Develop a TA Contract for Your Course
This page was written by Kelsey Bitting (Dept. of Geology, University of Kansas) and Geoff Cook (Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego), drawing on discussions and contributions from the 2014 Getting the Most Out of your Introductory Courses workshop.
Many departments and universities have formal contracts that teaching assistants sign prior to beginning their duties, especially in the case of GTAs with semester-long formal appointments tied to their salary. However, these forms rarely include information about instructor- or course-specific details or expectations. Defining those details in a contract at the beginning of the semester aids in the effective communication of expectations to teaching assistants for all kinds of courses, including introductory courses.
Things to Include in a TA Contract:
- The nature of the course: Describe how your course fits into the department curriculum or university programs such as general education and how this may affect the role of the teaching assistant. For example, is the course a means of recruiting students into the major? If so, teaching assistants also serve a role as a recruiter for the department. Does the course fulfill degree or general education requirements? If so, teaching assistants should be aware that students are required to take the course.
- Course structure and role of the TA: Describe how you structure the course and the skills and concepts that are the most important outcomes. Is this a traditional lecture, active lecture, or active learning course? What will classes be like, and what is the TA's role in the course overall and in helping students reach your goals?
- TA duties and responsibilities: Describe your expectations for what your TA will do. Where do GTAs need to be, and when? For example, do they need to attend all of the lectures if they are teaching a lab? How many office hours do they need to schedule? Try to describe how much time you expect GTAs to devote to their responsibilities (this should align with their salary). Also consider how much the time commitment fluctuates across the semester, and when you expect it will be heaviest. Examples of responsibilities may include (but are not limited to):
- Taking attendance
- Proctoring exams
- Giving lectures or performing demonstrations
- Leading activities/discussions
- Leading or assisting with field trips
- Conducting review sessions
- Facilitating student learning in the classroom
- Maintaining online resources
- Preparing or editing instructional materials
- Course policies: Describe your own policies for late assignments, make-up exams, extensions, etc., and define your expectations for turnaround times and feedback on assignments and assessments. Can TAs set their own policies, or should they follow yours? How will they address academic misconduct/integrity issues such as plagiarism and cheating? When should TAs make their own decisions and when should they bring problems to you?
- Teaching evaluation: Evaluating teaching assistants is an important part of helping them develop as professionals. Describe how they will be evaluated, which could be through standard, institution-wide forms, or through other ways that allow for more feedback and improvement. Possibilities for evaluation include classroom visits or videotaping, teaching feedback or review, evaluation of graded work, or student evaluations.
Sample TA Contracts
- Template of a contract for an undergraduate teaching assistant (Acrobat (PDF) 65kB Sep29 14), receiving credit for their work
- Sample of a contract for a graduate teaching assistant for studio photography (Acrobat (PDF) 20kB Sep17 14) at Mary Baldwin College
- Template for developing a graduate teaching assistant contract (Acrobat (PDF) 84kB Sep17 14) from the University of Delaware Center for Teaching and Learning