Teaching Assistant Duties - University of Houston
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Teaching Assistant Duties

A Teaching Assistant (TA) in the UH Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences is responsible for performing 15 – 20 hours of service per week as a condition for receipt of their stipend. This service may consist of several components, including laboratory teaching, Geoscience Learning Center (GLC) tutorial assignments, class grading, proctoring tests, assisting in lecture classes, attending departmental and discipline seminars, and assisting and/or driving for field trips.  These duties are assigned by your TA supervisors (Jinny Sisson and Dan Hauptvogel).

Your TA assignment will start with TA 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 their duties are complete. 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 higher and demonstrate satisfactory progress on your degree plan. This means choosing an advisory committee, submitting a manuscript or passing your qualifying exam, passing your thesis proposal, etc. Consult the department guidelines for M.S. and Ph.D. students (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.

  1. Laboratory Teaching: Most undergraduate laboratories meet for two sessions a week that are one hour and twenty minutes long. Each lab is generally assigned two TA instructors, one serving as lead and the other as an assistant. However, 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 must arrange in advance for a substitute 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.
    • Both TAs may grade lab assignments and enter grades into Canvas. Grades should be available to students within one week of assignment submission.
    • The lead TA is also responsible for setting up the lab assignments.
    • Most lab courses have a weekly meeting to review the assignments and train new TAs about the procedures. Typically, these are on Friday afternoons.
  2. Geoscience Learning Center (GLC): Normally, each TA will be assigned to spend a minimum of 2 hours per week in the GLC. Specifics about GLC policy are available on the EAS website for GLC Duties and FAQ.
    • You must show up and leave on time. If you have an obligation before or after your GLC shift that makes it difficult to either arrive on time or have to leave early, be sure to let your fellow TAs know your schedule. Never leave the GLC unattended.
    • We monitor your time in the GLC. You will get a warning if you miss more than 15 minutes of your shift. Habitual offenders will have their TA position terminated.
  3. Proctoring: this is to supervise or monitor students during tests or exams for either the lecture portion associated with the lab class or an introductory-level class. Some faculty may also require help with in-class assignments and grading.
    • Proctors must show up at least 5 minutes before the test 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 notify the faculty immediately and 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 graded. All scantrons must be returned to the faculty member or their mailbox in SR1 312.
    • Communicate with the faculty member for the course you are assigned to get the test dates in advance. If you cannot be there, arrange a substitute well in advance. Your substitute must be approved by your faculty member.
    • This may involve reviewing Respondus videos for cheating.
  4. Class Grading: Some TAs may only be assigned as graders for courses without formal teaching duties. Work should be graded within one week of submission. In addition, TAs may be required to attend 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.
  5. Field trips: 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 four 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.
    • 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).
  6. Seminar:
    • You must attend the Friday departmental seminars. If you have a valid reason to miss the Friday seminar, please get in touch with both of the GLC co-directors (Jinny Sissonand Dan Hauptvogel) in advance of the seminar. Also, if you are sick, let us know as soon as possible. You may have up to 3 unexcused absences per semester as a TA.

Students who receive graduate assistantships (i.e., teaching assistantships/TAs or research assistantships/RAs) may not be employed full-time elsewhere. Part-time employment concurrent with an assistantship must be disclosed to and approved by the student’s department prior to the beginning of the term of the assistantship.

TAs whose primary language is not English are required to demonstrate proficiency in spoken English before being hired as a TA. The specific requirements are given in the UH graduate catalog. Please note these requirements are stricter than those for admission.

Additional Resources

Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL at www.cirtl.net). 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 “Teaching and Learning STEM: A Practical Guide” by R.M. Felder and R. Brent John Wiley and Sons, 2016