SAS Teaching Assistants (TAs): General comments

You will get roughly one TA for every 35 students in your class.

TAs are expected to work 5 hours per week for 16 weeks. TA duties could include marking assignments, holding office hours, running tutorials, proctoring, helping to mark quizzes/midterms and the final exam. TAs are expected to be available for their duties until the last day of the exam period.

At the start of term, once you obtain your list of TAs from the ISCs, it is highly desirable to arrange a meeting with your TAs before the end of the first week of the term. You should give them their duties in writing and do any negotiating of office hours, who is marking which assignment/test, who is proctoring which test, who is taking on additional roles, etc. There should be a close follow-up of TA's office hours to ensure they are performed and that TAs show up on time.

TA office hours should be booked in the department tutorial center in M3 2101. TAs should not hold their office hours in their own offices to avoid disturbing their officemates. Booking times in the Tutorial Centre is coordinated by Steve Van Doormaal. The link to the Tutorial Center request form will be sent out along with the TA assignments at the beginning of each term.

If you teach a very large class and therefore have several TAs, it may be a good idea to ask one of them (ideally a more senior student with previous TA experience for this course) to take on the role of “Head TA” if an ISC is not assigned to the course. The Head TA can be asked to manage the divvying up of duties/responsibilities among the TAs and to be in charge of communicating with you on behalf of the other TAs.

You will also need to ask Paul Kates (pkates@uwaterloo.ca), or an ISC, to provide access to your course webpage (on LEARN) to your TAs. Alternatively, you may add TAs on LEARN by yourself following these instructions. If you experience any issues with your TAs, please be sure to talk to the Associate Chair of Graduate Affairs, Shoja'eddin Chenouri, or an ISC. In addition, you are encouraged to add a sentence like “If you experience any problems with teaching assistants during the term, please contact the instructor.” in your course outline directed to the students in your class, so they are aware that we want to be informed of such issues if they arise. Please also note that you will be asked to fill an online TA evaluation form for each of your TAs at the end of the term.

 

Important facts and reminders about TAs

  • Teaching assistantships are assigned to students as a means of providing monetary support; there is no “application” process.
  • TAs are graduate students whose first priority is their graduate work.
  • A single TA unit is an average 5 hours of work per week for the term (16 weeks), giving a total of 80 hours. TAs are also members of the Math Faculty proctoring pool and may be selected to proctor for other courses. Therefore you should not assign more than 76.5 hours per TA.
  • Graduate students are often enrolled in their own courses with lectures, tests and assignment deadlines.
  • Keep in mind that some graduate students have families.

Tips for working with TAs

  • Get to know your TAs by name.
  • Indicate to the TAs the importance of their role in conducting a course successfully.
  • Communicate all expectations with regards to deadlines and responsibilities clearly and regularly, and preferably in writing. Written instructions may lead to fewer misunderstandings.
  • At the beginning of the term provide a schedule that indicates, at least approximately, how the 76.5 hours of work will be spread over the term. Be sure to factor in preparation time for responsibilities such as conducting tutorials.
  • Set consistent and reasonable deadlines for marking.
  • Send email or Teams group chat reminders about meetings, proctoring or marking close to the date of the event.
  • Keep notes of work done by the TAs so that you can complete the TA evaluation form at the end of the term.
  • Provide TAs with a week-by-week schedule of topics that are covered in the course will help them answer student questions more effectively.
  • Provide TAs with assignments in advance so they can prepare for office hours.
  • Encourage TAs to communicate any problems with the marking scheme to you as soon as possible so that any clarifications can be passed on to everyone. In particular, encourage TAs to ask about marking schemes for solutions which differ from those provided by the instructor.
  • Solicit individual feedback from TAs especially those who might not feel comfortable asking questions.

Resources

Planning TA Duties (PDF) 

TA Duties Form Template (PDF)