Getting Started

Understanding Your Responsibilities/Contract

In order to get the most out of your position it is important that you understand your responsibilities right from the outset. Those responsibilities are outlined for you in your contract. It tells you how many hours you should devote to the course over the academic year. Read your contract carefully. It is important for you to keep a written log of the hours you devote to the course on a week-by-week basis.

The course instructor is your main supervisor for fulfilling the terms of the contract. It is important that you discuss all of the terms of the contract with her/him and come to an agreement on grading assignments before you sign the contract. The course instructor is also there to help you complete the Teaching Portfolio Development portion of your contract, which will include some form of delivery of class material. Take the time to get know your course instructor and make sure you have a clear understanding of what is expected of you.

Questions to Ask the Course Instructor

(Adapted from the TA Training & Development Program: Survival Guide, University of Guelph, 2003.)

  • What are the terms of my appointment? (Hrs/wk, facilitating or marking, etc)
  • What will be my duties and what proportion of my time will they take? (Seminars, lab demonstrations, reviews, office hours, field trip supervision, grading, lecturing, exam invigilation…)
  • If my duties include meetings, what should I come prepared to discuss?
  • Are there other AAVs involved with this course? How will we ensure consistency for our students?
  • What can you tell me about the course? (Course syllabus, intended learning outcomes, demographics, history, learning activities, and my place in their design, implementation, or assessment)
  • What are the course policies with regard to late submissions, missed classes? Are there other policies of which I should be aware of?

Take the time to determine how much supervision you’ll have and how much autonomy; for example, will your lesson plans be checked in advance? If you’re leading seminars, find out how much your teaching involves reinforcing lecture material and how much involves introducing new material.