Responsibilities of Teaching Assistants

TA Work Rules

These rules are intended as a general job description for students employed as Teaching assistants in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Teaching Assistants should be sure to discuss any problem with Faculty Teaching Assistant Advisor and/or any member of the subcommittee of the Graduate Committee (making TA assignments). Teaching Assistants will be given advance notice of any significant changes made to the ECE Teaching Assistant's job description or responsibilities.

The Role of the TA and The Instructor

Teaching Assistants enhance the learning experience of UCSD students by complementing the activities of the course instructor. TAs receive training under the mentorship and supervision of the instructor.


The TA and the instructor share joint responsibility for ensuring that each understands the division of work responsibilities.

TA duties include the following: facilitate a discussion section or tutorial; hold weekly office hours; grade homework, programming assignments, exams, or projects; keep records; distribute and copy reading materials; prepare answer keys or supplementary notes; and act as the course web-master. TAs may be required to attend the instructor's lecture regularly.


In accordance with University rules, all TAs are required to participate in the TA training program provided by the Center for Teaching Development. This requirement will not be waived regardless of prior teaching experience. Faculty should periodically evaluate the TAs performance and provide the TA with constructive feedback. Effective Spring 2004, the union must be given 30 minutes of time during the department orientation.


TAs with a standard 50% time appointment should normally work between 16 and 20 hours per week (8 to 10 hours for TAs with a part-time 25% appointment). Workload may fluctuate from week to week, but a TA should speak to the instructor if they are unable to complete their work in 20 hours per week (10 hours for 25% time TAs). Both the TA and the instructor are jointly responsible for ensuring that the workload time limit is not exceeded.

A TA may not be employed as a substitute instructor, where the effect is to relieve the instructor of his or her teaching responsibilities. (This is specifically prohibited by University Policy.) In the event that an instructor is absent from school, they will normally ask another faculty member to act as a substitute. However, in the event of an emergency, the Department Chair may ask the TA to substitute for the instructor. A TA may decline to substitute for the instructor if doing so would interfere with their studies (e.g. a class), or if they feel unprepared to lecture. Whenever a TA serves as a substitute lecturer, a faculty member shall be appointed to supervise.

Course Credit

The ECE Department allows TAs to take up to four units of ECE 501 each quarter they are employed as a TA. ECE 501 may be taken for S/U grade only.

Work Attendance and Preparation

TA course responsibilities begin at the start of the academic quarter and continue until the final grades have been turned in, usually the Tuesday after the end of final exams. TAs are responsible for contacting the instructor for their course prior to the first day of instruction.

TAs are expected to be present during scheduled office hours or sections. If a TA must cancel office hours or sections due to illness or another conflict, they should notify their students as soon as possible preferably by an announcement in the course lecture, but at least by having a notice posted at the appropriate location. The instructor should also be notified. Canceled office hours or sections should be rescheduled, if possible, in consultation with the instructor.

TAs are expected to be adequately prepared for office hours and sections. (For sections, it is common to spend as much time preparing examples or other notes as in the section itself.)

Compliance with Academic Appointment Guidelines

TAs have academic appointments and must comply with all the regulations relating to such a position. These include regulations prohibiting Sexual Harassment, misuse of University property, substance abuse, and any violations of the law. The definitive source about such regulations is the UCSD Policy & Procedures Manual.

Graduate students who accept an offer of a teaching assistantship have a professional obligation to teach during that period. Students who are not able to fulfill their commitment to teach should notify the Department as early as possible in order that a qualified replacement may be found. Only students with equal to or greater than a 25% teaching appointment are eligible for a partial fee remission; students who elect not to teach, or who reduce their workload to less than a 25% appointment must obtain tuition support from another source, (i.e., Graduate Student Researcher).


All completed assignments, exams, grades, correspondence, and other information about individual students in the class shall be kept confidential except where the student has give written consent. In particular:

  • No student in the class should ever be allowed access to a TA computer account or to TA files. Grade files on the computer should be kept protected.
  • Grades should never be posted by name, nor by any identifying number such as a student ID or social security number.
  • Graded assignments should not be left in a public place.
  • Answer keys or exam materials should be kept secure in a locked drawer.

These provisions are consistent with Federal and State privacy laws.

Use of Authority

Decisions made by TAs have a significant effect on their students' grades. TAs should carry out their responsibilities professionally, and be especially careful not to abuse their authority. TAs should evaluate student work objectively and fairly. In particular:

  • TAs may not agree to be paid as tutors for students in their class. These students would by definition receive preferential access to the TA.
  • TAs should not become romantically involved with students in their class. Such involvement makes objective evaluation difficult and also raises questions of sexual harassment.
  • If a TA has a friend or partner who is a student in the class, then they should not grade that students's papers.


On rare occasions, a TA may be threatened or harassed by a student, either in person or by electronic mail. These problems should be taken seriously. The TA must immediately report the incident to the instructor and to the TA Faculty Advisor, who will attempt to resolve the problem.