Handbook for Teaching Assistants in Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    1. Purpose of the Teaching Assistant Handbook
    2. The undergraduate program in Psychology (PSYCH)
  2. Administrative details
    1. Description of duties for Teaching Assistants (TAs)
    2. Eligibility for financial support
    3. Restrictions
      1. Major external award holders
      2. Maximum allowable hours
    4. Complications
      1. Foreign students
      2. When the course instructor is also your Advisor
      3. Conflicts surrounding TA duties
    5. TA course preferences
    6. Getting Paid
  3. Types of teaching assistantships in Psychology
    1. Undergraduate courses
      1. Psychology 292 - Basic Data Analysis
      2. Psychology 391 - Advanced Data Analysis
      3. Research courses
      4. Centre for Extended Learning
    2. Graduate courses
      1. Psychology 633 - Observation, Interviewing & Cognitive Assessment
      2. Clinic
      3. Statistics (630, 632, 800, 801)
  4. TA skills
    1. Contact with students
    2. Relating to students
    3. Some teaching tips
    4. Fielding questions
    5. Helping students
      1. Helping with academic problems
      2. Helping with personal problems
    6. Safety training and responsibilities
  5. Office hours
    1. Effective office hours
    2. How to determine the problem
    3. Sharing the load with your TA partner(s)
  6. Tutorials
  7. Marking
    1. Contact with the instructor
    2. Establishing marking guidelines with the instructor
    3. Marking hints/assigning grades
    4. Requests for special consideration
    5. Dealing with complaints about marking
    6. Other complaints
    7. Keeping records
  8. Proctoring examinations
    1. Cheating
  9. Evaluations
    1. Evaluation of your TA performance
    2. Course evaluations
  10. Ethical and professional behaviour
    1. Relevant University of Waterloo policies
    2. Policy #33, Ethical Behaviour
    3. Ethical considerations & procedures for obtaining participants
  11. Resources available to TAs
    1. Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE)
    2. Graduate Student Association (GSA)
    3. Libraries
    4. Photocopying and supplies
    5. Audio visual aids (Instructional Technologies and Multimedia Services (ITMS))
    6. Text books/Desk copies
    7. Departmental meeting rooms
    8. Staff support for TAs
    9. In-house computing support
    10. The Graduate Association of Students in Psychology (GASP)
    11. Emergency telephone numbers
    12. Other help resources available to students

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1  Introduction

a. Purpose of the Teaching Assistant (TA) Handbook

This handbook provides basic information and advice, and for experienced TAs it serves as a reference manual to develop advising, teaching, and evaluation skills.

This handbook attempts to answer some common concerns about the mechanics, duties, and expectations of TAs. Although we cannot expect to anticipate every situation a TA might encounter, we hope that the guidelines will prove useful.

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b. The undergraduate program in Psychology

TAs are assigned to both on-campus (undergraduate and graduate) and online courses.

To understand the background preparation that undergraduate students require for the course that you are TAing, review the requirements for enrolment which will include any of the following: prerequisite, antirequisite, corequisite, or target audience (e.g., Honours Psychology only). See the course description section of the Undergraduate Studies Academic Calendar for details:

Your role is not that of an academic advisor. Please refer questions regarding the Psychology program and degree requirements to the appropriate academic advisors:

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2. Administrative details

a. Description of Duties of Teaching Assistants (TAs)

TAs in the Department of Psychology are required to carry out duties specified by the instructor(s) in a particular course. For example:

  • proctoring,
  • marking,
  • tutoring,
  • laboratory supervision,
  • attend TA meetings,
  • occasional lecturing,
  • etc.

Graduate students will receive an official offer of a TA in writing, on a term-by-term basis, usually 2 to 3 weeks prior to the start of term. The offer indicates the course number, the instructor, and the TA level (i.e. a Full TA or Half TA).

Hours per week for a TA:

  • A full TA position requires an average of 10 hours per week over the term.
  • A half TA position requires an average of 5 hours per week over the term.
  • The estimated number of hours per week includes preparation time that would normally be required to carry out the assigned TA duties.

TAs are responsible for contacting instructors immediately following receipt of TA notification.

Length of time commitment for the TA position:

  • TA duties officially begin the first day of lectures, but occasionally will begin earlier depending on the structure of the course.
  • The TA contract provides salary until the end of the full 4-month term.
  • TA duties continue until the final marks for the course are submitted. Note that due dates for submitting grades vary by course (consult with the instructor).
  • TAs are expected to remain in the department throughout the final examination period to assist as proctors for final exams (own course if applicable and at least one other). See Important Dates  for the start and end dates for final exams.  
Extra Duties Required of TAs:

You will be required to provide support for 3 hours per term [e.g., one 3-hour (or one 2.5-hour) assignment or two 1.5-hour assignments] for an event/activity unrelated to your specific TA e.g.,

  • proctoring a midterm test or final exam in a course other than your regular TA,
  • assisting at an event for undergraduate students e.g., the Undergraduate Honours Thesis Orientation (PSYCH 499).

The extra assignments might be morning, afternoon, or evening Monday through Saturday.

Detailed records of these extra assignments are kept so that the work load is balanced and assignments are fairly distributed.

If you are called upon for one of these extra tasks and you are not available, it is your responsibility to find a replacement and to notify the Program Manager

b. Eligibility for financial support

Funding and awards:

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c. Restrictions

i. Major external scholarship/award holders

Some scholarships/awards place restrictions on the number of TA assignments a student may accept. If you have a scholarship/award, be sure that your TA assignments are allowed by the granting agency.

ii. Maximum allowable hours

The Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities stipulates that full-time graduate students must not engage in work for more than 10 hours per week, taken as an average over the term, for the period they are registered as a full-time graduate student.

The 10 hour maximum does not normally include Research Assistantships which are related to thesis work, etc. However, the maximum does include your TA duties.

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d. Complications

i.Foreign students

Student Authorization: A Student Authorization is a document giving permission to an international student to study at a Canadian educational institution. The Student Authorization must be applied for and obtained from a Canadian government representative outside Canada, with the exception of students from the USA, Greenland, or St. Pierre and Miquelon (who may apply for a Student Authorization at a Canadian port of entry).

Requirements for a Student Authorization

To obtain a student authorization you need:

  • A valid passport.
  • Evidence of acceptance at University of Waterloo.
  • Evidence of adequate funds.
  • A letter from your sponsor.
  • A letter of reference.
  • Medical Clearance.
Where to get a Student Authorization

Once you have your documents you can apply for "Student Authorization" from the nearest Canadian embassy or consulate. If your country does not have a Canadian representative you can obtain one at the British embassy.

Visa and Student Authorization

A visa is not the same as a Student Authorization. A visa is a sticker placed in a passport by the Canadian Immigration officials at a Canadian consulate or embassy abroad. A Student Authorization is issued or endorsed at the Canadian port of entry.

Term and Conditions

At the port of entry, Canadian Immigration officials will enter the "Terms and Conditions" on the Student Authorization. Generally, these will specify that the student:

  • Must not accept employment without authorization from Employment Canada.
  • Must be in attendance at a Canadian university while in Canada, pursuant to immigration regulations.
  • Must enroll only in a specified course of study.

When you are in Canada, if you wish to change the terms and conditions of your Student Authorization you may do so by obtaining an application mail-in kit available at the International Student Office.

Employment Authorization

Students receiving TA and/or RA positions must have both a Student Authorization and a valid employment authorization prior to commencing work.

A Student Authorization is a document giving permission to an international student to study at a Canadian educational institution

Graduate students may take a job related to their field of study, but only on the university campus. The application mail-in kits for employment authorization are available at the International Student Office.

ii. 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 the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies, or the Department Chair.

iii. 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 the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies. If the Associate Chair cannot resolve the problem then the Department Chair should be consulted. Generally, such problems are satisfactorily 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 Administrative Coordinator for Graduate Studies.

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e. TA course preferences

Generally, graduate students who have been promised financial assistance in their original offer of acceptance and are in compliance with eligibility criteria are eligible to receive TAs.

Most graduate students receive TAs in the Fall and Winter terms, with a smaller number of students receiving fractional TAs in the Spring term. All assignments are the responsibility of the Program Manager.

Once per year (usually late June), graduate students who are eligible to receive TAs will be sent by email a list of the undergraduate and graduate courses that require TA support Fall, Winter, and Spring terms as well as a ranking list for TA preferences for each term. Please indicate your TA preferences by term, ranked from one to eight. Your background must be appropriate for each preference. We recommend that you gain broad experience by TAing different courses.

It is possible that your TA preferences or status as a graduate student (e.g., changing to part-time from full-time status, being away on an internship, etc.) may change during the year.  If this occurs, please advise the Program manager promptly.

Any problems with your TA assignment (e.g., questions about the suitability of the TA or conflicts that prevent you from accepting a specific TA) should be reported immediately to the Program Manager. Acceptance or refusal of offers must be signed and returned to her by the prescribed due date noted on the TA offer. The department will try to accommodate your preferences, but this is not always possible e.g., you may be asked to TA one of your least preferred choices. 

The department tries to accommodate your preferences and the needs of the courses being offered. In rare situations, you may be asked to TA a course that you do not prefer, but are nevertheless qualified to TA because of your background.  This situation does not arise frequently, but when it does occur it is because of a shortage of students qualified to TA a particular course or because of heavy TA demands in some large courses.

Ocassionally a graduate student asks to postpone a TA assignment because of extenuating circumstances and/or pressing research work. The department will try to accommodate such a request, but only after consultation with the student and the supervisor. 

If a student declines a TA assignment because he is unwilling to accept a particular TA assignment for which he/she is qualified, there is no guarantee that the TA can be reinstated in a subsequent term.

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f. Getting paid

TAs and RAs are paid in four equal monthly installments over the term, normally on the last Friday of every month.

Employees can view their pay advice online through Workday. Follow the instructions to authenticate your password. If, after you have authenticated your password, there is no payroll information available, contact the Program Manager immediately to ensure that all the necessary paperwork has been processed.

In order to be paid for a TA and/or RA, you must 'sign up' for the monthly payroll system through Workday.

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3. Types of teaching assistantships in Psychology

A great many TAs are assigned to traditional courses such as Introductory Psychology, Social Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, etc., but there are a number of more specialized, less traditional TAs available as noted below.

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a. Undergraduate courses

In addition to the many undergraduate classes requiring TA support, the following courses require unique skills:

i. PSYCH 292 - Basic Data Analysis

Normally 5 TAs are assigned to PSYCH 292, each of whom has responsibility for approximately 20-25 students.

The PSYCH 292 TA is a fairly demanding position and usually not held by first year graduate students. If you enjoy statistics, do well in the graduate level statistics courses, and have an interest in eventually teaching quantitative courses, this can be a very rewarding TA. Past TAs for PSYCH 292 have enjoyed the experience, and a substantial number of them request this TA for a second time!

Currently the duties for each PSYCH 292 TA include:

  • give tutorial sessions once a week (using SPSS software),
  • mark assignments,
  • help the other TAs and the course instructor mark midterm tests and the final exam,
  • hold office hours weekly,
  • meet once per week with the other TAs and the course instructor to discuss the content of tutorials and any concerns and/or problems the TAs may have concerning course material or individual students,
  • proctor one of the two midterm tests as well as the final exam.

ii. Psychology 391 - Advanced Data Analysis

The 110+ students in Psychology 391 are divided into 5 sections, and each section has its own TA. Each week the TA conducts a one-hour tutorial, maintains one-hour of office help, and participates with the other TAs and the instructor in grading assignments, exams and course organizational meetings. (The coursework of Psychology 630 and 632, both graduate level courses, provides preparation for assisting in 391.) Assisting in this course provides an opportunity to practice, with supervision, classroom and individual teaching, and to enhance one's knowledge of experimental design and statistics.

iii. Research courses

Research courses (PSYCH 39x courses) are largely content-specific research courses. These courses are intended to allow senior undergraduate students an opportunity to combine material from content courses with methods and analytic procedures learned in statistics and research design courses. The experience of such courses is intended to enable students to plan, conduct, and evaluate research in specific areas of Psychology. Courses typically involve small classes of 20 students or less. As a TA you will likely get to know the individual students more intimately than you might in larger lecture courses. There is a large lab component to these courses and you will likely be responsible for organizing, or assisting in organizing, some class projects as well as advising individual student projects and/or proposals. Such courses generally require TAs who are senior graduate students specializing in the general area covered by the course as well. A significant feature of research courses is that the TAs usually obtain experience in advising students in carrying out empirical research. A TA for such a course may be called upon to suggest options for students developing research projects, give advice regarding data collection and analysis, provide guidance on ethics of research, and provide comments on final research reports.

iv. Centre for Extended Learning

Centre for Extended Learning TAs have somewhat different tasks than some of the campus courses and include marking and some communication with students. The majority of students enrolled in online learning courses are mature, often working full time and learn from a distance, therefore their approach to learning can be quite different from a full-time on-campus student. Grading occurs at specific times within the term and requires a quick turn-around of marked assignments. Centre for Extended Learning works with the course coordinator to ensure prompt delivery and return of assignments.

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b. Graduate courses

In addition to the several graduate classes requiring TA support, the following courses require unique skills:

i. Psychology 717/718 - Psychological Assessment I & II

The TAs for Psychology 717/718 must be advanced graduate students in the Clinical Division who have expertise in clinical report writing and cognitive assessment. Assignment is often co-ordinated with instructors.

ii. Clinic

TAs in the Clinic, associated with Psychology 717/718, must be advanced graduate students in the Clinical Division who have expertise in personality assessment. Assignment is co-ordinated with Director.

iii. Statistics (630, 632, 800, 801)

Specific statistical analytical skills and completion of graduate stats courses are requirements for this TA.

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4. TA skills

a. Contact with students

Depending on the course, you may find yourself consulting with students in either group or individual sessions. In our department, a few courses feature regular tutorial sessions that are led by the TA; however, for the bulk of the courses, contact with students is mostly through office hours.

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.

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b. Relating to students

Experience suggests the following guidelines are useful:

Be prepared

To ensure that contact with students is enjoyable for you and useful for students. This means that before the course begins, you should familiarize yourself with the course material, including course outline, course requirements, textbooks, readings and lecture notes, assignments and exams. If the course material concerns your own research interests, you should know the sequence in which topics will be taught and the depth to which they will be taught. Knowing the sequence in which topics will be introduced into the course enables you to assist students with material that has already been covered, without confusing them. Try to think back to when you first learned the material, and remember the kinds of difficulties you encountered - you may find you have some useful tips and shortcuts to share with students.

If the course to which you have been assigned is not in your research area, try to read all course material before classes begin. (Make sure the Instructor is aware that you are not thoroughly familiar with the subject material to ensure that(s) he has reasonable expectations of you.) At the very least read the course outline in detail and skim the chapter headings in all texts and readings. This will make it easier for you to know where to look up information to answer students' questions. In addition, read the assignments and exams carefully, ask the instructor for answer keys, and make sure you prepare yourself for potential questions.

Be receptive and responsive

A professional, friendly manner on your part is more likely to encourage students to come to you to have their concerns addressed. Treat students with respect - this does not mean you need to be overly friendly and constantly available, but it does mean that you should be available at arranged times, listen carefully, and attempt to answer students' questions in a professional way. 

Don't be condescending, arrogant or sarcastic in your interactions with students. If an interaction with a student is uncomfortable, either for you or the student, for any reason, end the meeting promptly and politely and refer the student to the instructor. Make sure that the instructor knows that you referred the student to him/her and the reasons for the referral. As well, be careful with humour when dealing with students because humour is often easily misunderstood. 

Encourage students to take initiative in learning

It is tempting simply to answer students' questions when they indicate they do not understand a particular point. However, as a teacher, you should, where possible, try to get students to articulate the problems and encourage them to come up with answers on their own.

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c. Some teaching tips

  1. Remember the "Golden Rule of Teaching": Teach others as you would want yourself to be taught.
  2. Try to make your lectures interesting.
  3. For the sake of students in the back row, try to make your handwriting clear and large enough. Be as complete as possible.  Don't write in half sentences.
  4. Be enthusiastic about teaching and the material. If you really enjoy it, chances are good that the students will too.
  5. Make sure you have tested equipment ahead of time. It is embarrassing to have the unwanted surprise of not knowing what you are doing in the middle of a presentation.
  6. Listen to the students. They will tell you what you are doing well and what you are doing poorly.
  7. Watch for confused looks, and check with these students for the source of their confusion. Encourage students to ask questions, but ask that they raise their hand to get your attention. Whether or not you believe a question is worth your consideration, treat it as if it were a worthwhile question.
  8. Appearance is important. Although your appearance can be casual and informal, bear in mind that some clothing, for example T-shirts with slogans, may be offensive and should be avoided.
  9. Pay particular attention to voice modulation - monotones or indistinct voices are difficult to listen to.  Don't talk to the chalkboard.

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d. Fielding questions

Although you can never expect to answer every question you are asked, you should be able to answer questions that are fundamental to your course. Again, the most important thing to remember when dealing with students is to treat them with respect. Try to get to know them by asking them their name and then remind them of yours. Don't approach them with remarks such as, "what's your problem?” as this can be taken the wrong way.

Chances are the most common questions you will be asked are "What do I do next?" and "What's wrong with this?" Both questions are tricky to answer without giving too much or too little away. It takes a lot of practice to be able to provide useful and enlightening hints. Some good methods are:

  1. If course notes are available for your course, remind students to read the material.
  2. Ask the students to explain their reasoning. This enables you to discover what problems they are having so you can point them in a more productive direction - this approach also will indicate how much of the necessary background information they have read.
  3. Ask the student to explain what(s) he thinks the problem is. If(s) he doesn't really understand, try to work through some specific examples whenever possible.

  4. Some first year students are not aware of how to use their textbooks as resource materials. If they don't understand something basic, assist them to look it up in the text.

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e. Helping students

i. Helping with academic problems

Sometimes the best way to learn how to become an effective TA is to listen to the students. They will be very honest with you and will give you signs as to what they like and don't like. Although different TAs will have different styles, it is equally true that different students like different things. Try to keep in mind which students like which style and try to modify your behaviour accordingly. Refer students who have problems with note taking, essay writing or study skills to the Counseling Services Center located in Needles Hall. Although it is not your job as a TA to teach these skills, you may often be able to offer useful suggestions that relate specifically to the course.

ii. Helping with personal problems

If students trust and respect you, they may pour out their feelings about the other TAs, the instructor, and other students. Treat this as confidential information and deal with it in a professional manner. Often students turn to TAs or the instructor for help, believing that graduate students or faculty in the Psychology department may have the kind of insight that can help them. Whether or not that belief is true, it is clear that students taking Psychology classes often believe that it is true.  Because of this, TAs and faculty must have a greater responsibility than those in other disciplines to be aware of what to do if a student asks for help with personal problems. If you encounter a student who seems depressed, very lonely, or appears to be having personal problems, you might suggest a visit to the Counseling Services Center in Needles Hall to discuss his or her difficulties in confidence. The subject of referral itself can be broached by a comment such as "you know, lots of students I know have that same problem; in fact, there's a group that's been formed at...to deal with this issue - which you might find helpful. Here's the telephone number." Don't try to be a counselor. You may be able to avoid this role to a great extent, if, as a general rule, you keep your door open while advising students because this approach usually discourages students from becoming overly personal. Students may need to consider dropping a course either before or after the formal "drop/add" date due to specific personal circumstances. TAs should be aware of this procedure, in general, but should suggest students contact Ana Carvalho, for details.  Any concerns you have regarding these situations can be discussed with Ana Carvalho who is well trained and knowledgeable about University of Waterloo policies and procedures.

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f. Safety training and responsibilities

It is the department's responsibility to ensure that graduate students receive adequate information about safety, regardless of whether or not they are employed as TAs and/or RAs. TAs should be aware that they, as well as the Instructors, can be held liable for problems that arise from failure to enforce safety regulations. Applicable University of Waterloo Policies are included in TA orientation packages and from Janice da Silva.

Fiona McAlister is the department Safety Officer and can assist with any questions you may have.  In general, all TAs should know how to handle an emergency. Learn the location of the Health and Safety Office on campus and become familiar with the location and operation of the fire extinguishers and the nearest telephone. In emergencies, when telephones and elevator telephones are not available - use fire alarms. In case of fire, pull the fire alarm and vacate the building immediately. If a fire alarm sounds during a class or tutorial, instruct students to leave the building immediately in an orderly fashion and to remain outside the building until instructed to return by the Building Evacuation Coordinator who is responsible for relaying information between the Fire Department and University of Waterloo Police and occupants of the building. (Fire Wardens can be recognized by their red hats; the Building Evacuation Coordinator can be recognized by his/her white hat.)

Please be aware that it is the responsibility of Fire Wardens to record the names of persons who refuse to leave the building; refusal to leave the building during evacuation is an offense under the Fire Marshall's Act of the Province of Ontario and charges can be laid.

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5. Office hours

a. Effective office hours

Most TA positions involve spending an average of one to two hours a week in a consulting capacity for students in the course. It is a good idea to plan your office hours and post them. You may find it useful to begin and end on the hour; that way you are accessible to students who may have classes on the half-hour. In other instances it may better suit the students to have extended hours at specific times such as when an assignment is due or just prior to exams. It is beneficial for all TAs, both for online and on-campus courses, to inform staff in PAS 3017 of their posted office hours as well as any subsequent changes to Office Hours during the term, so that our staff can assist with student inquiries.

  1. The first rule of office hours is be there! Because the times of your office hours will not be convenient for all students, often they will want to see you outside these times. It is wise to get into the habit of making appointments with students to cover these "special" circumstances, rather than answering questions any time students come past your office. This also serves as a gentle reminder that TAs are not "on call" at all times.
  2. Your function as a TA during office hours is not to be a quick source of answers, rather you should be prepared to provide direction in completing assignments, to provide tutorial/instructional support for exam preparation, and to provide feedback on marking.

  3. It is not your responsibility to re-teach the course or teach topics that the student has missed in class, nor is it your responsibility to provide lecture notes for students who miss classes. However, this does not mean you should refuse to answer general questions that are related to the lecture or tutorial component of the course. 

TAs whose offices are located on the second floor restricted access area should avoid attempting to hold office hours in their office for security reasons and because student traffic is often disruptive to researchers housed in the second floor. It is possible to schedule Office Hours by booking a small departmental meeting room or by contacting Janice da Silva who can arrange a suitable office for meeting with students.

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b. How to determine the problem

  1. Encourage the student to ask clear, specific questions. "I don't understand anything." or "I don't know where to start." do not qualify. Establish the reason for the visit. Encourage students to write down their questions. Often students come with poorly formulated questions; trying to understand the nature of the questions can be time-consuming. Apart from reducing the time spent, students may answer their own questions in the process of formulating the question. If time is short, you can write the answer to their questions (or the reference for finding the answer) and post it on your door.
  2. Find out what the student has done on the assignment. If the student is on the right track, a key question from you can be enlightening and point out the right direction. If the approach is headed down a dead-end trail, again a few key questions can be quite useful. Some student may ask you to check over lecture notes or study notes. This is time-consuming, so encourage them to team up with another class member who can just as easily perform this function. Often students who approach you for reassurance do not know other people in the course; it may be worth your time to ask students at the end of a lecture or tutorial to volunteer as possible "study partners". This approach can be especially useful to mature students who may be hesitant to approach other (younger) students in the class.
  3. If you do not know the answer to a question, be prepared to say you don't know, and use the opportunity to outline to the students the plan of attack you would use. Your method and style of thinking can be as useful as an answer. If you remain stumped, you may be able to suggest useful references to look up. Another approach is to suggest that the student come back after you have had time to obtain more background information.

  4. Often students quite genuinely do not understand the marking scheme used in a test or assignment or essay. Be prepared to explain clearly the marking scheme.

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c. Sharing the load with your TA partner(s)

In most cases there will be more than one TA assigned to a course. For the most part, the overall workload is designed to be equal, but occasionally one TA may feel that(s) he is doing a disproportionate amount of work. In this situation, it is advisable to discuss the matter with the instructor. Ideally the best way to avoid this problem is to discuss the workload in the course with the instructor and your TA partner(s) at the beginning of the term, or at the moment you identify a problem.

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6. Tutorials

On the first day, your most important duty is to make yourself known to the students. In the first tutorial introduce yourself and have your name written on the chalkboard or overhead and explain to the students what your function is at the tutorial. When you begin the first tutorial, explain to the students what is expected of them and why the tutorial is important (how does it supplement the lectures, etc.). If there are special requirements regarding the tutorial, announce these. Outline what will be taught and how the grades will be assigned. 

Preparation is the most necessary requirement for successful tutorials.  Make sure equipment is available in the room and is in working order. Know what has been included in the lectures - this may mean that you attend lectures, or speak regularly with the Instructor or review his/her lecture notes. For each tutorial, make an outline of the material you intend to cover; a detailed outline can also serve as a handout for students. An overhead can be useful because you can write on the overhead and still maintain eye contact with your students. Encourage questions. For questions you are not able to answer immediately, ask the student to jot down the question for you and get back to the student later. If one particular student is taking up an inordinate amount of time, suggest(s) he make an appointment with you. Ask a friend (or the instructor) to attend a tutorial to give you feedback about your presentation. You may also want to ask to review the notes of a student in the tutorial to evaluate whether you were successful in conveying the information you wanted to get across.

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7. Marking

Assignments are the major source of feedback for both the instructor and the students. The TA who marks assignments is a vital link between the two. The student is provided with information about how well s/he has assimilated course material and used the correct terminology to express certain concepts. To the instructor, the assignments indicate how well the course material has been communicated to the students. Being more intimately acquainted with the work of the students, the marker is the one to communicate any progress, problems, or difficulties to both the instructor and the students.

a. Contact with the Instructor

Your responsibilities as a TA are determined by many factors including the subject of the course, its size, its level and the approach of the instructor. The instructor is responsible for deciding what to teach and for choosing the methods of evaluation, as well as for determining your duties. Most instructors will have already decided on the role of the TA. However, it is important that you and the instructor discuss this role to ensure that you have a mutual understanding of your responsibilities and the time they require at the start of the term. 

Your first meeting with the instructor is a step in the development of a cooperative relationship. Open and honest communication will benefit both you and the instructor, and students will likely benefit from your ability to represent and articulate their needs to the instructor. In your first meeting, you and the instructor should discuss the following issues:

  • Course structure. Review the course outline. Try to get a sense of the approach to the subject.
  • Determine with the instructor, your specific responsibilities. Find out exactly what tasks you will be performing.
  • Determine how you will receive feedback from the instructor on your performance and progress.

  • Determine if the amount of time you have been assigned to perform duties is reasonable. Discuss matters such as preparation time, the length and type of assignments you will have to mark, and the type of feedback you are expected to provide. If you foresee problems, this is the time to discuss them.

During your initial meeting with your instructor, you should work out the details about how absences (e.g. illness or emergencies) should be handled/reported. Please remember that it is essential for TAs to be present at assigned tutorials and during posted office hours, so whenever possible inform appropriate people promptly of your absences - remember, students depend on you! (You should also note that the University Graduate Calendar stipulates that periods of absence exceeding four weeks in any one term, must be approved).

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b. Establishing marking guidelines with the Instructor

Most interactions with the instructor will concern procedures for evaluating student's work. Go over the assignments or exams with the instructor to ensure that you both have a similar understanding of what is expected of the students. Discuss the following issues:

  • Who is responsible for maintaining detailed, accurate and secure records of marks?

  • Ask the instructor for detailed guidelines or an answer key before you begin marking assignments or exams.

  • Does the instructor have preferences regarding the relative weight of questions, or the total value of the assignment?

  • When must you complete your marking?

  • Another philosophical matter to consider: are you subtracting marks for mistakes, or adding marks earned for material presented? A subtle difference, perhaps, but it may be that the instructor has a preference - be sure to check.

  • Determine whether extensions are acceptable and under what circumstances.

  • Are there penalties for late submission of term work, and, if so, how are these determined and applied?

  • Will the instructor spot check your work or review it in some fashion?

  • Who arranges for alternate exams if a student misses an exam?

  • How do you deal with cases in which you are uncertain about assessing a piece of work?

  • You may mark reports or other assignments whose contents can range from the suspicious to the flagrant. If you believe that you have enough evidence to support an allegation of plagiarism, how should you handle the situation? Use University of Waterloo Policy 71 as a guide.

If you are a novice TA, acquaint yourself with the marking conventions at University of Waterloo, which may be quite different from what you are used to. Averages are reported in all faculties as percentages. Average calculation values are used for calculating overall averages for students with letter grades on their records. The following conversion scale applies for courses taken prior to Fall 2001:

Assigned letter grades Average calculation values
A+ 95
A 89
A- 83
B+ 78
B 75
B- 72
C+ 68
C 65
C- 62
D+ 58
D 55
D- 52
F+ 46
F 38
F- 32

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c. Marking hints/assigning grades

Once you have obtained the answers to the above questions:

  1. Mark clearly and ensure that your remarks stand out, for example, by using a different color pen than that used by the student. If a pen is used, choose your words with care, as mistakes are difficult to erase. If any part of an exam is left blank, draw a line across the page - this ensures that students do not come back later and tell you that "you forgot to mark a question". 
  2. Mark positively. If something is clearly wrong, give explicit feedback, and suggest alternative approaches, so the student knows where(s) he went wrong.
  3. Check your answer key. Instructors have been known to make mistakes or give ambiguous answers. (For short answer questions, you may want to write your own "model answers" to refer to since this practice may enable you to see just how difficult (or easy) the questions were to answer.) Check with the instructor (or a former TA) to ensure that your expectations are realistic.
  4. Whenever possible, give feedback in writing on the assignment as a whole and make suggestions for improvement, but be sure that your feedback is clear and not open to misinterpretation. Avoid ambiguous or cryptic comments or symbols, e.g. "???" or "No!" and qualitative comments that can easily be misunderstood.

  5. When you return the marked assignments or reports to the Instructor, give the instructor a general impression of the progress of the class. If a mistake is common to many assignments, mention this to the Instructor who can comment on it to the class as a whole. (It may also mean that you have misunderstood the requirements of the questions, so checking with the instructor will eliminate this possibility.)

Now consider yourself. You wish to optimize the use of your time, while providing fair evaluation of the students' work. With few exceptions TAs participate in evaluating students through the marking of quizzes, essays, assignments, and mid-term and final examinations. TAs with more autonomy may also be involved in assigning final marks. It is therefore important to develop and apply fair and consistent standards of evaluation. It takes considerable experience to achieve a proper balance between being "too tough" and being "too lenient." (Anecdotal evidence suggests that, if anything, TAs tend to be more stringent than professors in marking.) Regardless of the approach taken, it is important to provide students with a means of reaching your expectations.

The essential question is how to best evaluate the extent to which students have achieved the teaching goals, e.g., mastery of basic terminology, breadth of understanding, and conceptual insight. Several steps can be taken to make this easier.

  1. Common types of questions are: multiple choice, matching, fill-in-the-blanks, short-answer, and essay. For multiple choice, look at assignments from previous years, or ask the instructor for an example of one; these tests are generally easily marked with computer scoring. For other types of tests, it should be possible to use an answer key provided in consultation with the instructor with whom details of scoring should be discussed.

  2. For short-answer and essay questions, it is best to establish the range of the grades in consultation with the instructor. A written answer key is useful, together with examples of good and bad answers. Some TAs find it useful to select range finder papers - middle-range A, B, C, and D papers to which they can refer for comparisons. An "A" answer presumably contains all the information required, presented in a clear and concise fashion.

  3. Mark reports and assignments moving through the same sections or questions in each paper rather than reading straight through each individual student's exam. This will ensure consistency in marking, as well as decrease the marking time. It also keeps your mind from being cluttered with details from other questions. If possible, finish marking the whole set of one section at one sitting. This way you do not forget the marking scheme. As well, when time permits, and especially with important essays, it may be a good idea to read through borderline cases to confirm your judgment that the work as a whole deserved the numeric grade assigned.

    Reading fifty papers or two hundred essay tests presents special problems, namely, the possibility of inconsistency in marking. You are likely to be more thorough in your reading and more careful and detailed with the comments you provide with the first few papers you examine than with the rest when you are getting tired, irritable or bored. (Take frequent breaks so that you don't penalize students because you are tired.) To minimize such variation, read five or six papers before beginning to assign marks in order to get an idea of the range of quality you can expect. You may also find it useful to rank order the papers in groups before assigning marks. When energy flags, stop marking. When resuming, read over the last few papers you marked to make sure you were fair and consistent.

    In assigning marks to essay questions you may want to use one of methods described below. These are suggestions only, and there are pros and cons in using either approach. As well, variations can be used with each method.

    Analytic Method: the ideal or model answer is broken down into several distinct points, and a specific subtotal of the marks is assigned to each. When reading the exam question, you need to decide how much of each maximum subtotal you judge the student's answer to have earned.

    Global (Gestalt) Method: the marker reads the entire essay and makes an overall judgment about how successfully the student has covered everything that was expected and assigns the paper to a category mark. Ideally, all essays should be read quickly and sorted into roughly five to nine piles, then each pile should be reread to confirm that every essay has been fairly assigned to a given pile, in which all essays will receive a specific score or letter mark. Subdivide into groups those papers in which similar errors were made. Then mark the papers, starting with the best. This leaves difficult decisions until the end, when you are thoroughly familiar with the assignment.

  4. If several TAs are marking the same assignments or reports, discuss how to divide the work. For example, one TA may mark one half of the reports each time, or one TA may mark all the reports one week and the other TA will do all the reports the next week. Or you might try to organize the work so that each TA marks all of a particular section of an exam. No matter how extensive the answer key, people often mark the same questions differently, creating a source of frustration in students.

  5. Once you have recorded the grades, return the papers to the instructor promptly or directly to the students. Do not leave them lying outside your door.

  6. If you are posting the marks publicly, identify the students by ID # only; do not post names. When modifying marks, change only those due to addition errors or those related to material which you graded; otherwise send the student to the instructor responsible for the course or the TA who marked the work. Initial any change you approve on the student's paper.

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d. Requests for special consideration

You will likely be faced with students seeking extensions or exemptions from stated deadlines for papers. You and the instructor should have already settled on explicit policies regarding penalties and make up tests of which the students should also have been informed. Typically, reasonable requests are granted on the basis of validated medical or domestic grounds; however, it is important to have established the "ground rules" with the instructor at the beginning of term.

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e. Dealing with complaints about marking

It is likely that you will have to reply to at least some questions and complaints about your marking. Students' questions about marking typically fall into two categories:

  1. questions about why the substance of their answer was incorrect or inadequate, and

  2. questions about the particular mark assigned to that answer.

Post the answer key, if available, so that students can check their answers before coming to see you. It is a good idea to ask students to drop off the piece of work that you have marked, with a brief note about their concerns, and to make an appointment to discuss the exam. This provides you with time to check over your marking to ensure you have not made any errors. As well, this approach allows you to check that you, and not some other TA, did the marking. It is never a good idea to defend someone else's marking, especially if it is subjective marking, so always refer the student to the TA who marked the work.

Don't be bullied or cajoled into changing the grade, but try not to be, or appear to be, defensive. Although some students at times lack tact, those who approach you with complaints about their marks are not criticizing you personally. Sometimes they do not understand the material, or just what they have done wrong. Sometimes they do not understand how you assigned marks, or how they might have written a better answer. Sometimes they realize that the mark you assigned was fair, but hope that you might give them an extra mark anyway. Maintain a calm professional manner and make it clear that you are prepared to discuss the question reasonably, that you will listen to what the student has to say, and that you are taking the student's concerns seriously.

Address the substantive issues. Many questions seemingly about marks actually arise from misunderstandings of what was required for a correct answer. Clearly state what was required in the question and the student will often see where his/her answer was deficient. Having dealt with the substance of the answer required, questions may still remain about the mark you assigned. TAs who regularly give extra marks find, that they get a lot of students coming to ask for more marks - this is not much fun and is a waste of your time. Be fair in your original marking and "stick to your guns" if you feel the mark was accurate. However, be prepared to accept that no one is infallible and if your mark was not correct be prepared to revise it and acknowledge that you had overlooked something in your original assessment and identify what was missed. This involves no "loss of face" and can even enhance your relationship with the student.

In some cases, even when the student seems to understand both the material and how the mark was assigned, a disagreement may persist. At such times, there are two avenues worth pursuing: one is to describe clearly to the student what a complete answer to the question entailed (possibly with an example) and to point out as specifically as possible how the answer the student gave, fell short; the other is to point out that even if your marking of the question was somewhat hard, the same standard was used for all students and that any change would require remarking this question for the entire class.

Sometimes students will insist they really knew what the right answer was, but just "couldn't put it in words properly". Your response should be that marks are assigned on what students demonstrate they have learned. Expressing ideas clearly is an important part of university education and it is not unreasonable for you to respond to the presence or absence of the demonstration of such skills. 

If a student does extremely poorly on a TA-graded assignment, this situation should be brought to the instructor's attention, especially if the grading involved subjective marking, such as, an essay. It is helpful to be in a position to inform the student that the instructor is in agreement with the grade assigned.

Most discussions about marking can be dealt with amicably. To summarize:

  • first discuss the substance of the answer
  • make sure the student now understands the material

  • discuss the marking of the student's answer, contrasting it with a complete or model answer

  • point out to the student that marks are relative and that consistency with the rest of the class is important

If, at the end of this, you still have a disagreement, agree to disagree politely. Refer the student to the instructor, who can act as a third party to settle the matter.

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f. Other complaints

Sometimes students will complain to you about other TAs, about the course, or about the instructor. It can be difficult to respond to such complaints - especially if you believe the complaints are justified. However, it is unprofessional to engage in or encourage such criticism in your role as a TA. A noncommittal comment will often suffice, and you should suggest that the student would be better served by discussing the complaint directly with the person involved, or with the Associate Chair, Undergraduate Studies. If the complaint is justified, you might pass on the thrust of the complaint to the instructor, without, of course, identifying the student in question. Instructors want to know whether the course is going smoothly or whether there are problems, and TAs can effectively serve as a mediator/communication link between the students and the instructor.

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g. Keeping records

Guidelines for maintaining records of marks will usually be given to you by the instructor responsible for the course; however, as a general rule it is recommended that each TA maintain at least two sets of records, in two separate locations to ensure that marks are not lost or misplaced. For example, one set may be kept in your office and the other may be in the form of the computer listing of students, updated with marks to date. At the end of the term be sure to ask your instructor (or Janice da Silva) about where to store marked final exams for safe keeping. The university requires that marked final exams be kept by the department for a one year period. Don't leave "old" marked exams lying around your office.

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8. Proctoring examinations

Proctoring midterm tests, as well as final exams, during class time or the final exam period, is an essential duty. Check the course outline for the dates and times of midterm tests and final exams that are held during class time. Verify with the course Instructor that there have been no changes since the course outline was prepared. The final exam period is two to three weeks long and usually begins within one week following the last day of classes for the term. The date, time, and location of final exams scheduled during the formal final exam period are not known until the last month of classes. All proctors for final exams scheduled during this period are notified of their proctoring duties in advance of the exam date by the instructor. Most of these exams are held in the Physical Activities Complex (PAC). If you are unable to proctor a midterm, or final exam, as requested, you should arrange for another graduate student to take your place and inform the instructor and Program Manager accordingly. You will likely be required to proctor exam(s) for the course to which you are assigned. However, you should note that you may be called upon to proctor an additional course (beyond the one to which you have been assigned) as part of your normal TA assignment.

Usually, only the instructor sees a copy of the examination before the time of the examination, but if the instructor provides you with a copy, you should look over the test questions and their answers. This will enable you to answer any relevant question from the students with confidence. It is a good idea for you to take the test yourself beforehand; if you identify any errors or ambiguities in the test paper or perceive a problem with the length of the test, inform the instructor of your findings. If you receive a copy of the question paper from the instructor before the exam, please remember that security is critical.

If aids such as textbooks and calculators are allowed in the examination room, take along your own; these will certainly be useful for students who forget to bring theirs. For final exams held during the exam period, you are requested to appear one half hour before the exam begins to have the exam material distributed on time. In any case, you should have everything prepared so that the exam begins on time; latecomers can then be handled quietly, with a minimum of disruption to the other students. If there are sufficient seats, a staggered seating plan is a good precaution against cheating.

If there is a mistake or a typographical error in the exam questions, announce this at the beginning of the examination period and write the changes clearly on the blackboard. Also announce any examination procedures to be followed. Once the students have settled down, quietly take a head count as it is useful to know the number of examinees present (if a test paper gets lost, for example). A seating plan may be circulated to the students for them to indicate their position in the examination room.  In this way you can take attendance and discourage collaboration between neighbors. During final exams in the PAC, students must present their student ID cards and fill out the colored identification cards supplied by the Registrar's Office, and follow formal exam procedures outlined by Registrar's office.

If there is no clock in the examination room, or if the one there is not giving the correct time, post the time on the board at fifteen-minute intervals (more often as the exam period nears the end). If a student asks to leave the room for a short period, make sure all the others are present before allowing him or her to leave. Glance up at the class frequently to make sure no one is trying to catch your attention. Walk past the desks occasionally; students will be encouraged to ask questions which they may otherwise hesitate to ask. When answering questions, you must be careful not to give out too much or too little information. You should clarify the test question and perhaps hint at what is expected. Unlike tutorials and office hours, here you are not supposed to help the students solve problems; rather your job is to make sure they understand what the problems are.

If calculators are allowed as an aid, be aware that students have been known to use programmable calculators with answers stored in the memory of the calculator. This is obviously an unfair advantage and should be treated as cheating. If a student asks to borrow a calculator from another student, ask for it first, and ensure that all its memory registers are blank.

Make an announcement when there are only five minutes left in the exam period. Collect exams punctually; extend the exam period only on the instructor's instructions. As papers are turned in, check each to make sure it has a name on it. Remind the students not to discuss the exam until all papers have been collected.

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a. Cheating

A description of the official regulations and procedures is in the undergraduate calendar  

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9. Evaluations

a. Evaluation of your TA performance

Although it is expected that TAs will receive feedback from instructors, as needed, throughout the term, your performance as a TA will be evaluated formally by the instructor at the end of each term. Before returning the form to the Program Manager the instructor may choose to discuss the evaluation with the TA; TA evaluations are confidential (although some graduate students have given permission to their supervisor or the department to use their TA evaluations in letters of reference) and are held in Program Manager’s files. The primary function of the evaluation process is to provide TAs with constructive feedback about their performance and to flag potential problems. However, because continued financial support from the department depends on a number of factors, including satisfactory TA performance, evaluations also serve as a mechanism for monitoring eligibility for future support. You should also note that some instructors include questions about TA performance as part of the Formal department course evaluation process (see section 9.3 Course Evaluations), and you may want to ask the instructor to give you feedback from comments received through this evaluation as well. 

The performance of TAs will be evaluated separately by the students in the class (where appropriate) via the Course Evaluation form and by the instructor via the TA Evaluation forms.

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b. Course evaluations

Undergrad students have an opportunity to evaluate the course, as well as the instructors and TAs performance during the last two weeks of classes through an online questionnaire.  However, if a paper evaluation is still used, neither the course instructor nor the course TA should be present when course evaluations are administered because students' responses on the evaluations could be positively or negatively influenced by the instructor or the TA's presence. Thus, as part of their duties, TAs may be called upon to coordinate the course evaluation in one course other than the one for which they TA. The course evaluation packages contain instructions for administering the evaluations. This task likely will not take more than a half hour of your time. (Note: Administering course evaluations in a course other than your own TA will not exempt you from assisting once during the term to assisting with proctoring duties described in paragraph 2 of 2.a.i.)

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10. Ethical and professional behaviour

a. Relevant University of Waterloo policies

As a TA, you are an employee of the university and are subject to all its policies and procedures and you are expected to represent the department in a professional and ethical way. There are a number of relevant policies as follows:

University of Waterloo Policies are available in the GASP Office, PAS 3288.

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b. Policy #33, Ethical Behaviour

Of particular interest is Policy #33, entitled Ethical Behaviour. There are five general elements which form the basis of Policy #33, Ethical Behaviour: Equality and Respect; Academic Freedom; Interference; Discrimination; Abuse of Supervisory Authority. Every person in the University community has a right to institute and participate in proceedings under Policy #33 without reprisal or threat of reprisal for doing so. Individual members of the Ethics Committee (including a graduate student) are available on an informal and confidential basis to advise students on the application of this policy or on appropriate alternative University of Waterloo resources. Copies of a brochure entitled "Ethical Behaviour" including the names of Committee members is available from the Secretariat, located in Needles Hall.

Policy #33 is relevant to you as a TA in two ways. First, you may feel that you are a victim of sexual harassment/discrimination for example by the instructor or a student. Although you may be hesitant to complain for fear that it could adversely affect your future in the Department, your academic references and your job prospects, the problem should not be ignored and a record should be kept of dates, times, locations and details of all incidents. Second, you yourself may be accused of sexual harassment/discrimination by a student. In either case, Policy #33 can protect your vulnerability, advise you on options and procedures, and help resolve the situation.

As a TA, you are in a position of some authority with students and should be vigilant about situations that could be construed by students as sexual harassment. Physical contact is particularly suggestive. Many of us, as part of our personal style, may occasionally touch people, or even hug them as a greeting or to offer support and reassurance. Although this action may not be viewed as inappropriate between individuals of equal and familiar status, such actions are generally inappropriate with students whose cultural backgrounds, personal styles and subordinate status may lead to a different interpretation of your behaviour.

Verbal conduct can also be inappropriately suggestive and compromise the professional relationship with students. Remarks which focus on sex or the sexual orientation of others could be construed as sexual harassment under the terms of our policy. Comments or questions about such things as a student's appearance, sex life, or domestic arrangements should be avoided. You should realize that as a TA you have power over your students, and social or sexual invitations that you consider innocuous may carry an undertone of pressure or coercion because of that power. 

TAs who become romantically or sexually involved with their students are in a dangerously compromising situation, clearly leaving themselves open in the future, if not the present, to allegations of sexual harassment. If you are personally involved with a student whose work you supervise or evaluate, then at the very least you are expected to inform the instructor of this "conflict of interest" so as to arrange for someone else to mark that student's work. "Conflict of interest" should also be declared when supervising or evaluating the work of close friends and family members. 

Any further questions or concerns should be discussed with Janice da Silva. All discussions are held in confidentiality.

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c. Ethical considerations & procedures for obtaining participants

Every project using human or animal subjects must undergo ethical review before it can be undertaken. This is a requirement of both the discipline of Psychology and the University. Details concerning animal research can be obtained from Nancy Gibson or your supervisor. The Office for Research Ethics (ORE) publishes a booklet called "Guidelines for Research with Human Participants" which contains a detailed statement of ethical considerations involved in human research and a statement of procedures.

11. Resources available to TAs

a. The Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE)

Each September CTE provides a number of workshops for TAs involved with on-campus courses. More information on this event is available from the CTE Office and announcements will be received via email. CTE also provides other services to TAs such as individual consultations and the CTE library which is concerned with university teaching and learning issues. The CTE Office is located in the Environment 1, Office 325, ext. 33353.

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b. Graduate Student Association (GSA)

The Graduate Student Association presents and promotes the common interests of graduate students, represents student interests on a variety of University committees and boards, and participates in conferences. The GSA is governed by a Board of Directors, including a representative from Psychology, and has committees which cover a range of interests (e.g. International Students, Women's Issues, Day Care). In addition the GSA publishes a newsletter, hosts many social events, operates Association offices and a (licensed) living room at the Graduate House. Call ext. 36015 for further information.

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c. Libraries

Collections are housed as follows: Dana Porter Library (Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences); Davis Centre Library (Engineering, Mathematics, Sciences); University Map and Design Library (maps, atlases, gazetteers, aerial photographs, architectural design materials); Optometry Learning Resource Centre (Optometry, Physiological Optics).

The Psychology collection could be in more than one location & orientation brochures are available in September and January in all University of Waterloo Library locations.

Requests for orientation and information should be directed to Tim Ireland, Liaison Librarian for Psychology at extension 35061 or by e-mail. The Liaison Librarian is available to you by individual appointment to discuss library resources or any “library assignment” you may devise for your class; advise the librarian about any such assignments so he can alert the information desk to be prepared to assist your students.

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d. Photocopying and Supplies

Supplies required for TA assignments are available from our staff located in PAS 3017. When requesting supplies please identify yourself and the number of the course to which you have been assigned. Small TA-related photocopying jobs (under 15 pages) can be done on the copiers located in PAS 3023. Our staff will assign a PIN to you to access the department copiers and instruct you in the use of our keypad copying system. Large copying jobs should be sent to New Media Services, using a New Media Services Requisition form, which requires department authorization before processing - forms are available from our support staff. Please note supplies and photocopying are provided for TA assignments only; not for personal use.

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e. Audio visual aids (Instrumental Technologies and Multimedia Services (ITMS))

A full range of classroom teaching aids are available: overhead projectors and projectors for film, television and data, VCRs, TV receivers, videodisk players, tape recorders, record players, wireless microphones, public address systems, etc. Portable LCD (liquid crystal display) panels for data projection are an effective way of projecting data in the classroom. As well, experienced staff is available to assist and advise on the use of equipment if needed. AV also has an extensive media library and its technical staff is organized to respond immediately to any problems in the classroom. University classrooms house various types of equipment and many classrooms outside of the PAS building require special booking procedures. Be certain to consult AV in advance for direction and scheduling.

ITMS general office ext. 33033 - located in MC 1052
Equipment ext. 33257
Production ext. 36784
Films & Videos ext. 84070
Emergency assistance
Equipment ext. 33257
Technicians ext. 33233
Television ext. 33257

After Hours:  ext. 33257 or call Campus Police, ext. 22222 and ask to be put in touch with an AV technician.

If you are asked to book audio visual equipment, films, etc. on behalf of the Instructor or for tutorials, please contact the Support Services Office (Helen) to ensure that the appropriate paperwork and departmental billing accounts are used. Equipment and films costing over $30.00 per booking must be approved by the course instructor and in some cases, department (Janice da Silva) prior to booking.

If you need to search for a film/video for a class you can obtain a computerized listing of film/video's available through the audio visual department which is located on the internet using the 'beehive' under watmedia.

The department has two portable computer projections systems for classroom use and this highly specialized equipment is available for booking by Helen Simon (PAS 3017). This setup includes projector, laptop and cart. Email Helen (hsimon@uwaterloo.ca) with booking information, but schedule early!

Please note: Minimum notice of one working day is necessary for equipment delivery. Operator assignment for normal class periods requires two working days notice during term. Scheduling either permanent staff or student operators for weekends requires six working days’ notice. When you book your equipment be sure to indicate whether your booking is a "term booking" or "one time only" booking.

NOTE: Videos rented from commercial rental outlets are regulated by copyright and normally are not appropriate for classroom use - all films or videos used for classroom viewing must be cleared through the audio visual aids department to ensure that copyright is cleared.

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f. Textbooks/Desk copies

Check with the instructor to determine if a copy of the textbook was ordered for you.

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g. Departmental meeting rooms

You may find it necessary to book rooms as part of your TA, for example, to make arrangements for previously unscheduled tutorials. A number of departmental meeting rooms are available for your use. All meeting rooms are equipped with overhead projectors and screens, as well as an extra bulb. Carousels can be booked through the AV. Department. All problems concerning equipment located in departmental meetings rooms should be immediately reported to Janice da Silva, ext. 32032. 

Available departmental rooms: Capacity
PAS 3012 12-14 people
PAS 3026 30-40 people (Colloquium Room)
PAS 4032 20-25 people

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h. Staff support for TAs

Normally staff support is provided to courses through the instructor. In some instances, however, TAs may be asked to prepare handouts or notes for distribution as part of their TA duties. In this case, contact staff in PAS 3017 for assistance.  

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i. In-house computing support

Bill Eickmeier and Michael Wagoner are responsible for the shared management of two complex computer infrastructure systems and software administration for faculty, staff and students. They coordinate tasks such as group and user accounts, software updates, authentication and backup of all computers and advise on all computing purchases including offices and labs. In addition to their roles as computer systems managers, each has a specific responsibility: Bill is the department’s resident research programmer and is available to advise on the development of customized research software applications; Michael directs his attention to the design of central administrative data bases and provides advice and instruction for the staff team and a number of central teaching and admin systems. Michael and Bill routinely provide workshops and email announcements to assist all members of the department with a wide variety of computing questions and electronic changes… we advise everyone to have a daily visit to Bill’s “beehive” site for important updates.

The Arts Computing Office (ACO) consultants have regular office hours in PAS 1077 from 9:00 am-12:00 noon and 1:30 pm - 4:30 pm Monday - Friday. They will be able to help you with questions or problems relating to the use of Watstar (DOS or Windows) and Watarts (UNIX) or any programs installed in those systems.

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j. The Graduate Association of Students in Psychology (GASP)

All graduate students in the Department of Psychology belong to GASP. To find out more, please visit the GASP website.

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k. Emergency telephone numbers

Ambulance, fire or police dial 22222
Campus Police

ext. 22222 (24 hours) - off campus 519-888-4911

Open 24 hours. Campus Police deal with issues such as personal and structural emergencies: aggression, threats, suicide attempts, theft, break-ins, accidents, etc. (Campus Police may assist you with transportation or to call a taxi.)

Health Services


Physicians, nurses and counselors are available to students by contacting Health Services staff.

Sexual Violence Response

Sexual Violence Response Coordinator, Meaghan Ross | 519-888-4567 ext. 40025 | m23ross@uwaterloo.ca 

Waterloo Taxi

(519) 888-7777


l. Other help resources available to students

Counseling Services

519-885-1211, ext. 32655

Offer personal/social, career development, reading and study skills support.


Glow center for sexual and gender diversity

A student support group and help-line for people with concerns about sexual orientation.

The Help Line Canadian Mental Health


Confidential listening service that deals with worries, stress, loneliness, etc. 24 hour service

Crisis Clinic at Grand River Hospital


Provides 24 hour help for emotional/behavioural crises

Director, Conflict Management & Human Rights Office Matt Erickson, ext. 43765, COM 101D
International Student Experience

ext. 84410, South Campus Hall, Second Floor

Provides assistance with a variety of issues (immigration regulations, health insurance, housing, etc.) Visit the International Student Experience website.

AccessAbility Services

 Needles Hall North 1401

AccessAbility Services provides a wide range of services to faculty, staff, campus users and disabled students to assure them equal access to programs and facilities at the University of Waterloo.

Services provided for persons with disabilities:

  • Liaison with all campus and community resources
  • Advocacy
  • Co-ordination of campus accessibility issues
  • Alternate examination arrangements
  • Counseling for disability related issues
  • Learning skills evaluation and assistance
  • Library Accessibility Centers
  • Specialized technical equipment and loaner in inventory
  • Campus transportation
  • Liaison with campus housing and attendant care services
  • Pre-admission assistance program
  • Volunteer assistance program
  • Transcription service for online lecture tapes
  • Provision of tape and Braille materials
  • Health and Disability Resource Center
  • Manual and electronic note-taking arrangements
  • Campus access maps
  • Photocopying service
Plant Operations

ext. 33793 (24 hours)

Provides building maintenance such as replacing burnt-out lights, electrical and plumbing emergencies.

Last updated: September 4, 2019