Teaching Assistant (TA) Support

Visual Overview of ASE Positions (TA/Reader/UGIA)

A Teaching Assistant (TA) assists in the instruction of any upper or lower division course at the University under the supervision of a faculty member. The TA also assists the faculty member in charge of the course by conducting discussion or laboratory sections that supplement faculty lectures and by grading assignments and examinations. Duties will be inclusive of a combination of the following responsibilities, depending on instructor's instructional needs.

  • Throughout the quarter, TA should meet with instructor on a regular basis (e.g., weekly) to ensure ongoing communication and should cover logistics as well as allow the instructor to discuss the philosophy of the course and details of how the course will be structured. It also lets TAs give the course instructor feedback concerning the course.
  • Attend all class lectures and instructional meetings.
  • Assist with course preparation (e.g. research articles for use in course, preparation of exam questions, lecture presentations, and photocopying course material).
  • Take attendance and help the instructor with setting up the classroom.
  • Hold review sessions.
  • Proctor examinations, and scribing.
  • Grade homework and exams.
  • Maintain course records and serve as a course‐webmaster to post assignments and readings.
  • Lead sections or discussions (depending on instructional need). TA is expected to have mastery of course material to provide quality services to students during discussions sections or office hours.
  • Hold office hours – length of time to be determined by the instructor. To schedule office hours please email hwsphedteam@health.ucsd.edu and the staff will do its best to accommodate your day/time preferences.

Note: TA course responsibilities begin at the start of the academic quarter and continue until the final grades have been turned in, which is usually the Tuesday following the end of the final exam period.

Assigned Hours for TAs: Please keep in mind that a TA is either 25% (10 hours a week) or 50% (20 hours a week). A 25% TAs can work a maximum of 110 hours for the quarter, cannot work over 40 hours in any one week and cannot work more than 8 hours in any one day. A 50% TAs can work a maximum of 220 hours for the quarter, cannot work over 40 hours in any one week and cannot work more than 8 hours in any one day.  Further information can be found in the Union Contract Agreement under Article 31.

Eligiblity Per Graduate Division: For the academic year employment at 25-50% time, a student must be registered full-time (12 units or more). A student enrolled in less than 12 units, with departmental approval, is eligible for a maximum of 25% time employment. (http://grad.ucsd.edu/financial/employment/ases/ase-employment-types.html - Refer to section: Graduate Student - ASE Minimum Qualifications)

Teaching+Learning Commons Instructional Support for TAs and IAs


HWSPH TA/READER SURVEY (New form coming soon...)

The HWSPH TA/READER Survey will be kept confidential and internal within the department; they will not be shared with the supervising faculty. The surveys will be de-identified and then reviewed by the Course Oversight Committee to improve the TA/Reader program. Please consider sharing with your faculty supervisor a few areas of improvement during an in-person meeting to promote personal and professional growth.

End of Quarter Evaluation

End of Quarter Evaluation

At the end of the quarter, course instructors evaluate TAs in the following areas:

  • Does the TA has a good understanding of the subject matter
  • Was the TA was well organized and prepared for class
  • Was the TA was accessible outside of class (office hours, e-mail, etc.)
  • How available was the TA to meet to review course materials, grading, and other teaching issues, as needed
  • Were the TA’s explanations were appropriate, being neither too complicated nor too simple
  • Did the TA consistently arrived at lecture, section/lab, office hours and exams on time
  • Did the TA graded fairly and accurately, providing constructive feedback to students
  • Did the TA returned tests and papers in a timely manner
  • Did the TA presented material in an intellectually stimulating way that gave students deeper insight into the material
  • Was the TA was genuinely interested in and enthusiastic about teaching
  • Overall rating of the TA and any additional constructive comments

The students in the course also have an opportunity to evaluate the TAs performance at the end of the quarter.  TAs will be notified via email when the evaluations are active, and are encouraged to invite students to participate.

Students will evaluate your performance in the following areas:

  • Was the TA was well organized and prepared for class
  • Did the TA consistently arrived at lecture, section, office hours, and exams on time
  • Did the TA’s presented course material clearly and answered questions accurately in class
  • Did the TA help develop thinking skills in the subject
  • Was feedback from the TA on assignments was helpful and constructive
  • Were the TA’s explanations were appropriate, being neither too complicated nor too simple
  • Did the TA clearly answered my questions clearly
  • Was the TA was genuinely interested in and enthusiastic about teaching
  • Was the TA was accessible outside of class (office hours, email, etc.)
  • Did the TA effectively connected sections with the material covered in lecture
  • Did the TA have any strengths and/or weaknesses
  • Any additional constructive comments

Additional Resources

Serve as a Bridge between Faculty and Students

Students are sometimes uneasy about speaking directly to the instructor when they are critical of course instruction or content. If a student voices concerns or criticism of the course to you, and you believe this criticism is valid and could lead to course improvements, we encourage you to politely share the student’s criticism with the instructor. In doing so, please make sure that you protect the student's anonymity.

Identifying Academic Dishonesty

At the beginning of the quarter, the instructor should provide you with their policies regarding cheating, plagiarism, and other forms of academic dishonesty. If they do not do this, please ask them for their policies.  You can find a variety of information about academic integrity at UC San Diego on the Academic Integrity Office’s website, https://academicintegrity.ucsd.edu/ including tips of how to prevent cheating on assignments or during exams.

If you suspect a student of cheating:

  • DO notify the course instructor as soon as you possibly can and let them deal with the problem.
  • DO NOT confront the student (either publically or privately) and accuse him or her of cheating.
  • DO keep any physical evidence (the exam paper, the paper on which you suspect plagiarism,etc.) that supports your belief that a student was cheating.
  • Give the physical evidence to the instructor, who can forward it to the appropriate office.
  • DO write a brief, factual account of the incident and keep it handy.  You may be called upon to describe your version of the incident in a formal review of the incident, and memory can be unreliable.

Discrimination and Sexual Harrassment

Discriminating against any student on political grounds or for reasons of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnic origin, or for any other arbitrary or personal reason is strictly prohibited.

Sexual harassment is a specific type of discrimination that is illegal under federal and state law and under UC San Diego policy.  It is defined as unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that is so severe or pervasive that it creates a hostile environment for a reasonable person.  Determining whether particular conduct constitutes sexual harassment depends on the specific features of the situation.  Sexual harassment may occur between persons who have different amounts of power or between peers.  Although the stereotype is generally of a male harassing a female, females can harass a male, or a male or female can harass a person of the same gender.  Harassment based on sexual orientation, gender identity discrimination, and gender stereotyping is also prohibited.

Campus Resources

If you or someone you know has a question about sexual harassment, please contact the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD).  You can leave a confidential voicemail at (858) 534-8298, email OPHD at ophd@ucsd.edu or visit at 201 University Center on the main campus at the corner of Gilman and Myers.  OPHD office hours are Monday through Friday 8:00 am to 4:30 pm.

Ethical Principles and Behavior

Appendix V, Part II, of the University of California Manual of Academic Senate (http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/senate/) describes faculty responsibilities, ethical principles, and types of unacceptable behavior.

As teachers, it is the job of course Instructors and TAs:

  • to encourage the free pursuit of learning in their students 
  • to hold before them the best scholarly standards of their discipline
  • to demonstrate respect for all students as individuals
  • to adhere to their proper role as intellectual guide and counselor 
  • to make every reasonable effort to foster academic integrity
  • to respect the confidential nature of the relationship between instructor/TA and student 
  • to avoid any exploitation of students for the instructor/TA's private advantage
  • to protect their academic freedom

Because of the power TAs hold over students in relation to their grades, TAs should note the following:

  • TAs cannot be paid by their students for out-of-class tutoring, because such students could receive preferential treatment by the TA. Even if a TA in that situation made a great effort to avoid favoritism, the appearance of favoritism could still remain.
  • TAs must avoid romantic involvement with students in their class.  Such involvement makes objective evaluation difficult and may also raise questions of a "hostile environment" for the student or sexual harassment. If you are already in a relationship with a student who plans to take the course you will be a TA for, please notify the course instructor of the situation so that together you can work out appropriate measures.

Running Discussion/Review Sessions

Running Discussion/Review Sessions

In some of the upper division classes, TAs support the teaching efforts of the faculty by providing small-group instruction or review sessions in a large lecture course.  This support is valuable to both instructors and students because the sheer size of a large course requires faculty to lecture.  TAs can provide individual attention during exercise and case study sessions, and that kind of attention greatly helps many students.  It is also helpful to review course content with students before exams.

In addition to being fully prepared before every section meeting, TAs should arrive at the session punctually and be available to the students during the entire session.  (Because space is precious in a crowded University, be careful not to prolong your section if it blocks access to another class that is scheduled in your room during the next block of time.)

Note that TAs can teach exercises or case studies effectively ONLY if they themselves are able to answer all the questions themselves and perform the calculations.  To ensure this level of competence, instructors usually require their TAs to go through the exercises or studies together before the exercise is scheduled in class.  For example, in some classes the TAs review the studies or exercises at weekly TA meetings.

Establish a Positive Class Atmosphere

Establishing a classroom atmosphere in which students are at ease and eager to learn is important.  You can foster a positive attitude in your students: 

  • by being enthusiastic about the subject matter you teach
  • by learning students' names (and having them learn each other's names)
  • by treating their ideas (and them) with respect
  • by being a careful listener

The atmosphere YOU create can decrease the sense of competition that can prevail among students at UC San Diego and that inhibits shyer students from participating. Classroom size and arrangement can also be important.  Whenever it is possible, try to arrange the class so that everyone sees everyone else.  Arranging the class in a circle or around a table may draw shyer students out and makes you a less intimidating figure.  To maintain class participation it is also very important to use positive reinforcement whenever students say something good and to do what you can to avoid embarrassing a student who says something incorrect.

Establish Rapport with your Students

  • Arrive early and chat with the students. Talk about how the class is going, or whatever comes up.
  • Find out what excites and concerns students. If it is a review session, find out what your students want to get out of it.  (CAUTION: just walking in and asking "Does anyone have any questions" typically elicits dead silence and of course you can't directly answer "What's going to be on the exam?")
  • Make eye contact. Exchange glances and smiles when it's appropriate. And don't just stick to the most responsive students; seek contact with the less interactive students as well.
  • Be alert to non-verbal cues of interest or readiness to speak, and call on those who look ready.
  • To build personal contact, you might try inviting each student to come to office hours at least once.
  • Get to know the individual interests of students and refer to them in class when the opportunity arises.
  • Go out of your way to encourage students who say little. You might try to find out informally why they don't participate.
  • Be sensitive to signs of your students' reactions:  listening posture, rustling of papers, gathering of books, scraping of feet and furniture etc.

How to Ask Questions Effectively

Asking questions is a great way to promote active learning on the part of your students.  You will frequently encounter teaching situations in which asking effective oral questions is your most important teaching tool.  As you formulate questions, decide whether you are more interested in eliciting specific answers or in stimulating general intellectual inquiry.  This decision, which depends on your particular discipline, will greatly affect the content of student discussions and how much flexibility you can have in letting student answers take their own shape.

Even if you decide you want a general intellectual inquiry, it is usually best to begin by discussing basic questions.  Initial questions should be simple, designed to test students' understanding of the lectures or the readings.  Probing for specific areas of understanding or misunderstanding is a necessary first step.  Once this basic understanding is achieved, you can move on to ask questions about larger units of material and about relationships among different aspects of the course material.

Level of Questions - It may be appropriate for your students to be able to approach your subject matter at different levels of complexity.  Sometimes you may be satisfied that a student has simply memorized a set of facts.  At other times, you may expect or at least hope for sophisticated reasoning.

Formulating Questions - The way in which you state your questions strongly affects their effectiveness.  Here are a few points to think about:

  • Avoid ambiguous questions. To avoid ambiguity it helps to consider how you would frame a corresponding written question.  Many written exam questions are most effective if they are directive:  "Name a structure, Write the equation, Describe the mechanism, Devise a synthetic scheme, etc."  When you ask a question, you will use words such as what, how, and why.  When you formulate an oral question, think of the corresponding directive you would write for an exam question.
  • Avoid "yes" and "no" questions. For example, the question "Is carbon monoxide considered a pollutant?" is almost certain to be followed by "Why is carbon monoxide considered a pollutant?" so you might as well begin with the second question.
  • Avoid double-barreled questions.  Questions that pose two problems simultaneously may be confusing, so think before you use them.  For example, the question "What is the difference between confounding and effect modification, and how do you identify them?" is actually a three-in-one question.  Would it be more effective if you broke it into sub-questions and then asked students to compare the two?
  • Wait-time. When you ask a question, allow time for your students to think about it and to formulate an answer.  These periods of silence may be uncomfortable for you and new to some students; letting them know at the beginning of the quarter that you plan to do this can eliminate the strain both for you and for them. After you ask a question, other than a memory or recall question, wait at least 3 seconds before selecting a respondent.  Do this even if someone volunteers immediately.  If you pick a respondent immediately, the other students may conclude that they don't need to think about a response.
  • Distribute questions. Distribute questions among students so that many are brought into participation.  You may decide to choose from among volunteers, but you might also feel free to call upon students who are not volunteering as long as you do it carefully.   (Some shy students may be terrified if they are called on--not a desirable outcome.) Consider establishing a pattern of asking questions of individual students, but explicitly giving them the right to "pass" without fear of embarrassment. 
    Reinforce responses. You may reinforce responses with verbal praise (good! excellent! etc.) and with nonverbal encouragement (smile, nod).  You may also reinforce a student's response by repeating the response. If an answer is completely incorrect, you might encourage the same student to rephrase or to attempt it again. If a student needs assistance in completing an answer, ask if another student can provide it, rather than providing it yourself.
  • NEVER ridicule an answer. The student subjected to ridicule is less likely to respond in the future, and other students are put on notice that they may be subjected to the same treatment.
  • Encourage student debate.  When you are confronted with divergent answers to a question, it is particularly helpful to get students to talk with one another about the topic.  For example, when two students have each devised contrasting arguments to support a position, a debate between the two on the preferred route is going to be a valuable learning experience for them and for the class.  Such a debate may incorporate the level of skills required in evaluation problems.
  • Don't bluff. If a student asks a question you cannot answer -- Tell the student you will look up the answer and tell him/her next time and follow through or suggest a reasonable strategy that would allow the student to discover the answer for himself or herself.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How can I get help if I need it in a hurry?

If there is a crisis (medical, personal, etc.) in the classroom and you need emergency aid RIGHT AWAY, phone 911 from an on-campus phone.  Alternatively you can phone 4-HELP from an on-campus phone or 858-534-4357 (same number) from your cell phone.  If no phone is available in your classroom, phone 911 using your cell phone.

How do I get a TA office?

Individual TA Offices are not provided.  To schedule office hours please email Leanne McKenzie (lwmckenzie@health.ucsd.edu)  and the staff will do its best to accommodate your day/time preferences.

How do I reserve a room for a review session?

Please see Reserving Rooms for Review Sessions under Instructional Support for additional information.

How do I obtain a copy of the textbook (and/or supplements) for the course?

Please contact the instructor to find out how you can get access to the textbook.   You can use the book ONLY during the quarter when you are a TA in the course.  Please note: we ask that you do NOT write or highlight in the book(s) as they are needed for future use.  If you fail to return the book you will be charged 50% of the cost of a new book, up to $50 per book or supplement. 

How can I send extra study material to students?

The Department does not provide funds for photocopying hand-outs.  The best approach is to get the e-mail addresses of the students, and send your “hand-out” to your students as an e-mail attachment before your section meets.  All e-mail correspondence with students must be done through their UCSD email address. Students can print out the file if they want it.

How do I arrange for clicker use in the classroom?

Clickers will be used routinely in most of the BSPH courses.  To familiarize yourself with their use and the equipment for instructors, please consult the following UC San Diego website:  https://blink.ucsd.edu/faculty/instruction/tech-guide/clickers/index.html

Where do I get whiteboard markers?

Please consult your course instructor, who should have a supply of dry erase markers.

Where can I learn how to use TritonEd for posting materials and grades?

Please consult the course instructor, who must grant access for you.  Ted holds frequent training sessions, which can be scheduled through their website: https://blink.ucsd.edu/faculty/instruction/tritoned/index.html

What do I do if a student contacts me about receiving an incomplete?

If a student contacts you during finals week about receiving an Incomplete please refer them to the professor in the course.  The Academic Senate has stringent rules regarding the grade of Incomplete, and the professor is the first person who will need to approve the request.  Incompletes must be filed by the end of finals week.

What do I do if a student needs assistance with exams?

It depends on the nature of the assistance required.  Please refer the student to the professor who will need to arrange for permitted assistance with exams. 

What should I do if I have a student with emotional problems?

Please do NOT try to serve as a therapist for any of your students. It can make matters worse for a student in distress, and it is recommended that the student seek assistance from a qualified professional.  Instead, please DO refer the student to CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services).  A staff of qualified psychologists and counselors provide assistance to students who may be experiencing academic, emotional, personal, marital, family, or vocational problems.  All services, except for specialized testing, are available to students at no charge.  Confidentiality is guaranteed.  The Central Office is located in Room 190 Galbraith Hall.  For information and appointments, call 858-534-3755.  (To learn more about this topic, come to the "Students in Crisis" mid-quarter workshop.

What should I do if I have a student with academic problems?

You can try referring the student to OASIS, 858-534-3760.  OASIS offers a variety of services intended to help students in their course work.  In addition, the individual colleges offer workshops or other assistance with general problems such as text anxiety. 

Can I use e-mail to communicate with the students participating in the course I am a TA for?

We encourage you to communicate with the students via e-mail.  University policy dictates all course-work related e-mails must be sent to students using their official UCSD email address (@ucsd.edu).  If sending an e-mail to more than one student, make sure to “bcc” all recipients to protect the students’ privacy.  In addition, your professor can use TritonLink or TritonED to make e-mail announcements to the whole class.  However, grades are confidential so they must be handled specially. 


What are the TA Teaching Excellence Awards?

Each academic year, the HWSPH will select one TA to receive an outstanding teaching award.  These selections are based on student evaluations and professor evaluations. Sample questions from the evaluation forms are included in this manual (See section on Evaluation of TAs).

When do I get evaluated and when can I see the results of my evaluations?

Student evaluations take place near the end of the quarter, and faculty evaluations take place after the end of the academic quarter in which you are a TA.  The results of these evaluations are available to you after the grades for the class have been turned in. 

Who do I talk to if I am a paid TA and my pay check doesn't arrive?

JDP students should check with Carrie Goldsmith (cgoldsmith@health.ucsd.edu).  MPH students should check with Rosemarie Subala (rsubala@health.ucsd.edu). 

Do I receive UC San Diego Health Insurance?

All TAs with appointments of 25% or more receive UCSD’s Student Health Insurance Plan, also known as UC SHIP. UC SHIP includes medical, dental and vision insurance.

If I’m a GSR, can I still be a TA?

If you’d like to be both a GSR and a TA, you can be a TA with a 25% appointment (10 hrs/week) *if* the faculty member funding your GSR appointment is willing to reduce your GSR appointment to 24.99% (10 hrs/week). Please note: TA and GSR pay rates are different, so you will want to review these rates before making a decision.

Where do I go if I am exposed to or witness sexual harassment?

The Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD) provides education about sexual harassment and gender discrimination, and they participate in the resolution these cases. Every member of the UC San Diego community should understand that UC San Diego will not tolerate sexual harassment; such behavior is prohibited both by law and by University policy. UC San Diego policy also addresses conflicts of interest arising from consensual relationships.  You or your students may obtain advice about related rights and responsibilities without filing a formal complaint.  The OPHD office is located at 201 University Center.  Call (858) 534-8298 or email ophd@ucsd.edu

First-time TAs are required the complete the online education program, Preventing Sexual Harassment, and to turn in a certificate of completion available at: training.newmedialearning.com/psh/ucsd/.   

Is there anywhere to report incidents of hate speech or behavior, or similar events?

Yes!  The UC San Diego Principles of Community forbid derogatory speech or overt bullying of people based on identifying them with any particular group or community.  If you hear or observe this kind of behavior, please go to reportbias.ucsd.edu.  Your report will be taken seriously and the situation will be investigated.