Expectations of the Computer Science TA


The purpose of this document is to document the general expectations that the faculty has of a TA. This is necessarily general and needs to be adapted to the needs and styles of specific faculty members teaching specific courses. It is also designed to give everyone an idea of what a reasonable TA load might be. We want to avoid the feeling "why should I do so much when so-and-so is required to do so little." There will be variations. However, this document should be used as the reference, not the least loaded TA one can find.


Most bluntly put, one of the TA's primary goals is to make life easier for the instructor. However, your overarching goal is to produce an outstanding course, making the experience for the students in the course as rewarding as possible. Another important goal of the TA experience is to expose the TA to the university level teaching process. As with many jobs, there are many components to teaching a successful course. Over and above academic content there are management, clerical, and entertainment components. The TA should try to learn as much as possible about all sides of teaching and participate to the fullest that time permits.

Starting and Ending Dates

TA duties begin when the TA is notified as to whom he/she will be working with and end when the final grades for that course have been turned in. This means the TA may be required to do work in preparation of the course before the semester starts. It also means that the TA will not likely be able to leave town until the final exam period is over. (This will depend on the finals schedule for that semester and the nature of the work required to compute final grades.

Weekly Work Load

The normal TA load is up to just below 20 hours per week. If a TA finds that he/she needs to spend more than 20 hours, relief should be sought. The instructor should be consulted first. If this does not lead to satisfactory resolution of the problem(s), contact the Associate Chair. If a TA finds that he/she is regularly spending much less than 20 hours on the course, then the spirit of the TA assignment is not being met. There are many ways in which the TA can help improve the quality of the teaching and the materials used. This should be discussed with the instructor.


Possible duties that may be assigned are outlined below. Any given class and instructor will have a more specific list of duties. They will be outlined in a contract which the TA will review with the instructor.
Attend Lectures
This will assure that the TA knows what is going on. Help with equipment (such as projectors) used in the classroom for teaching purposes.
Office Hours
Set aside regular hours during which students may obtain assistance.
Grade homework, quizzes, labs, papers, and exams. In other cases the TA may need to coordinate UTAs (graders) and provide oversight and quality control.
The TA will be seen as a source of help. In some cases the TA may need to refer students to the Tutoring Office to get help or point them to private tutors. Referral to the OIT Help Desk for certain technical problems may be appropriate.
Teach Labs
Some courses have labs separate from the lectures. Running a lab is like having a course that meets only once a week. Usually the TA will coordinate UTA's who will assist in various ways.
Prepare Lab Materials
Good assignments do much for a course. Thinking up new assignments, testing them out and writing them up are all important.
Prepare Assignments
Good assignments do much for a course. Thinking up new assignments, testing them out and writing them up are all important.
Prepare Quizzes
Good quiz and exam questions take time to prepare. They need to be carefully checked out to see that they are clear and unambiguous.
Handle Class Notes
In some cases it is desirable to develop class notes from the lectures and to make them available to students. This can be a first step toward developing a new textbook.
Clerical Duties
Copying and other clerical duties are an important part of any course. TAs need to work out a careful system of timing with the instructor to make this go smoothly.
Substitute Teach
The instructor may be absent at certain times and the TA may be asked to teach in his/her place. This is an excellent way for the graduate student to get some real teaching experience. The TA should ask to do this even if the instructor will not be absent during the semester.
Run Extra Sessions
Often review session need to be held before major tests and exams. Toward the beginning of the semester, remedial sessions for students that were not quite well enough prepared may be in order.
Set Up Class Software
The course may require the setup and use of fairly complicated simulators and other teaching software. Sometimes it needs to be customized for the course.
Monitor Class Newgroup
Many courses have newsgroups associated with them. The TA can monitor the group and jump in with responses where appropriate.
Deal With Class Evaluation Questionnaires
The TA can design regular questionnaires to gauge the effectiveness of the course, certain lectures, demos, and assignemts and to evaluate the effectiveness of the instructor and the support staff (TAs and UTAs).
Supervise UTAs
The larger courses have UTAs to help with labs and grading. The TA may need to provide leadership, organization, and quality control for a number of UTAs.
Maintain Class Web Page
Many courses have a class WWW page with assignments, notes, sample exams and assignments, and other useful references. The TA may be asked to maintain the Web information.
Test Out Exams and Assignments
It is useful to have someone test out exams to see they are clear, are free of errors, and are of appropriate length. Homework assignments and projects may also require a trial run.
Performs Other Duties As Assigned
This is the standard escape clause in any job description. Courses will differ and innovative faculty will come up with different, even unusual assignments.

Split assignments

A TA may be assigned to split his/her time between two courses. Ideally, there should be a joint meeting brining both instructors together. Then one can make sure that all expectations are reasonable and everyone will know what is expected.


If English is not the TA's native language, he/she will have to work extra hard at being understood. However, the TA shouldn't withdraw and hide from students. If the TA make a serious effort to help, it will be appreciated. TAs should get to know the students.


There is a separate document on ethics. TA's should read it and certify that it has been read and understood. Key points include: Don't Tutor your students for money, don't date your students, don't handle cheating problems on your own (follow proper procedures), and don't lose assignments, tests, and grades.


The TA may be asked to sign a contract which spells out the duties in detail. The instructor and TA should carefully discussed this document to make sure that there are no misunderstandings.