TA Policies

Teaching Assistant Policies

CICS is proud of the quality of teaching in all of its classes. Not only do we have award winning teachers but we provide high-quality TA support for all of our large classes. Many students become TAs for the first time when they get to UMass Amherst and don't have a good sense of everything TAs do and how they interact with faculty, instructors, and students. We've assembled this page to provide some helpful advice as well as formal policies of the College and University. If you have any questions about anything on this page, please contact the Graduate Program Manager or Director.

The most important thing for our TAs to keep in mind is that they are working with the professor or instructor to help students get the most from their class experience. That means being aware of the needs and requirements of the professor, of your fellow TAs in the course (if any), of the students, and of yourself. 

If you encounter problems you should talk to Prof. Barrington, Associate Chair for Academics, or Prof. Moss, GPD, sooner rather than later.

Dates and Hours

Here are the official guidelines for when TA appointments happen. Different classes have different requirements, so you should talk with your supervising faculty/instructor about how or if your TAship requirements differ from what is described here.

  • Teaching Assistants should prepare themselves to be ready to work on the start date of your appointment (end of August/beginning of September for Fall appointments or mid-January for Spring appointments)
  • TA assignments extend well past the end of classes: mid-January for Fall TAships and the end of May for the Spring. Most TAships are effectively over once assignments are graded and course grades are submitted to the Registrar, but you need to take the formal ending date into account when planning summer internships or trips home for the winter. Talk to your supervisor to be sure your plans are OK.
  • Your duties should take you the amount hours that you are being paid (4, 10 or 20). This is on top of your own coursework and research. Hourly work expectation is an average across weeks; students are responsible for tracking their hours and informing the instructor if they cannot fulfill their assigned duties within the time for which they are paid
  • Any time taken/travel plans during your appointment should be discussed with your supervising faculty/teaching member to ensure it does not conflict with class scheduling. GEO students earn 4 hours of vacation per month on a 20-hour a week appointment, but your vacation dates need approval.  

Duties

You may be responsible for completing the following "typical" duties. The distribution of duties across tasks will vary for different courses. Here is one rough breakdown of duties for a low-level undergraduate class. Your supervising professor or instructor should provide details about expectations for a specific course.

  • Prepare and run discussion sections or lab sessions (40% of your time)
  • Formulating/Assisting in the preparation of homework assignments/exams (< 5% of your time)
  • Grading homework, exams, or other assignments (homework and exams) (25% of your time)
  • Holding office hours (20% of your time)
  • Answering student email (10% of your time)
  • Coordinating with other TAs or Graders (< 5% of your time)

Suggested Management Techniques

  • Be prepared
  • Keep organized
  • Keep track of communication
  • Complete tasks assigned within a reasonable time period. For example, a typical expectation is that grading assignments are completed in less than a week. 
  • Respond in a timely manner 
  • Communicate frequently with the instructors and graders for the course

Resources

Policy Note: Poor performance can/will affect future TA funding.