Information for Teaching Assistants

Learn more about the variety of TA positions available, the role of teaching supervisors and details about the Graduate Student Support Plan (GSSP).   

Summary - Basic Duties of Teaching Assistants

There are many types of teaching assistant (TA) positions, each of which is described below.

TA for PSY 200 Introduction to Psychology

TA responsibilities usually include taking attendance at the lectures, setting up audio-visual equipment, assisting in the proctoring of exams, keeping grade rolls, holding some office hours, etc. Depending upon the situation and the Primary Instructor, an opportunity to present a guest lecture may be available.

Auxiliary-Support Assignments

The program Coordinator will specify the duties of this TA. Those duties may involve assisting a particular faculty member with a course that can use some extra help, but which does not normally have a TA, or they might involve helping the faculty member with his/her scholarly activities.

Alternatively, the assignment could involve providing short-term assistance to several different faculty members during the semester. Another possibility would be assisting with administrative work relevant to operating the program itself.

Usually, such auxiliary assignments make up no more than half of a TA's total commitment (i.e., approximately ten hours/week). The remaining ten hours are for handling other duties (e.g., working for a PSY 200 Instructor).

In a few cases, it may be necessary to modify an auxiliary assignment to accommodate some new or unexpected special need of the department. If such a situation should arise, all parties (TA, Program Coordinator, etc.) will be contacted as soon as possible.

Primary Instructor

Primary Instructors have full responsibility for a specific course or section. (This assignment involves more than serving as a Laboratory or Discussion TA). Although a Primary Instructor may certainly seek help from appropriate faculty members, the Primary Instructor does have the duty to organize the course, prepare the syllabus, teach the class (using whatever methods best fit the course content), hold office hours, provide evaluation procedures (e.g., exams, term papers, projects, etc.), grade student products, provide feedback, and submit final grades in a timely fashion at the end of the semester.

Primary instructors are also responsible for ordering whatever textbooks will be used in their class(es). Let the bookstore know what book(s) students should buy, and approximately how many copies should be on hand at the start of the semester (After ordering materials, please print a copy of the order form and provide it to Veronica Norris in Poe 640, so the department has a record of books for all courses.)

Most publishers offer an "instructor's copy," which can usually be obtained by contacting the publisher directly (by phone or via the web).  The publisher may call the main office to confirm your teaching status. The requested materials should then be sent directly to the instructor, NOT the department office. Occasionally, there is a problem receiving requested texts, but this does not happen often.

Assistance for Upper-Level Courses

TA responsibilities may include taking attendance at the lectures, setting up audio-visual equipment, assisting in proctoring exams, keeping grade rolls, holding some office hours, etc.

For Distance Education classes, TAs often handle correspondence with students. Exact duties will be explained in more detail by the Primary Instructor(s) for the course. Depending upon the Primary Instructor, an opportunity to present a guest lecture may be available.

Laboratory TAs for the Stats/Methods Courses (the PSY 240-243 sequence)

TAs assigned to lab sections in the statistics/methods sequence also have a responsibility to work with the person in charge of the lecture class to which that lab is attached. This responsibility may include attendance at the lectures, assistance in proctoring exams, etc. The Primary Instructor for the main lecture has overall responsibility for the entire course, including labs. The Lab TA is primarily responsible for running the assigned lab section, presenting problems and answering questions, grading any homework and (often) providing a grade for student performance in the Lab.

Advising Office

Assignment is to provide assistance in the Advising Office, Department of Psychology, under the supervision of Christina Hobbs, Coordinator for Undergraduate Advising. The TA should discuss issues such as specific duties and the scheduling of activities with Ms. Hobbs. She will serve as the TA's supervisor and will submit a standard performance evaluation to the Psychology Department at the end of each semester.

Lead-TA (Experimetrix Webmaster)

The position of Lead-TA requires some modest expertise in web-based software. It also involves the ability to handle details with care, consideration and confidentiality, as the situation requires. The Lead-TA is responsible for instructing both TAs and faculty in using the Experimetrix system (using or revising the various instructional materials already prepared). The TA needs good communication skills, because the web-administrator must interact with several constituencies -- student and faculty researchers, instructors, course TAs and, occasionally, the people at Experimetrix.

In addition, the Lead TA is responsible for coordinating the involvement of other PSY 200 TAs across sections (for example, when additional personnel are needed to assist in proctoring exams).

When a new Experimetrix webmaster is appointed (usually between one academic year and the next), the current Lead-TA is expected to provide the training needed, to get that person up-to-speed in the tasks required, even if this instruction falls beyond the end of the Spring semester.

School Psychology Support

Under the supervision of Dr. Patricia Collins, Clinic Director, school psychology graduate students may be assigned to assist in the Psychoeducational Clinic in a manner appropriate to their training.

Role of the Teaching Supervisor(s)

Each TA is assigned a teaching supervisor - usually, either a faculty member who frequently has charge of the same course or a faculty member who is familiar with the course content. TAs should feel free to call upon their supervisors as necessary when they have questions or concerns about the course. If they have duties that place you in front of a class, to lecture or lead a discussion, etc., then the supervisor should attend at least one class during the semester (two, if this is the TA's first semester teaching) and provide the TA with feedback. A standard observation form is available for this purpose.

In the event that an "assisting TA" is assigned to help a Primary Instructor who is another graduate student, an additional supervisor will be appointed. This will be a faculty member who can serve as a mediator, should there be any dispute between the assisting TA and the Primary Instructor. Although the day-to-day operation of a course is the responsibility of the Primary Instructor, regardless of whether that person is a faculty member or a graduate student, in the rare case of serious conflict, the faculty supervisor will make any final decisions, based upon what appears necessary for the well-being of the class.

GSSP Benefits and Notification of the University Cashier

As part of the Graduate Student Support Plan (GSSP), a TA appointment may carry any or all of the following benefits:

  • student health insurance
  • a waiver of in-state tuition (full coverage of the additional tuition required for non-resident students)

See the GSSP Handbook for eligibility requirements and other information.

Information for First-Time Instructors

The Psychology Department maintains a Moodle project site for TAs with links to campus resources and information to assist TAs in setting up their courses and developing professionally. All TAs have access to this site. Access is via