The Role of the Teaching Assistant (TA)

As a TA, your work directly impacts the lives of undergraduates and their learning. Doing your job well is essential to fulfilling the University's mission.

 

TA Applications for FALL 2014 will be announced in July. 

Happy TA's

There are many reasons why you have become a TA, not the least of which is financial support for your graduate studies. A TA is typically 60 hours per term and during the 2012-2013 academic session, the rate of pay was $37.88. The department will try to give each graduate student in the MASc and PhD program one TA assignment as part of your funding package.  If you choose to take a second TA  assignment, the stipend will be over and above your guaranteed funding package.

Selection Process:

The department will be following the PSAC Local 901 Collective Agreement.  Please watch this page for Graduate Teaching Assistantship Postings, as well as the Faculty webpage and the Union webpage.

Prior to the beginning of term, students will indicate their preferences by emailing the department manager, Gabrielle Whan as to the course they wish to TA.   TA’s and Professors are notified of the course to which they are assigned. The Department attempts to match graduate student TA responsibilities and area of research if possible. This selection will also be made on the basis of past performance (in the case of current or former TAs), faculty recommendations, and Departmental needs.

Responsibilities and Expectations:

TAs in Mechanical and Materials Engineering have a wide range of responsibilities depending on their assignment. TA duties range from grading papers, exams and laboratory reports; organizing and instructing laboratory sessions and/or tutorials, holding office hours, generating course web sites and other duties pertaining to the instructional mission of the Department. Because responsibilities range so widely, as soon as you receive your assignment, arrange to meet with the course instructor as this meeting will provide an opportunity for you to understand what is expected of you. A reason for establishing clear expectations is that TAs frequently report that misunderstandings occur with their supervisors. GTA's will be required to complete a TA agreement form with the course instructor and submit it to the Department Manager within the first month of classes. 

Some ways to accomplish a good relationship between the course instructor and the students are:

  • Be professional, don’t be a buddy, be a teaching assistant.
  • Be reliable. When you are supposed to be there, be there on time, when assignments/exams are to be marked, mark them on time!
  • Prepare for your duties, prepare, prepare, prepare! If you are not sure of what you are doing – go see the instructor.
  • Be respectful to the students.
  • Your goal should be to provide intellectual challenge along with instructional support.
  • Convey enthusiasm for your subject.
  • If you find you are spending more or less than 5 hours per week, go see the instructor and find a way to modify your workload to fit the 60 hour total for a single TA.

Training:

The Centre for Teaching and Learning offers a one-day professional development day for new TAs. This training focuses on new developments in teaching and learning and key aspects of the roles and responsibilities of Teaching Assistants in undergraduate teaching. 

A training session in the Department is given in mid-September by faculty and graduate students who are experienced TA’s. Some of the topics covered are:  resources, safety, marking, structure and organization of lab sessions, analysis and reporting, how to handle difficult situations with students, equipment failures, lecture and tutorial presentations, balancing TA duties with research and course work. All first time TA's are expected to attend.  Click here for the Fall 2011 Training Presentation

The Faculty of Applied Science also offers a supplementary program for TA development and training in the fall term and in the winter term if there is enough interest. It is a one day session with a range of topics including Assessment, Teaching Approach, Laboratories and Learning Objectives. 

During the fall and winter terms, the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) offer a series of workshops on teaching and learning for Teaching Assistants. Topics such as Encouraging Discussion, Academic Integrity, Teaching Portfolios, Equity in the Queen’s Classroom, Effective presentations, Time Management, Leading Labs, Skilful Questioning and The Use of Technology are some of the workshops offered.  

Workload:

Be sure to meet with the instructor before classes start. You should have a clear understanding of what your tasks are and when you do them. You should know how many hours per week should be spent on these various tasks. Use the Teaching Assistant Agreement form to define your responsibilities.  This workload should be well defined including:

  • hours per week marking assignments, or lab reports
  • hours per week on tutorials
  • hours per week for office hours to meet with students
  • hours per week preparing for and giving labs
  • hours to assist marking midterms or quizzes
  • hours to assist in marking final exams
  • hours per week to enter marks into course spreadsheets
  • etc. etc.

These should add up to a total of 60 hours per term for a single Full TA.  Note that not all TA position are 60 hours, refer to your assignment for total hours.  If  your workload responsibilites does not add up to the assigned hours, there is a problem and it needs to be resolved as soon as possible.

Resources for Teaching Assistants:

The Centre for Teaching and Learning has prepared a number of resources available for distribution to Teaching Assistants.  It includes suggestions on effective training including leading tutorials and labs, lecturing and presenting, setting and marking assignments, counselling students and collecting feedback on teaching.  It is a great resource and should be used. http://www.queensu.ca/ctl/community/TAs/index.html

A handbook was also prepared by the Centre for Teaching and Learning for distribution to Teaching Assistants. It can be purchased from the CTL or downloaded from their website http://www.queensu.ca/ctl/resources/publications/handbook_tas.html

English Communication Assessment (ECA):

The English Communication Assessment is mandatory for all new International Graduate students who were required to submit an English Language test, such as TOEFL for admission, before they can assume a teaching assistant role that requires verbal communication.  The test is performed by the Centre for Teaching and Learning and scheduled during the first and second weeks of September. This assessment resulted from the 2002 recommendation of the SCAD Sub-Committee on the Training of Teaching Assistants and approved by Senate.

 

Students who do not obtain satisfactory results on the assessment are required to register for the course SGS 802: English Language Communication Skills for Teaching Purposes if they wish to assume a teaching assistant role.  The course is offered in the fall and winter terms at no cost.