Five Points to Address During TA/Course Instructor Introductory Meeting

by S. Brydges, J. Gammage and C. Sinclair

Grading Expectations

  1. How should you weigh factors such as neatness, grammar, and clarity of writing in grading assignments and/or lab reports?
  2. Does the instructor have an expected average (i.e., class average of 65%) or a specific distribution of grades (i.e., normal distribution)?
  3. What is the purpose of the assignment/lab? (If you know WHY students are doing a particular activity, you can assist them beforehand more easily, and it provides you with a basis for deciding unclear grade issues).
  4. What is the policy for late or missed assignments?
  5. Is a marking scheme provided or will you be expected to generate one yourself?
  6. Does the instructor have a policy for making comments on the labs/assignments?

Academic Dishonesty

  1. How should you deal with cases of academic dishonesty? What are the steps that should be taken? (Refer to handout).
  2. How does the instructor define “academic dishonesty?” For example, if two students work together and hand in the same lab/assignment, is that considered dishonesty or group work?
  3. Will the instructor follow up on the cases that you find, or will this be your responsibility?

Recording Grades

It is important to clarify in advance the methods to be used in recording student’s course grades.

  1. What is the overall weighting scheme for the course?
  2. What software (if any) will be used to tabulate grades?
  3. What style of grading (numeric, letter) will be implemented?
  4. When must marks for labs and/or assignments be submitted?
  5. Will you be responsible for entering the grades and for making grade changes?
  6. How should you deal with grade complaints?

Your Performance

In addition to the grading deadlines (mentioned above), what other responsibilities do you have as a TA in this course? It is important to identify the instructor’s expectations of YOU as a TA. These may include, for example, exam invigilation, pre-lab/tutorial preparation, extra tutorials or tutoring, safety and clean-up, attending specific lectures or providing input (proof reading or contributions) into the design of assignments.

Explanation Time

If sufficient time is not available during the lab/tutorial session, ask the instructor to make available a few minutes of lecture time for you to outline YOUR assignment/lab expectations to students.

Of course, the specific role of the TA changes with each instructor and course, and these points may not adequately address all of your concerns. It is recommended that you brainstorm prior to your introductory meeting, and inquire about any other practices or expectations that may apply to you. When will the professor be available to consult with you, regarding any problems or questions you have? To facilitate networking, ask for the contact information of the other course TAs.

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