Course Director / Teaching Assistant Relationship

As a Course Director you may or may not have one or more Teaching Assistants (TAs) to assist with your course.  In the event that you are fortunate to have at least one TA working with you, the following information and guidance will help make your time together productive and efficient.

No matter how experienced (or inexperienced) your TA is, remember that this may be the first time they are working with you.  If you have worked with the same TA on the same course before, there may be changes you have made to the course or you may want to reflect on the course together to determine changes you would like to make.  Therefore, it is essential that you meet with your TA(s) to not only go over the course and your expectations, but also give them specific instructions at the beginning and throughout the course.  You, as the course director, are ultimately responsible for your course and ensuring that the course outcomes are met, so it is important to maintain contact and clear communication with your TA(s) to ensure this happens.  The following resources may assist you with this:

TA CD Relationship Questionnaire – This is a questionnaire that you and your TA fill out simultaneously and then use to start a conversation about their role and responsibilities.

TA CD Relationship Answers – Instead of distributing the above questionnaire, the following document provides suggestions of questions for the TA to ask corresponding to each of the topics in the questionnaire.  Review the questions and think about how you would answer each of them.  This can help you prepare in advance the instructions you wish to provide to your TA(s).

It is the joint responsibility of the course director and the TA to avoid overwork. Ensure you know exactly how many hours your TA has been assigned to your course, e.g. 135 hours  is a half TAship, which is usually allocated to a 3 credit course (i.e. a one semester course) and 270 hours is a full TAship, which is usually allocated to a 6 credit (i.e. two semester course).  TAs are normally assigned to work on average about 10 hours per week, although this will fluctuate depending on peek periods.    Once you have determined your TA assignment(s), decide how to break down these hours for each of the duties your TA will perform such as leading/facilitating tutorials or labs, attending lectures, invigilating, marking assignments and exams,  etc.  You are required to meet with each of your TAs to fill out a TA workload form and submit a copy to your Undergraduate Program Director.  This form is where you will write a breakdown of the hours for your TA and the total must add up to no more than the TAship assigned (e.g. 135 or 270 hours).  Encourage your TA to keep track of their hours and let you know if there are any problems (e.g. they are spending more time than allocated on a particular task) as soon as it happens.  It is important that you meet to discuss the problem and jointly come up with a solution.  Remember that TAs are still learning and it may take them longer than you expected to complete certain tasks, like marking, so you may have to adjust your plans or provide more direction or instruction to the TA to help them be more efficient.

Also keep in mind that your TA is likely a graduate student who may be considering a career in academia.  This means they will be looking to you as a role model or mentor and nurturing this relationship could be very  rewarding for both of you.  Consider being more explicit with your TA in describing what you do, the decisions you make about the course and also how you envision their role as your TA.  Provide opportunities where you deem appropriate for your TA to grow and gain valuable experience.  Depending upon the experience, ability and comfort level that your TA has (and you have with them) you may ask them to contribute to the curriculum, either with readings or designing resources,  activities or assessments, prepare and teach during a portion of the lecture (or guest lecture for you, that you may observe, or in the case that you need a substitute), run a review session, etc.

The Teaching Commons has a lot to offer TAs, in the form of workshops, courses and events, resources and awards.  Please refer your TAs to our services, particularly if you identify a specific need or opportunity for your TA(s):