Information for Teaching Assistants

As a Teaching Assistant (TA), you are an important and integral part of teaching and learning in the Faculty of Environment.

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

TA allocation and assignment

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.

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Before you start

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?

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How TAs are paid

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).

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TA duties

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.

Resources for TAs

TA Handbook

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

TA Training

 As UWaterloo employees, TAs are required to complete the following online training components:

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 sessionsTAs 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.

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