISC for guidance. If there is a course wide problem in regards to workload, you can voice any concerns to the CS Graduate Office Manager.

TA duties

It will be up to your assigned instructor or ISC to tell you if you will not be expected to participate in one or more of the following duties at the start of the term. 

The duties may consist of the following or others and will vary by course, term of offering, and the instructor.

  • Attendance at course meetings or marking meetings
  • Holding office hours in the CS Consulting Centre or virtually
  • Conducting tutorials or providing assistance in the lab
  • Marking assignments and examinations
  • Proctoring examinations (midterm and final)
  • Monitoring and participating in discussion forms (e.g. Piazza, edX)

If you are an IA, you will likely have a wider variety of duties than a TA who usually only partakes in marking/proctoring duties. Read more about all of these duties in depth and the differences between IAs and TAs in our TA/IA duty guidelines page.

Additionally, you are part of the Faculty of Mathematics proctoring pool, and may be called upon to assist in the proctoring of another course's examination (midterm or final). The assignment is random, and you are not expected to be familiar with the course material. Should you be selected, the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies or an approved delegate will notify you.

In all cases, if you cannot perform your duties, you are expected to find a qualified replacement, assuming the course instructor/ISC agrees to the substitution. 

  • Graduate Students

TA performance

Depending on your role, your instructor or ISC may provide TA performance feedback throughout the term. 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 may report the situation to the Director of Graduate Studies. They will determine if any discipline actions will need to be taken, which may include a formal warning and/or cancellation of TAship.

TA evaluations

TA evaluation forms are made available for Instructors and ISCs to complete near the end of the term. In the evaluation TAs/IAs are rated by the following categories:

  • Quality of Work

  • Timeliness

  • Communication

  • Preparedness

  • Initiative

  • Overall Rating

Instructors and ISCs may provide constructive feedback for the TA and in some cases, confidential comments for the Director of Graduate Studies. 

Graduate students with exceptional performance can be recommended for teaching assistant awards which can result in monetary compensation for their dedicated time and efforts.

TA grievances

You are encouraged to communicate with the course instructor/ISC when a question arises about a decision or action affecting you. If you are not satisfied with the result, you may seek a resolution by following procedures described in University Policy 30, with Section 9: Dispute Resolution.