Carnegie Mellon University
TA/Grader-Faculty Relationships

TA/Grader-Faculty Relationships

Your job as a TA or grader is to assist the professor in teaching a particular course, even though the particular form this assistance takes may differ in practice from course to course and from professor to professor. Thus, it is a good idea to make an appointment with the professor as soon as you know what your assignment for the semester will be. Before the course begins, you should have a clear idea of what will be expected of you. The professor has a great deal of latitude in the duties which can be delegated to a TA or grader (although he or she retains ultimate responsibility for the course and grades). You are paid to work 12 hours per week as a grader, or 15 as a TA, and you should discuss with the professor your duties with this time commitment in mind. Among the issues you need to clarify with your professor are the following:

  1. What are some of the main course goals? Are some of these goals more important than others for the work I will do with the students?
  2. What will my responsibilities be?
    • Grading homework? Tests? Papers? A final exam? Other assignments? Will I do all the grading myself?
    • Attending lectures?
    • Attending weekly meetings?
    • Drafting or revising grading keys?
    • Providing written feedback?
    • Reporting common student errors or difficulties?
    • Preparing quizzes, handouts, assignments, exam questions?
    • Holding regular office hours?
    • Conducting review sessions?
    • Giving guest lectures?
    • Maintaining grade records?
    • Giving a percentage of the final grade based on activities in section meetings?
    • Recording attendance?
    • Proctoring exams?
    • Maintaining or creating online resources for students?
  3. Is there a photocopying code for this class that I can use?
  4. What do you expect the students to know or be able to do from prior courses? If you expect wide variation in students' backgrounds, is there anything specific I should do in response (e.g. offer tutoring, conduct review sessions, find extra "challenge" assignments)?
  5. As a TA, how much will I interact with students? Will students be expected to attend sections meetings, participate actively in discussion, seek help with assignments out of class, or attend help sessions? If section meetings are optional, how can students be encouraged to attend?
  6. As a TA or grader, how often will I meet with you to discuss the course? If there are multiple TAs, will we all meet to discuss how to coordinate activities?
  7. What are the criteria for grading in this course, and how can I be sure my grading is calibrated to your standards? Specifically,
    • Will we go over any of the grading of assignments together, or will you check my grading of a sample of assignments?
    • Will you provide a grading key or rubric for assignments? If not, should I/may I use my own?
    • How tough/easy a grader should I be?
    • Do you have a desired distribution for grades for each assignment and/or the overall grade for the course?
    • How is partial credit awarded?
    • How will the final grades be determined?
  8. If there are multiple TAs, how will we coordinate activities? In particular,
    • How will we divide the grading to insure parity, consistency, etc.?
    • How will we formulate a common answer key or rubric for assignments?
    • How do we make sure we are calibrated with each other?
  9. About what policies, if any, do I have authority to make decisions and for what issues do you want me to refer questions to you?
    • Requests for redoing assignments
    • Requests for re-grading
    • Granting extensions
    • Accepting late assignments
    • Giving make-up assignments
    • Responding to suspected cheating or plagiarism
    • Helping a student find additional assistance for personal or academic problems
  10. Is there a syllabus for this class? Do you have due dates for all of the assignments and/or tests set before the class begins? If not, how much advance warning will the students (and I) receive about assignments and/or tests?
  11. What are the books and/or other materials for this course? Will I receive a desk copy of the text? Will I receive handouts before or at the same time as the students? Will non-text materials be available online? Should non-text materials be made available to students who do not come to class the day they are handed out?
  12. What are your policies for this class? Specifically,
    • Will you allow students into the course behond the cap? If so, how many?
    • Is there a policy for late assignments?
    • Is there a policy for class/recitation section attendance?
    • Is there a policy for how assignments are turned in? For example, can they be turned in via email or the digital drop box, or must they be turned in as a hard copy? If they can be turned in via email, to whom will they be sent?
    • Is there a policy for collaboration on assignments?
    • Is there a policy for redoing assignments?
    • If a student wants an extension, will you send them to me first, or take care of it yourself? If you take care of it yourself, how will I be notified of the outcome?
  13. How much flexibility do I have in how I fulfill my responsibilities? Specifically,
    • What aspects of my teaching are important to maintain consistency across sections or to fulfill specific course objectives?
    • How quickly do you expect me to grade the assignments?
    • How detailed should comments I give on assignments be?
    • If I am maintaining grade records, is there a specific format I should use?
  14. In what ways will my work be evaluated?
    • Faculty review of graded exams or papers
    • Classroom visits and feedback
    • Videotaping and review
    • Early or midterm course evaluations
    • End-of-course student evaluations via Faculty Course Evaluations (FCEs)
    • End-of-course student evaluations specific to TA responsibilities

If, for any reason, you are experiencing difficulties with the professor that you are unable to resolve yourself, you should contact either the Director of Undergraduate Studies or the Head of the Department. Difficulties students have had in the past are: communication break-downs, personality clashes, too much work per week. We have always been able to resolve these problems, so we encourage you to come talk to us about any issues.