The upper-division curriculum group has agreed on the following policy for TA and grader responsibilities.
We teach two Paradigms per quarter, and each Paradigm has one TA. TAs may be hired as either full-time ("1.0TA" or 0.40 FTE) or half-time ("0.5TA" or 0.20). The full-time TA has duties that average out to 16 hours/week over the quarter, while a half-time TA has duties that average out to 8 hours/week over the quarter. See below for a description of how the hourly expectations break down for each course role.
We expect graduate students to be assigned as Paradigms TAs and graders. While it is possible for these jobs to be handled by undergraduate students, it is rare that an undergraduate student will develop a sufficiently deep level of understanding to either TA or grade homework at the level we expect. Note that we do have Learning Assistants (when the class size is large) who assists in class and attends prep meetings with the professor, but their job is not described in this document.
Homework grading policies
- Homework is due Wednesdays and Fridays. The homework should be returned the following Friday and Monday, respectively, in class. This gives the grader a rather short window in which to complete grading.
- Graders will cap their time spent grading a homework at 6 hours, with a little leeway such that any problems they grade will be graded for all students. This means the grader may not grade all problems in the problem set (or all portions of the problems). We may revisit this cap later, but the number of hours spent grading should not be increased by individual professors. Paradigms TAs have many demands that are placed on them, and need to be able to plan ahead. Because hours spent grading are required to be spent in a relatively narrow window each week, and because grading is often most efficient and effective when done in large solid blocks, we cannot ask students to make additional time for grading during a given Paradigm.
- All graders will meet with the professor (along with the TA) prior to office hours in which students may have questions on that homework. During this meeting the professor will establish guidelines for how to grade the problems and prioritize grading. Also, the professor will ensure the grader has a solution set. The grader should ask for clarification on any problems that they are uncertain about, for instance if there may be multiple correct solutions, or if there are common errors that are anticipated.
- All graders will have a separate meeting after the problem set is graded, in which they will report to the professor on the problem set. This should include both how the grading process went (e.g. did they need to skip problems) and how the student performance was. In particular, this is an opportunity to discuss difficulties the students are having. The TA should also be present for this meeting, so they can be involved in the discussion of student difficulties.
- TAs who are grading are expected to meet one additional time with the professor so that they will be aware of what is going on with the other problem set each week. We believe this additional perspective will be helpful in grading their own problem set, and in ensuring that the grading of each problem set is reasonably consistent.
- Each problem (or section of a problem) will be graded on either a 0/1/2 scale or (for more challenging problems) a 0/2/4 scale. This is intended to speed the grading process, as the grader need only determine whether the student got the problem (2) basically right, (1) put in a good effort, or (0) either did not do the problem, it was legible, or put negligible effort into the problem. In addition, the grader may give one bonus point per problem set to solutions that are unusually clearly written.
- TAs (but not graders) are expected to spend 1 hour/week doing "course improvement" activities. This can involve typing up hand-written solutions, improving existing solutions (to add discussion of difficulties students have), or creating documentation describing the problems for future graders.
Hours expected of TAs
A full-time TA is expected to work for 16 hours/week on average, over 11 weeks. They are also expected to work for one week before and after the eleven weeks of instruction + finals, but those hours of work cannot be shifted into the term, and are something of a mystery. Each TA is expected to spend 2 hours proctoring a final exam (we have two final exams, and two TAs, so each TA proctors one final). Typically the professor will also proctor, so that there can be a "quiet room." This leaves a full-time TA with 14 hours that are not spent working during finals week, and a half-time TA with 6 hours not spent working during finals week. These hours are distributed over the weeks of instruction. There is also a maximum of 24 hours that a student can be asked to work in any one week.
A significant contribution to any TA assignment is prep time. This typically involves the TA reading over the course material and solving problems on their own to ensure that they are ready to help students. This prep time needs to be self-directed, as each TA will need to shore up their own weaknesses and aspects of the course with which they are unfamilar. Meetings with the professor can reduce the prep time required by a TA, provided the meeting involves discussing course content, how problems are solved, etc. One can hope that time spent with a professor is more efficient than self-directed prep time, hence if TAs spend less time meeting with a professor, we must assume that the TA will need to spend correspondingly more time on their own familiarizing themselves with the material.
Duties of a half-time TA
A half-time TA only works during the 5 weeks of their course.
Duty for 5 "on" weeks
- Time spent in class: 7 hours/week
- Office hours: 2 hours/week
- Meetings with prof (or more prep): 5 hours/week
- Course improvement: 1 hours/week
- Prep for class: 2.2 hours/week
- Total: 17.2 hours/week
The duties of the half-time TA total 17.2 hours/week for 5 weeks, which when 2 hours of proctoring are added in reaches the total allowed hours for the quarter.
Duties of the full-time TA
The duties of a full-time TA are a superset of the duties of the half-time TA. The full-time TA works during both halves of the quarter. Their additional duties consist of grading one problem set per week for all ten weeks as well as meeting with the professor and doing "Course development" during the other half of the quarter. Work done all quarter long
Duty for 10 weeks
- Time spent grading: 6 hours/week
- Total: 6 hours/week
During the "other" Paradigm, the full-time TA will meet with the professor 3 times per week to get instructions on homework and give feedback on student work.
Duty for 5 "off" weeks
- Meet with prof: 3 hours/week
- Course improvement: 2.6 hours/week
- Total: 5.6 hours/week
Average hours/week = 8.6 (0.5TA duties) + 6 (actual grading) + 2.8 ("off" meetings and course improvement) = 17.4. When 2 hours of proctoring are added in, this reaches the total allowed hours for the quarter.
Note that the total hours spent by the full-time TA is twice that of the half-time TA, but some of that work is spread across the entire quarter.
Note also that during their "on" quarter, the full-time TA works 17.2+6 = 23.2 hours/week. This is only slightly under the maximum workload per week, so the most additional work the full-time TA could be expected to do during their "on" week would be 0.8 hours in a given week. In practice, we would prefer to leave this margin, in case grading takes unexpectedly longer in a given week (e.g. if finishing up the last problem graded takes longer than expected).
Duties of the grader
The duties of a grader are a subset of extra duties of the full-time TA during their "off" weeks. A Paradigms grader works during only one half of the quarter. Their duties consist of grading one problem set per week for 5 weeks as well as meeting with the professor.
Duty for 5 weeks
- Time spent grading: 6 hours/week
- Meet with prof: 2 hours/week
- Total: 8 hours/week
The grader works 8 hours/week for 5 weeks, for an average of 4 hours/week over the 10-week period, or 3.64 hours/week over the 11-week period.