TA Expectations and Workload

The Department of Chemistry is responsible for a number of large lecture subjects, as well as four highly sophisticated undergraduate laboratories. Our staff of graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants play a very important role in presenting these subjects and helping students understand course material. Our students' success is partly based on the professionalism of the teaching staff. As such it is imperative that TAs understand and fulfill the responsibilities they are charged with.

Recitation TA responsibilities include:

  1. Attending all class lectures
  2. Attending periodic TA staff meetings
  3. Leading recitation sections that meet once or twice a week (depending on subject)
  4. Grading problem sets and exams
  5. Providing review sessions and individual help when requested
  6. Holding regular weekly office hours (minimum 2 hours/week)
  7. Informing faculty instructors of problems and students having special difficulties
  8. Always interacting with students in a professional manner

Laboratory TA responsabilities include:

  1. Attending and participating in "lab bootcamp" at the beginning of the semester
  2. Attending class lectures
  3. Introducing students to each experiment
  4. Actively providing advice and assistance to students as they conduct work in the lab
  5. Monitoring and enforcing safety rules
  6. Evaluating students' performance by observing them while they carry out experiments
  7. Grading laboratory reports and exams

Prior to the beginning of the semester lab TAs are given a copy of the Chemistry Department Chemical Hygiene Plan and Safety Manual. You will be required to read this document carefully and be prepared to monitor the compliance of your students with all safety rules. Be prepared for emergencies! In particular, strictly enforce eye protection safety rules; compliance tends to become lax after a month or so. Students do make inadvertent mistakes, so always be on the lookout for unsafe situations.


In past years, concerns about teaching assistant workloads have occasionally been raised by graduate student TAs and by the faculty advisors of advanced graduate student TAs. In response to these concerns, a survey of the chemistry faculty teaching undergraduate courses was conducted and based on their input the following guidelines for Teaching Assistant workload were formulated.

  • The workload for a graduate teaching assistant should not average more than 16-18 hours per week. This estimate includes time devoted to attending class lectures, supervising recitation sections, preparing for recitations, grading problem sets and exams, attending staff meetings, and holding office hours.
  • If any teaching assistant feels that he or she is being required regularly to devote more time than this to their teaching duties, then they should contact Jennifer Weisman or Graduate Office Robert Field, who will work with the faculty member(s) responsible for the course to adjust the TA responsibilities to conform to the department guidelines.

Questions also occasionally arise concerning the relative priority of teaching responsibilities and attendance at events such as departmental seminars, group meetings, etc. It is Chemistry Department policy that regular TA responsibilities take precedence over other activities such as these. For example, laboratory subject teaching assistants may not leave the lab during their assigned hours without the express permission of the faculty member in charge of the class. Teaching assistants can take several steps to minimize conflicts with events such as special seminars they wish to attend. Occasionally it may be possible to avoid conflicts by arranging for another TA to substitute for you during your assigned hours (this requires approval in advance from the faculty instructor for the course). Also, teaching assistants should inform faculty in advance of anticipated special events they wish to attend, so that staff meetings, grading sessions, etc. can be scheduled in such a way as to minimize overlap.