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Teaching Assistant Duties

A Teaching Assistant (TA) in the UH Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences is responsible for performing up to 20 hours of service per week as a condition for receipt of their stipend. This service may consist of several different components including laboratory teaching assignments, class grading assistants, proctoring tests, assisting in lecture classes, attending departmental and discipline seminars, assist and drive for field trips, and Geoscience Learning Center (GLC) tutorial assignments. UH policy is that you may not have any other paid job while you are a TA. If you are working more than 20 hours per week, please consult with the TA supervisors (Jinny Sisson and Dan Hauptvogel).

Your TA assignment will start with TA training which is typically a four to six hour training held the Friday before classes begin. You must be available to perform your TA duties through the last day of final exams each semester or longer if your professor needs help with grading. TAs should not leave for holidays until your duties are complete. Please do not arrange for substitutes for your duties to go on vacation or start an internship. You are paid to be on campus and should be here to fulfill all your obligations as a TA.

To remain a TA, you must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or greater as well as demonstrate satisfactory progress on your degree plan. This means choosing an advisory committee, passing your qualifying exam or writing and submitting manuscript, passing your thesis proposal, etc. Consult the department guidelines for M.S. and Ph.D. students to get the requirements for your progress (see Overview of Degree Programs).

The following are descriptions of primary TA duties and responsibilities. You can be dismissed from your TA position if you are not completing these duties. Other ways to get dismissed as a TA are given below.

  1. Geoscience Learning Center (GLC) component: Normally each TA will be assigned to spend a minimum of 2 hours per week in the GLC. Specifics about GLC policy are available in the GLC (see GLC Duties and FAQ).
    • You must show up and leave on time. If you have to routinely be late or leave early to get to and from a class or lab, be sure that you let your fellow TAs know your schedule. Never leave the GLC unattended.
    • We monitor your time in the GLC. If you miss more than 15 minutes of your shift, you will get a warning. Missing more than 45 minutes during the semester may result in dismissal as a TA.
  2. Proctoring component: Generally, each TA will help proctor the exams for either the lecture portion associated with the lab class and/or an introductory level class.
    • Proctors must show up at least 5 minutes before the class starts to help hand out test material (tests and scantrons).
    • Proctors will circulate through the lecture hall to monitor for cheating (e.g., looking at someone else’s test, using cell phones, using crib sheets, talking, etc.). Be sure to immediately notify the faculty and also get another TA or faculty member to witness the possible academic dishonesty.
    • Proctors may also help grade the tests or take the scantrons to the testing service to be grade. All scantrons need to be returned to the faculty member or their mailbox in S&R 316.
    • Communicate with the faculty member for the course you are assigned to get the test dates in advance. If you cannot be there, arrange for a substitute well in advance. Your substitute has to be approved by your faculty member.
    • Missing your proctor assignment may result in dismissal as a TA.
  3. Class Grading component: Each TA who is assigned to grade for a class will grade exercises and show how to solve any incorrect answers. It is the TAs responsibility to contact the faculty for the assigned class to accommodate their needs. Some TAs may be required to go to a class to explain the problem sets. You will also be responsible for helping with proctoring tests for this course and grading these, if requested by the faculty. If you do not assist routinely in grading, you may be dismissed as a TA.
  4. Field trip component: Many courses have field trips that are either required or optional for extra credit. These may require you to work on a weekend or during a school holiday such as spring break.
    • If you are assigned to Physical Geology, there are 4 different kinds of field trips that you may be asked to participate in.
    • To drive a UH vehicle or rental van for a field trip, you must have a valid Texas driver’s license and pass the UH vehicle safety training (
    • You may be asked to help organize equipment before and after the trip.
    • If you will be a TA for Structural Geology, Field Methods or summer Geology Field Camp, it is advisable to take a Wilderness First Aid course and get CPR training (available at Campus Recreation Center).
  5. Seminar component:
    • Every TA must attend their discipline seminar and participate with read papers, discussions, talks, etc. You must attend every week unless excused by the professor in charge of the discipline seminar in advance.
    • Also, every TA needs to attend the Friday departmental seminars. If you have a valid reason to miss the Friday seminar, please contact both of the GLC co-directors (Jinny Sisson and Dan Hauptvogel) in advance of the seminar. If you are sick, let us know as soon as possible. You may have up to 3 unexcused absences per semester as a TA.
  6. Laboratory Teaching component: Each undergraduate laboratory meets for two sessions that are one hour and twenty minutes long. Each lab is generally assigned two instructors with one serving as lead and the other as assistant instructor. Some faculty suggest that both TAs share duties equally (see UH EAS Teaching Tips for Lab Classes).
    • Every lab TA must be present for each lab period.
    • If you cannot be present because of a prior engagement (e.g., going to AAPG, SEG, AGU, GSA meetings), you need to arrange in advance for a substitute that is approved by the faculty in charge of the course.
    • The lead TA may be responsible for preparing a syllabus for their lab section. Consult with your faculty member to see if this is necessary.
    • The lead TA is responsible for all the grading of lab assignments and entering the grades into Blackboard Learn.
    • The lead TA is also responsible for setting up the lab assignments.
    • Most lab courses have a weekly meeting to go over the assignments and train new TAs about the procedures. Typically these are on Friday afternoons.

UH policy and state law (HB 638) require that TAs whose primary language is not English to demonstrate proficiency in spoken English by either passing the UH administered SPEAK test with a score of 50 or the iBT test with a score of 25. If an international student has either a Bachelors or Masters degree from an English speaking university, they are exempt from this requirement (see for a list of approved countries). Other ways to demonstrate proficiency are to have a score of 25 or above on the spoken portion of the iBT TOEFL (Internet Based test - Test of English as a Foreign Language) or above a 6.5 on spoken portion of the IELTS (International English Language Testing Service). You cannot continue as a TA unless you demonstrate spoken language proficiency during your first semester.

Additional Resources

Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL at CIRTL is a network of universities including UH with a goal of enhancing excellence in undergraduate education in STEM fields with lots of opportunities for interacting with other TAs.

Various books on teaching skills such as E.F. Barkley “Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty” John Wiley and Sons, 2010 (especially parts two and three)