What are TAs and TMs?

Teaching Assistants (TAs) and Tutor Markers (TMs) are slightly different roles:

TAs assist students in-person during tutorials and/or laboratory instruction and/or mark assignments. 

TMs assist and instruct students in online courses.

You and Your Course Supervisor

Duties: At the start of your TA or TM position, you should meet with your course supervisor to discuss and agree upon your duties. Duties associated with TA and TM jobs vary between departments and courses. If in doubt, ask your course supervisor for clarification and do not assume anything. It may help to maintain regular contact with your course supervisor and let them know if you need additional support or guidance.

Protections against overwork: You and your course supervisor must complete a Time Use Guideline (TUG) form together in the first week of the semester. The TUG lists the total maximum hours assigned and is a guideline for how these hours are distributed among different types of work within your assignment. This distribution can change over the course of the semester, but if additional classroom contact is added, you should immediately contact the union.

The course supervisor must conduct a Workload Review (WLR) once the course has sufficiently advanced to assess the workload (e.g. after the first major marking assignment, mid-term, etc.). In the WLR, you and your course supervisor will evaluate how many hours you have worked. If it appears that you may exceed the allotted hours in your contract based on the estimations in the TUG, your course supervisor is required to either reduce your workload to prevent overwork or inform the department that you may exceed your contract and may require additional pay.

Be sure to track your hours! With the transition to remote work and intensified duties required of TAs and TMs, it is important to Log Your Hours. There are many tools to keep track that you can find here.  It is illegal for anyone to intimidate you to work more than the hours in your contract. If this happens, contact the TSSU immediately.

Evaluation: You must be evaluated by your course supervisor at least once a semester. Evaluation criteria must be made available to you when the position starts. 

 TA Typical Duties

TAs often occupy more than one of the following roles as outlined below: 

  • Tutorial TAs may be required to attend lectures, read materials assigned to students, take attendance, evaluate student participation, lead discussions, review and clarify course concepts, administer tutorial assignments (e.g. presentations or quizzes), respond to student correspondence, mark student assignments, and/or hold office hours.
  • Laboratory TAs attend and supervise students during laboratory sessions. Laboratory teaching assistants may be required to attend lectures, complete pre-lab activities, read reference materials, grade laboratory assignments, educate students about and enforce safety regulations, demonstrate laboratory techniques, respond to student correspondence, and/or hold office hours.
  • Marking TAs are responsible for grading papers, assignments, and/or exams. Marking may be distributed throughout the term or may fall in clusters, depending on when assignments are due. Markers may be required to develop a marking rubric, provide written and/or oral feedback to students, but should only need to communicate with students regarding grading. They should not be answering course content questions, or assist in interpreting materials for students.  
  • Head TAs typically perform any number of the above duties, as well as additional ones assigned by their instructor. Head TAs may be required to coordinate with and offer guidance to other TAs, create course materials, hold review sessions for all students, and/or hold office hours.
  • Writing Course TAs: if your Course has a “W” attached to the end of it, then you perform work aligned with one of the above descriptions for a course that uses the  writing intensive pedagogy. This means you will get an additional base unit of preparation beyond the normal formula and student writing will be a larger portion of your duties, than many other positions.

TM Basic Duties

TMs have similar duties across various distance education courses and departments. TMs may be required to respond to student correspondence, facilitate online discussions, evaluate student participation, grade exams and assignments, read reference materials, invigilate in-class exams, and/or hold online office hours.

Training Opportunities

You have several opportunities for professional development before and during your TA/TM job. At the beginning of both the spring and fall semesters, a TA/TM Day event is held on the Burnaby campus. TA orientations are also held in Surrey. These free, one-day events* include information sessions and workshops that offer tips and strategies to improve your teaching.

The Collective Agreement guarantees you up to six hours of paid professional development activities per contract held, and additional hours for software training. These hours should be recorded under “other” on your TUG form. While many TAs and TMs allocate them towards the aforementioned TA/TM Day, they can be used for any training initiative. 

*NOTE: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Centre for Educational Excellence opted for a full week of programing for Fall 2020.

Know Your Rights!

Graduate students have priority access to TA/TM work across campus. They have the highest priority within their own department and second highest priority in other departments. All TA/TM jobs are posted on the same day (~2.5 months prior to the semester) at: https://www.sfu.ca/human-resources/prospective-employees/tssu-postings.html

As a TA or TM, you may be responsible for a variety of duties assigned by your course supervisor, including: teaching tutorials, marking assignments, and designing course materials, etc.

As a TA or a TM, you are NOT responsible for:

  • Designing course content (such as lecture notes) and instructional methods
  • Grading practices and assigning final grades
  • Carrying out academic dishonesty procedures (beyond notifying your supervisor of suspected cheating)

As a TA or a TM, you have the right to:

  • Indicate all your course preferences on your application, and have the department take all reasonable steps to meet them
  • Statutory holiday pay (in the form of reduced hours on your TUG)
  • Up to 6 hours of paid professional development, and up to 7 paid hours for software / technology training
  • Discussion and input into your Time Use Guideline (TUG) before it is completed
  • A workload review during the course
  • Getting paid for any hours worked beyond your contracted hours (be sure to track your hours diligently!)
  • Medical benefits and various leaves (please see below for details)

What benefits do TAs and TMs have?

Teaching Assistants and Tutor Markers have a benefits package which includes:

  • Tuition deferment, so you can pay your tuition off your paycheque even $1 at at time without incurring late fees, as long as you pay the entire bill by the end of your appointment;
  • BC Medical Services Plan (MSP) / International Student Health Fee (ISHF), 100% paid by employer ($75/month per person on study permit, otherwise free).
  • Pacific Blue Cross Extended Health Plan 75% paid by employer, 25% by employee (total plan cost: $24.17/month for single; $67.74 for two or more)
  • Individual Dental reimbursement value: $11.35/month for single; $22.70/month for a couple; $34.50/month for family 
  • out-of-province or international students can have part of the MSP replacement premiums (e.g. Guard.me or similar plan) reimbursed during that period

These benefits are not automatic. You must enroll. For more info: www.tssu.ca/benefits-and-leaves/

What leaves do TAs and TMs have access to?

You are entitled to the following leaves per appointment, except as noted:

  • One week of short-term leave through exchange of duties (with approval of supervisor)
  • Five days of paid compassionate leave
  • Five days of unpaid family care leave
  • One month paid sick leave
  • Paid leave for court appearance
  • Up to a year of unpaid maternity/parental leave (unpaid)

NOTE: The information contained in this document is not exhaustive! View the full Collective Agreement at: www.tssu.ca/collective-agreement/

Understanding Your TA or TM Contract

TAs and TMs are paid in base units (BU). Each BU represents $1071  in salaried wages, or max. 40.9 hours of work, plus an additional associated scholarship paid if you are a graduate student. 

For more detailed instructions on how to interpret your TA/TM contract, please visit: tssu.ca/workload/