Working as (or with) a Teaching Assistant

Teaching assistants and technical assistants (TAs) are vital members of CEU’s learning community. TAs support instructors and improve student learning while gaining experience and preparation for their own academic careers. The role of a teaching assistant is not to replace the instructor of record, but to support classroom teaching and learning in various ways.

Support for Teaching Assistants and Faculty Working with TAs

The Yehuda Elkana Center for Teaching, Learning, and Higher Education Research collaborates with departments, individual faculty members, and teaching assistants to support TAs' development as early-career teachers.

The Elkana Center recommends that all students enroll in YELC 6001/6003 Foundations of Teaching and Learning (joint seminar/tutorial) no later than the semester in which they fulfill their initial teaching practicum (unpaid TAship). The Foundations course introduces doctoral students to key teaching concepts and practices, and is focused on designing and facilitating effective class sessions. Furthermore, Foundations offers students the opportunity to integrate their classroom learning with their experiences while TAing. For example, where appropriate and with the permission of the supervising faculty member, a TA might teach a session in the second half of the semester, receiving session design feedback in the Foundations course from Elkana Center faculty and peers prior to teaching, as well as feedback from observing the session.

Paid TAships are awarded by departments and programs, which are required to give preference to students who have completed the Foundations course, and especially the full Certificate of Teaching in Higher Education.

The Elkana Center supports TAs and their faculty mentors in other ways, including workshops (such as the Getting Started with Your TA-ship workshop, offered in September and January), public events, and individual consultations. Please contact elkanacenter@ceu.edu for further details.

Types of Teaching Assistantships

There are four types of TAs at CEU: 

  • All doctoral students are required to participate in an unpaid teaching practicum. This is an educational experience for doctoral students that provides training in, and hands-on experience with, classroom teaching at the university level.
  • Technical assistants provide technical support before, during or after a synchronous class session.
  • Paid course assistants support classroom teaching by helping instructors manage course content, student participation, and grading. They typically work in large or complex courses. 
  • Doctoral student tutors teach practice or discussion sections to complement large, lecture-based courses.

This table of TA roles at CEU (PDF) summarizes the scope of each teaching assistant role, as well as the workload expectations that professors must observe. For a full description of each role, access the Graduate Student Teaching Policy at CEU and Addendum.​​​​​​​

Recommendations for Faculty Working with TAs

Here are some general recommendations for working with teaching assistants:

  • Consider and discuss the overall role of the TA in your course. Is the focus compatible with the expected number of work hours?​​ With the TA's academic and career goals?
  • Meet before the semester to discuss the course. You might talk about the syllabus, expectations, work hours and processes, tasks, how to have an effective two-way dialogue, and how to handle problems.
  • Jointly establish deadlines.
  • If a TA will be grading, consider meeting twice, first to talk through process and what you look for when grading, and shortly later for second marking a subset of assignments. You might also provide an example of a graded assignment.
  • Be mindful of power asymmetries and constraints on TAs' time and expertise.  

When planning a technology-integrated course that is supported by TAs, you might also discuss the following:

  • Ask them about their familiarity with CEU-supported technology. How comfortable are they with Moodle, Zoom, Microsoft Office, and other tools you might wish to use? Consider that you might need to provide mentorship with these technologies, and that you can both reach out to the Elkana Center or IT for additional support. 
  • Ensure that they have appropriate permission and access to your Moodle course, Zoom calls, and shared documents.
  • Consider what they can do during synchronous class sessions to support instruction. For example, they could monitor and respond to students in chat; help remote students troubleshoot technical issues; facilitate Zoom breakout rooms during small group discussions; or manage shared documents. 

Reference: UMassAmherest Center for Teaching & Learning, n.d.