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Teaching Assistant Responsibilities and Expectations

Working with TAs: Guidelines for Faculty

Thank you for agreeing to serve as pedagogical mentor for a student in the Graduate Program in English. This note outlines some basic assumptions about working with English TAs. Clearly, every course, instructor, TA and relationship is unique, so the following should be seen only as loose guidelines for your work together. The most important thing is that you view the instructor-TA relationship first and foremost in terms of pedagogical training, and secondarily in terms of the performance of labor. Student TAs are teachers in training. Their work with you is an important step towards assuming independent responsibility for courses of their own design. Most of them have little classroom experience, and depend on your advice and wisdom in order to perform well in your classroom.


  1. Give TAs clear instructions and opportunities for discussion with regard to each task that you ask them to perform. In particular, with regard to grading, please do not hand off the entire responsibility for grading to your Ta or TAs, but engage in shared grading practices that will allow the TA to learn from you.
  2. Allow TAs as many and varied opportunities to engage in different aspects of the teaching process as possible. A TA is not simply a grader. Ideally, a TA will engage with you in discussions of course-planning, lead some discussions, lead a regular recitation, give one or two lectures, etc.
  3. Not overtax TAs with excessive work burdens or sudden, short deadlines to accomplish work. In general, a TA should be expected to perform about 10-12hrs. of work per week for a course, on average, including class time.
  4. Be flexible with regard to work expectations. TAs may need to miss a class or two in order to attend professional meetings, to meet the requirements of courses in which they are enrolled, or for religious observances.

Working as a TA: Guidelines for Students

TAs should keep the following in mind:

  1. The TA-instructor relationship is both about pedagogical training and about service: this is probably one of the first times in your professional career that you are working as an educator, concerned with the educational progress of others, rather than your own. You should take your responsibilities seriously, striving to carry out tasks well and on time, to communicate effectively with the instructor, and to be a constructive member of the team. Although, as indicated above, your own needs for training are important, you are also doing a job, and this requires you to do the work, and do it well.
  2. Be aware of the responsibilities that come with the role of educator: show up to classes office hours, scheduled meetings early; never miss classes without advanced planning for exceptional professional, religious or personal needs; communicate with students in a timely manner.
  3. Be sensitive to student needs and to the diversity of student backgrounds and lifeworlds
  4. Respect the confidentiality of student information.
  5. Ask your instructor for help and advice.