Teaching Assistants

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Types of TAs

1. Discussion Leaders - These TAs are in charge of the discussion sections for the class.

2. Readers - These TAs are the ones who grade your papers. Occasionally, the grading is split amongst the other TA types and the lecturer/professor (this is especially true for midterms and finals), but Readers get the brunt of the work. Their job can be tedious and frustrating, but it's also welcome since they can do this on their own schedule. (Note that not all readers are TAs, as there are even undergrad readers).

3. Lab Leaders - These TAs lead the laboratory sections of the course, as well as grade the lab reports.

4. Advanced TAs or Associate Instructors - TAs that actually teach lectures.

Generally, there is one person for each TA job. But some TAs, for some insane reason, are teaching in the lecture, leading a discussion, leading a lab, and grading for two different classes at the same time. One wonders where they find the time and if they're doing any real research on top of it all. (see: Summer in Davis)

Each TA has a close relationship with the professor/lecturer in charge of the course, although Lab TAs occasionally work with whomever is in charge of the lab experiments for that department. TAs are paid for by the department which hires them. Often times a graduate student from one department will be a TA for another department.

TAs are generally graduate students, but advanced undergraduates are sometimes employed. Advanced TAs teach their own classes. For instance, most English 1 and English 3 courses at UCD are taught by graduate student instructors.

TAs receive a monthly stipend and usually have their tuition waived.

There is a misconception that UC Davis hires non-English speaking TAs to teach classes. Considering that a requirement for graduate studies is passing the TOEFL exam, this isn't true. What is true is that there are plenty of TAs who speak with thick accents or have a poor understanding of English. If you cannot understand your TA, try changing discussion sections/labs/sections. Otherwise, just deal with it.

TAs on the Wiki

Discussion

This wiki says that "advanced undergraduates are sometimes employed" as t.a.'s. I'm not going to go to graduate school here unfortunately, but I wanted to be a t.a. in Davis because i'm very close to some of my professors here. Specifically I would like to t.a. for a computer science course, maybe ECS 30 or 40. Does anyone have experience being a t.a. as an undergraduate, and if so how did you get the position? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

UC Davis seems to have a nasty habit of hiring non-English speaking TAs to teach classes. Whether this is due to budget contstraints, lack of English-speaking graduate students, or poor hiring practices is unknown. Some students strongly believe that if TAs are hired to teach a class to a group of English speaking students, they should at least be able to speak the language. — ArlenAbraham

- I'm not disputing the fact that many TAs are international students and have accents that are, at times, hard to understand, but I would be more sympathetic if undergrad students really put the time and effort into getting the most out of their TAs. If you don't understand what's going on in discussion section, ask your TA to enunciate more clearly or to explain the concept again. Go to office hours - we have two hours a week during which we sit in our offices waiting for students to visit with questions. Failing all that, go to see the professor - s/he is required to hold office hours, and you're paying your professor's salary as well.

Suggestion: Take two wiki chill pills, swab out your ears before class and check back tomorrow morning. —AlphaDog


On the topic of English speaking teaching assistants: I've had a somewhat atypical (I suspect) experience myself. I'm a Mathematics major, and I've found that the teachers that spoke the best English knew the least math (or could not teach it well), and those who spoke the least knew the most. This was especially true in upper division courses, I found. Most of my Professors, too, were foreign-born and so typically had accents of some sort. It's just something you get used to in the subject, though. —PhilipNeustrom

I'd also like to point out that you're not paying the bulk of cost the University expends to educate you. According to a [WWW]"recent New York Times" article, it costs the typical public university $31,000 each year to educate you. Are you racking up $31K in debt each year? I didn't think so, suck it up, deal and maybe try to meet your TA halfway. Everything a TA does in discussion is something you could have learned from lecture anyway. If you went to class, didn't fall behind and actually paid attention, you wouldn't need to go to discussion.

My experience in math with TA's has been very hit and miss there are some good ones and there are ones that by the end of the quarter the TA is the ONLY person showing up for discussion. BryanBell

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