Teaching assistants are on the front line of teaching, and contribute greatly
to undergraduate education at U of C. We need a program to support students’
work as a teaching assistant and keep them informed of the resources, support
measures and initiatives to aid in their personal and professional development.
Although there are various programs at the U of C to govern the expected quality of TAship,
there is not such support specific to Computer Science students. To fill this gap,
CSGS runs a CPSC specific support program for TAs. Overall, this program, which is
called TA Connect Program, provides information, education and case based support for TAs.
This may include orientation, training, and continuous assessment.
TA in Residence
As a part of the TA Connect program, the CSGS in conjunction with the Department of Computer Science
have created the role of TA in Residence. The primary purpose for this role is to provide the support
of an experienced TA to those who require it, such as advice on preparing for or delivering tutorial,
scheduling a substitute TA when traveling to a conference, difficulties with a course instructor or any
other question on concern regarding TAing.
CSGS occasionally runs workshops for TAs. Please check your mailbox to see when and where these workshops will happen.
This FAQ is originally prepared by Rosa Karimi Adl (TA in Residence for Winter 2013). The FAQ is updated by
Hubert (Sathaporn) Hu (VP Finance for May 2016 - September 2016).
What is TA?
The term TA stands for Teaching Assistantship. At the University of Calgary, this role is usually referred to as GA(T) which stands for Graduate Assistantship (Teaching). A GA(T) is a student appointed within the department to help run courses taught by the faculty.
Why should I do TA?
- It benefits the undergraduate students by deepening their knowledge and understanding, facilitating open Discussions, allowing close contact between students and staff, and identifying and assisting struggling students.
- It reduces the workload of the instructor.
- It benefits the TA by providing them with financial support and an opportunity to acquire valuable skills.
Do I have to do TA?
No. You can decline it by not submitting the request form.
For how long I can do TA?
It is specified in your admission letter. Please that some conditions may apply (e.g. look at the budget availability and major scholarship constraints).
What is CT?
CT stands for Continuous Tutorials. These tutorials are drop-in tutorials where an undergraduate student may show up to ask programming questions they have from their classes or homework.
What is Marking as extra TA duties?
Depending on the details of your contract, you might have to mark assignments, quizzes, and help with marking midterm and/or Final exams.
How do I apply for TA? (Where is the TA application form?)
Usually before the Fall and Winter semesters start, you receive an email from the office about how to apply for a TA position. The email also explains the required documents you must submit with your application. Following the instructions given in that email, you must apply for GA(T) funding via the department’s online form:
which is available only during application periods (Dec/Jan and Aug/Sept). You’ll need your CPSC account name and password to access this site.
How can I TA the course that I'm interested in?
Within the online TA application form, you can choose 5 courses to TA. You rank these choices from the highest to your lowest priorities. If the courses you are applying for are not in high demand, you usually receive one of your first three choices. You can also talk to the course instructor in advance to secure your spot as a TA for the course.
What is a tutorial?
Tutorials are classes of smaller groups where students get to Work through the details of the subject outline and practically apply the course contents.
What is half TA/Full TA/Quarter TA? How do they differ?
A full TA covers a four-month period (17 weeks) with an average workload of 12 hours per week (a total of 204 hours).
A half TA covers a four-month period (17 weeks) with an average workload of 6 hours per week (a total of 102 hours).
A quarter TA covers a four-month period (17 weeks) with an average workload of 3 hours per week (a total of 51 hours).
A half Ta's pay is half of a full TA's while a quarter TA's pay is a quarter of a full TA's.
When does the tutorials begin?
Normally, the tutorials begin one week after the lectures start. You need to check with the course instructor.
What are my duties as a TA?
A TA might have some or all of the following duties:
- Preparing for Tutorials
- Delivering Tutorials
- Covering Continuous Tutorials
- Marking Assignment/Exams
- Out-of-class Support
You need to refer to your contract to see the average time you are expected to spend on each of these duties.
Do I have to prepare learning materials like slides and quizzes?
Some instructors provide their TAs with the full material to be taught in the tutorials. However, in most cases, it is the TA s responsibility to prepare teaching material based on the outline provided by the course instructor.
Do I have to mark exams? How many papers should I mark? How many times?
If you grading is marked as part of your TA duties in your contract, then you are responsible to do so. The number of assignments/exams to be graded are listed in your contract. If you are required to mark exams, the course instructor normally assigns each TA a few questions to mark across all of the papers.
What is the TA contract?
A TA contract is a document that specifies "precise duties and performance expectations" from a TA. In this document you can find the expected time required to be spent on each duty. The department head (or equivalent), the instructor and the graduate student shall sign this form.
What are my responsibilities toward the instructor of the course that I TA?
In addition to the TA duties listed above (question 12), a TA should meet with the course instructor on a regular basis, as determined by the instructor.
What are the responsibilities of the instructor toward TAs?
Instructors are responsible for:
- Outlining, in a regular and timely manner, what material should be covered by the TA in labs.
- Providing TAs with a marking guide that describes the merits assignments should be marked on, the weightings for each merit, and the solution(s) for the assignment where appropriate and practical.
- Deciding the frequency of TA-instructor meetings at the onset of the semester.
- Dealing with issues of academic misconduct according to university policy.
- Checking that a TA’s duties have been completed for the semester. (Instructors must file a TA Performance Evaluation Report.)
What should I do if there is some conflicting ideas between me and the course instructor?
If the TA perceives that instructor duties are not being adequately performed, the TA should first attempt to discuss the issues with the instructor. The TA/Instructor Interim Report may be useful for this discussion. If this does not resolve the issue, the issue (together with all TA/Instructor Interim Reports) should be brought to the attention of the graduate director.
What is TA evaluation?
At the end of each semester, each TA is evaluated by his/her students and the course instructor based on their knowledge and preparation level, teaching skills, time management, communication with students, and grading/feedback efficiency. These scores are used to nominate the best TAs and recognize those with low evaluation scores.
What would happen if I get too low scores?
TAs with a low evaluation score might be required to complete specified training (E.g., English courses or teaching courses), reassigned to other courses/duties, or suspended. Normally the TA is given a second chance.
Is there an award for the recognized TAs? How and who decides the recognized TAs?
At the end of the Winter semester, the department reviews the performance evaluation scores (collected from the students and the course instructor) of each TA. In each of the following categories “CPSC203”, “First year courses”, “Second year courses”, “Third year course”, and “Fourth year courses” and for each of the Fall and Winter semesters a TA with the highest score is announced as the winner of a TA Award (a total of 10 winners). TAs can also be nominated by their students for a campus-wide recognition program known as the SU Teaching Excellence Award.