From: Christine Beauchamp, TA Coordinator, Biology Department
Date: September 23, 2002
Re: Guidelines on the use of Teaching Assistant resources, Biology Department
In the Biology Department, Teaching Assistants are employed extensively in our undergraduate classes.
With relatively high student numbers in the introductory class and core programme classes and acknowledging budget limitations, over the years the department has established policy regarding the use of our TA resources. Established guidelines are used to determine which classes qualify for TA assistance and the number of hours of help per term.
To qualify for TA help, class enrolment must be at least 15, and there must be a demonstrated reasonable need for help with class components such as laboratory offerings, field trips, tutorial/discussion groups, online teaching, and such. There may be exceptions to the enrolment minimum in the case of new class offerings, or when a new person assumes responsibility for an existing class.
Core classes with laboratory components (Biol. 1000, 2001, 2002, 2020, 2030, 2101, 3050, 3070, 3071) generally employ 1-2 TAs per 24 student lab.
In Biology, most TA positions are for 45 hours per term.
Our TAs actively assist in the teaching of classes and are rarely employed solely as markers. Duties vary widely, depending on the particular class. These duties may include:
- conducting lab exercises
- lab demonstrating
- facilitating discussions/tutorials
- conducting field trips
- marking weekly exercises
- marking lab projects, essays, exams
- assisting with online teaching
TA performance may be evaluated in two ways:
The Teaching Assistant Evaluation form is completed by a supervising faculty member. The TA is then invited to review the form, add comments and sign it. The completed evaluation is placed in the TA's personal file. This evaluation is required in the case of graduate students completing the department's TA programme requirement. It is optional in all other cases.
The Student Based Assessment, introduced to the department by the graduate student body, is normally conducted for all Biology TAs. (It works similar to the Student Ratings of Instruction Questionnaire through OIDT, familiar to most faculty). Summarized ratings and written comments are returned to the TA, who may request to have the ratings summary placed in his/her personal file. The supervising faculty member is given a ratings summary only.
The department does not offer any formal teaching preparation to TAs specifically for their teaching-related duties. However, since 1989, our TAs have been attending a day-long orientation programme held in the department at the beginning of the fall term. "TA DAY", as it's known, includes representation from relevant resources and services across campus, safety information and one or more teaching workshops. I t is designed to be of real practical value, and an important show of support for our TAs.