TAs support our faculty to improve the quality of our teaching and generate an enriched learning experience for our undergraduate and graduate students. The teaching assistantship is also an opportunity to develop skills that will support your subsequent academic and professional careers.
Please review our University's policies, guidelines and procedures. Policy 30: Employment of Graduate Student Teaching Assistants applies to currently-registered graduate students in any graduate program offered by the university, doing work which forms a normal part of a teaching assistant (TA) assignment in any program leading to a degree or diploma offered by the university.
If you have questions or comments about the content of this page, please contact the Associate Dean, Graduate Studies: Peter Deadman
In the Faculty of Environment, teaching assistantships are offered to research graduate students as part of their funding package. The number of teaching assistantships to which a student is entitled is detailed in their offer of admission.
Each term, the Faculty and your department/school assigns TAs to courses on the basis of their background and skillsets. In the term prior to your teaching assistantship, your department/school will ask you for information on your teaching-related skills and/or the undergraduate courses in which you could serve as a TA.
After collecting this information, TAs are matched to courses based on their skillset and the subject material in the course as best as possible. You will be notified of your TA assignment near the beginning of the term.
A normal full TA assignment constitutes 160 hours of work in a term or an average of 10 hours per week, although your hours worked may vary from week to week. A ½ TA assignment comprises 80 hours per term or an average of 5 hours per week. Other TA assignments, comprising different hours, may occasionally be assigned.
At the start of term, you should consult with the instructor of the course to which you are assigned as a TA.
With the instructor, you are expected to complete a Time Allocation Form and return it to your departmental Graduate Program Administrator.
The following questions may provide a framework for your discussion with the course instructor:
- What is structure of the course – lectures, labs, tutorials?
- What are your duties and responsibilities as a TA, including; preparing for and running labs or seminars, grading tests/assignments and providing feedback, attending lectures or other regular meetings, holding office hours, etc.
- What is grading structure and timetable?
- Are there reference materials – such as a textbook, course notes, etc. – that I should have for course?
- What are the assignment submission dates? How will marking be distributed to TAs?
- What is the turn-around time for returning marked papers and how is this done?
- How are marks recorded?
- Are extensions allowed? How are they approved and recorded?
- Will the instructor provide marking keys or schemes?
- How much feedback should be provided on tests and assignments? What form should it take?
TAs are paid on a monthly basis in accordance with the University of Waterloo's rates for Graduate Teaching Assistantships.
Payments are made by direct deposit to your bank account, in monthly instalments on the last Friday of each month.
Graduate Teaching Assistantships are considered employment income and are subject to statutory deductions for income tax, Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions and Employment Insurance (EI) premiums.
In addition to the monthly payment, students in the Faculty of Environment who hold a TA as part of their funding package also receive a Graduate Experience Award (GEA) for the term in which they are a TA. The GEA is paid to your Quest account and is not subject to deductions.
For Spring 2023, Fall 2023 and Winter 2024, the Faculty of Environment GEA is worth $1250.00 (Full TA) / $625.00 (Half TA).
Depending on the structure of the course, TAs can be asked to undertake a variety of duties, including: running lab or tutorial sections, providing extra help hours, marking lab/tutorial assignments, entering the grades on QUEST, marking exams, attending lectures, or assisting with the proctoring of tests or exams.
TAs must not be asked to write lab assignments or exams, prepare lectures, proctor final exams on their own, or submit final grades.
- Office hours provide students with the opportunity to receive individual attention. During these sessions students characteristically inquire about, or discuss, assignments and tests for which they are preparing, or seek clarification about work that has already been marked.
- Tutorial sessions usually involve teaching and answering questions about the course readings, lectures, or assignments. For example, a TA might provide further teaching about a topic introduced in class, answer questions about assignments, or go over the answers to exams or assignments. A TA is not normally expected to introduce new material, unless a prior arrangement has been made with the instructor.
- Lab sessions: in some courses, TAs are expected to run lab sessions. These may include work with the Ecology Lab, work in the field, or work in a computer lab. TAs running computer labs typically run two lab sessions, each comprising 25 students.
- Marking: you may find that you are required to mark lab/tutorial assignments, projects, essays, midterms, or final exams. In each case, you should consult with the course instructor, and the other TAs to prepare, or work with an existing answer key. Make sure you understand each of the questions/tasks that the students are required to address. Determine how part marks are to be assigned for each task/question. In some cases, you may find each helpful to grade one question or topic at a time and in one marking session. As you mark submissions, you will be able to identify common errors in the answers and determine how to uniformly mark those. Keep track of particularly good or poor submissions and use those to recalibrate your marking from time to time.
- Proctoring exams: when midterms or final exams are held in-person, you may be required to proctor these sessions. Your key duties may include answering questions from students, or monitoring students to ensure that there are no academic integrity infractions. Review your duties with the course instructor prior to the exam.
In addition to supporting student learning, TAs also fill two important roles: ambassador for the institution, faculty, department and program; and front-line observer.
Below are details about these roles and the basic standards the Faculty of Environment holds for TAs:
1. Model ethical behaviour
Each TA is expected to promote and support a culture that includes the following:
- equality and respect for individual differences
- freedom from harassment and discrimination
- equal treatment and access to services for all students
- the honest and ethical pursuit of knowledge
- freedom from interference
- the principled use of authority
For more information about these concepts, visit Policy 33: Ethical behaviour and the Office of Conflict Management & Human Rights Guidelines for Teaching Assistants.
2. Preserve academic integrity
TAs are expected to act as role models of academic integrity. As a front-line observer, any teaching assistant who has reason to believe that an academic offence has been committed must report it to both the course instructor and the appropriate associate dean. TAs are not expected to investigate or adjudicate academic offences.
The resources listed below are a good starting point for TAs looking for more information about academic integrity.
- Introduction to Policy 71 (2:08, YouTube)
- Policy 71: Student academic discipline
- Office of Academic Integrity
- Academic Integrity
- Centre for Teaching Excellence Encouraging academic integrity in your courses
3. Protect student privacy
As UWaterloo employees, TAs are responsible for the security and confidentiality of any student information they may obtain while serving as a TA. Policy 46 defines student information as information related to a student’s academic record, including biographical and personal information, digitized student identification photographs, whether in hard copy, electronic or some other form.
For more information about these concepts, visit Policy 46: Information Management.
4. Maintain a safe environment
TAs are expected to both model the behaviours and support the values that promote a safe work environment. TAs are considered “workers” under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Policy 34 outlines the rights and responsibilities of UWaterloo’s workers and supervisors in protecting the health and safety of both themselves and other members of the UWaterloo community.
The TA Handbook is a comprehensive resource from the Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE). Please read the Handbook before you start your TA assignment and refer to it throughout your time as a TA. You can also check out the tips and information for teaching online.
As UWaterloo employees, TAs are required to complete the following online training components:
- Employee Safety Orientation
- Workplace Violence Awareness
- WHMIS 2015
- Accessibility Training
- You should familiarize yourself with the University's Policy 30, concerning the employment of graduate teaching assistants.
Recommended TA training
Preparing to TA at Waterloo (CTE1210): This foundational self-paced, asynchronous TA training module is provided by the Centre of Teaching Excellence (CTE). Faculty of Environment TAs are automatically enrolled in this module the first day of the term they start their program.
Further resources from the Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE)
During the first month of term, CTE offers two LEARN for TAs sessions. TAs are introduced to various LEARN tools. TAs can select their preferred date for this 2-hour session. Session dates will be listed on the CTE Events page.
The CTE provides extensive further support for TAs through certificate programs, workshops, one-on-one consultations about teaching and teaching dossiers, and teaching observation.
CTE’s Fundamentals of University Teaching program supports Waterloo graduate students in their development as university Teaching Assistants. It is open to graduate students at the University of Waterloo at no cost.
The CTE also offer the Certificate in University Teaching. This is an opportunity for PhD students who have completed the Fundamentals of University Teaching program to deepen their knowledge of teaching in higher education and become more reflective instructors.
While the Faculty of Environment does not have a formal process for evaluating TA performance, you are encouraged to seek feedback from the instructor of your course. You may ask for feedback both throughout and at the end of the term to support your personal and professional development. You may also reach out to instructors for formal written feedback in case that is useful to you for your future job prospects. Some departments may ask instructors to provide them with informal feedback on TA at the end of the course, for the purpose of nominating them for awards and/or matching skills with appropriate courses going forward.
When the course instructor is also your Advisor
This situation has the advantage that you are familiar with your Advisor's style and with the course material. As well, you are likely accustomed to working together and your Advisor is likely to be flexible regarding work arrangements because she/he has a vested interest in your performance as a graduate student.
On the other hand, there are disadvantages. If your Instructor/ Advisor asks you to perform extra duties or gives you short notice about 'special' tasks that he/she would 'appreciate' you performing, it is very hard to say no. When the instructor is your Advisor your job can be inappropriately combined with your academic apprenticeship. If such problems arise, and you find it difficult to discuss this directly with the Instructor/ Advisor, please consult with your department’s Graduate Officer.
Conflicts surrounding TA duties
Please discuss with the instructor any academic obligations that you have that might interfere with your TA duties.
If your TA duties require substantially more than 10 hours/week or involve activities that are outside the scope of responsibilities that were discussed at the beginning of the course, talk with the instructor.
If you are still not satisfied, discuss the issue with your department’s Graduate Officer. If the Graduate Officer cannot resolve the problem, then the Department Chair should be consulted. Generally, such problems are resolved in an informal way but if a problem remains unresolved, a formal dispute resolution can be undertaken. Procedures for formal dispute resolution and appeals are available from the Administrator, Graduate Studies.