A. Duties

Teaching assistants make essential contributions to the Department's teaching program. They are among the few instructors from whom a student obtains guidance in the study of physics and astronomy. These duties are described in detail in the memo entitled, “Teaching Assistant Duties,” which is issued by the Vice Chair each August. A recent copy of this memo is appended to this handbook.

A full TEACHING LOAD for a teaching assistant includes:

1. The teaching of three laboratory sections, or six recitations, or some other equivalent assignment. Depending on the Department's schedule of courses, the assignment may be split in a number of ways. Every effort will be made to schedule a teaching assistant in only one course, but this is not always possible. Attendance at laboratory briefings scheduled by the Laboratory Manager is required of students with lab sections.

2. The tutoring of undergraduate students taking introductory physics courses (such as Physics 115, 141, 142, 151, 211, 212, 213, 260 and 261) for one hour per week. Teaching assistants are to be present in the Physics Learning Center during the entire assigned hour and are to be prepared to assist the undergraduates with the questions they are likely to ask. They should feel free to seek help from others if needed.

3. The proctoring of examinations. Proctoring assignments are made at the beginning of the year. It is your responsibility to contact the professor or instructor for whom you will be proctoring to receiving information about the assignment.

4. The grading of examinations. Course lecturers are to distribute the grading work load equitably among the faculty and teaching assistants assigned to them, taking into account the number of recitation sections taught by each instructor.

According to the Bylaws of the Board of Regents it is the responsibility of every faculty member "to fulfill the assigned time schedule of all classes, including quizzes, laboratories, tests, and other meetings unless absence is caused by an emergency or approved University business."   Teaching assistants have the same responsibilities. For teaching assistants, the "assigned time schedule" includes assigned grading, proctoring, and tutoring duties as well as scheduled recitation and laboratory teaching.

All incoming graduate students are required to take part in TA Training which is held the week before the beginning of fall classes. All teaching assistants are expected to be present in the Department during General Registration, which occurs on the Thursday and Friday immediately before the first day of classes for both fall and spring semesters. Assistants will be notified of their duties through their Department mailboxes and/or by email. Mailboxes and email should be checked frequently, especially at the beginning of the semester.

If a student will be away on University business or unavoidably absent for other reasons, he/she has the responsibility to arrange for a replacement for his/her teaching responsibilities, as detailed in the Teaching Assistant Responsibilities Policy, which is appended to this handbook or is available in the Department office. These arrangement must be satisfactory to the lecturer for the course (in the case of recitation teaching and/or grading and proctoring assignments) and/or to the laboratory manager (in the case of laboratory teaching).

In the case of an absence caused by an emergency, the teaching assistant should notify the course instructor and the Department office as soon as possible. If a teaching assistant knows beforehand of an unavoidable absence, he/she is expected to proceed as described in the previous paragraph.

The duties of a teaching assistant are not complete until the grades for the course he/she has been teaching have been filed or posted. The Academic Senate has proclaimed that all grades must be completed and filed within 5 working days of the final examination. The teaching assistant is expected to have the grades ready at the time specified by the course lecturer and to be available for consultations with the lecturer until the course grades have been filed.

Yearly renewal of a teaching assistantship is based on:

1. Satisfactorily meeting the obligations of a teaching assistant.

2. Satisfactory progress toward a degree.

3. Availability of funds.

B. Recommended Procedures

i. Preparing for Class

When preparing for a class, an assistant should read and understand the assigned material, work the assigned problems, and be thoroughly prepared. Nevertheless, situations may arise in which the assistant is unable to respond correctly to some reasonable question. In such situations it is usually best to admit one's difficulty and have the needed information available at the next class meeting.

ii. Holding Office Hours

Each full-time teaching assistant is required to have three office hours per week.

iii. Proctoring of Examinations

Due to scheduling of classes, you may proctor exams for courses other than the ones for which you are teaching. The following procedures should be followed:

  1. Proctors should contact the course instructor to whom they are assigned at least 2 days before the exam in order to find out when and where their services are required. They will be expected to be available 10 to 20 minutes before the examination begins.
  2. Proctors should see that students' seats are uncluttered and that all books, papers and other material are deposited at the front of the room.
  3. Students' seating should be arranged so that communication between them is minimized.
  4. A count of the number of students taking the examination should be taken at least twice. Attendance should be taken when seats have been assigned.
  5. At the beginning of the examination, the number of problems and the number of pages on the exam should be announced so that each student can tell whether his or her exam is complete.
  6. Proctors should remain alert to what is happening in the examination room.
  7. Proctors should be ready to clarify questions the students may have about the examination, without actually solving the problems.
  8. When the examination is over, but before leaving the room, the proctor should count the number of papers turned in. If it differs from the number of students, check the room for fallen or misplaced exams, compare the tests turned in with the attendance roster, etc.
  9. Any suspected cases of improper student conduct during an examination should be reported to the instructor in charge with all of the evidence collected. Do not make any accusations during the examination period.

iv. Grading of Examinations

  1. When grading, it is important to establish a grading pattern by first looking at several papers, so that consistent and fair results can be obtained.
  2. Whenever justifiable, give partial credit for incomplete or incorrect solutions to a problem. Do not penalize the student for continuing initial errors. For example, if a student uses the diameter for the radius in a problem, deduct for this error only once and not again, even if this mistake is repeated elsewhere in the same problem.
  3. Papers should be marked in such a fashion that the instructor can detect modifications made by the students after the papers have been returned to them.

C. Graduate Student Teaching Award

The department has established the distinguished teaching assistant award to recognize the important role that graduate TAs play in the department’s mission. The award is given each spring at the department’s Recognition Luncheon.