TA Comments

It seems like it's often the case that a course is under- or over-staffed. While it was nice for me to have such a small class, for the sake of the CS department and the students in other classes it seems like one of the two TA's for this course could have been used in another course (i.e. one that was understaffed). Also, sometimes class size is thought to be as important or more important than the TA's responsibility. For example, the CS240 TA has very little work to do in comparison to, say, a CS143 TA, but the CS240 TA still gets a 50% appointment because of the number of people in the class. The committee in charge of course staffing should take the typical TA's workload into account when determining how many TA's to assign to a class and at what appointment level (e.g. the CS240 TA should only have a 25% appointment, and the funds saved by changing that could be used by increasing the appointment level or number of TA's in another class). Finally, the CS department should have evaluations for TA's. It doesn't seem like TA's in the department are held accountable for their work unless they do something egregious. There has to be some way to determine the effectiveness of the TA--whether he/she returns assignments on time, is available, responds to e-mails quickly, etc.

TA appointments should be based on workload, rather than proportional to the number of students in the class. If programming-based classes require more time per student (as codified by 2000-2001 department regulations giving the same appointment with half as many students in programming-based classes), then the department should continue to acknowledge this fact by providing appointments proportional to the increased workload. If they do not, then darwinian effects will tend to push TAs towards non-programming courses. This would seem to be a long-term losing proposition for the department's academic mission.

As a TA, you hesitate to talk to the prof. about your workload. If you want to keep your options open for TAing for this prof. in the future, you don't want them to hold any negative feelings or grudges towards you. And complaining about too much work seems like it would fall into this category. So, just from a TA's perspective, I think TAs work more than the 20 hours they're supposed to, and a lot of times they just won't mention it.

It's a total waste of time to have TAs be homework graders. It's a farce to require students to TA and have them effectively serve as graders. What value does grading add? Leading discussion sections and lecture may be one thing, but grading is just a waste of time.

I think if you're expecting TAs to work 20 hours a week, then we're working too much. Personally, I don't feel like I'm doing an unreasonable amount of work. The compensation, along with the experience of TAing, have made my work worth it. I enjoy what I do, and though it is a significant amount of work, I expected that coming in.

Grading is an extremely time-consuming process in CS154 in particular (presumably in most theoretical classes). It would help to have graders so that the TAs would be able to spend more time holding office hours and interacting with students. Although grading allows the TA to see how well students understand the material, this can also be achieved by doing some of the grading and reading sample answers from the remainder.

I was happy to put in as much time as I did, as I was TA-ing for fun more than money. But nonetheless the course seemed understaffed, particularly before weekly HWs and projects were due. All of the TAs enjoyed the work, so we had enough people to staff, but I think the workload tended to be greater than should be expected of a standard TA-ships. (We often sacrificed time on our own course projects to help students with theirs, which seems less than ideal as a standard mode of operation.)

The cut in summer funding on RAships and TAships is unfortunate as it will lower grad student morale.

There should be positive rewards for those who like to teach, and do well teaching. There should be end of the quarter evaluations for TAs. Right now there are only evals for profs.

It would be nice to let the students and professors have more of a say in which courses they TA rather than the department.

I'm a master's student and was only to get a role TAing at the undergrad pay rate for this class. In some ways, this sucks, but it's better than nothing with the way budget cuts have affected the department... I'd rather do something than nothing.

I strongly believe that graders should be employed to assist TAs in more situations. As I mentioned earlier, the graders are often times undergraduates who have taken (and done well) in the class in previous years. This allows the graduate student TAs to concentrate on teaching the material and explaining the finer details, rather than spending 15 hrs a week grading.

This course was a seminar course being taught for the first time and much of my time was spent before the class even started finding resources to use for the class and preparing a syllabus. At first, they were reluctant to assign a 50% TAship since there were so few students in the course. However, since the professor insisted on it, they upped it from 25% to 50%, which made sense because of the extra work involved in a new course. This was obviously a good decision to make-- recognizing not only weekly hours during the quarter, but preparing a syllabus, etc., before the quarter starts.

Belt-Tightening for TAs doesn't work well. The TAs are way overworked (from talking to others). The students feel there is not enough teaching support (from talking to students, and from my personal experience). Not a good sign for an institution that is supposed to be one of the best in the world for CS.

25% TA appointments are misleading because proctoring, writing solutions, dealing with issues, doing the homework yourself, does not depend on the number of students. I hope the dept. can offer 50% appointments instead as that more closely reflects the workload; this is especially true if a course has only one TA.

It was a 75% TA with 50% pay

Taking graders from the same course, as suggested by the department, didn't work well because the graders were busy trying to finish the next assignment while the previous one was being graded.

25% TAships are pretty stupid -- you only get half as much "credit" (toward the teaching distinction) and only half as much pay, yet you definitely end up putting in almost as much work as a 50% TA.

o I enjoy teaching and working with students. o But the workload makes me bitter by the end of the quarter; thus, my performance probably suffers. o Having just one 25% TA to help me out would make all the difference. o SITN classes especially need a little extra staffing. o Teaching and working with students (e.g., through lecture, review sessions, office hours) should be the primary focus of the TA, as these are the activities that contribute most to students' understanding. Of almost equal importance is designing useful homeworks (in conjunction, theoretically, with the prof.). Of least importance, in principle, is grading, course administration, honor code violations, etc. Yet the last category frequently dominates, hurting the students and the TA. o I've TAed four times. The one time that I had fellow TAs working with me, two out of the four slacked, making for a poor allocation of department funds. Perhaps what is needed is a set of rotating TAs (perferably experience ones) that help out with a set of classes. The goal would be to distribute the workload evenly over all TAs.

I had to have my TAship bumped up from 25% to 50%, and we probably should have had 2 TA's. Don't know who's fault that was, but it seems that it should not be the TAs' job to calculate how many TA's there should be. If it is, I missed where the guidelines are for doing that calculation. Anyway, just some thoughts.

Other than the understaffing, it was fine. The class was significantly bigger that last years version.

CS140 is intensive for both the students and the course staff due to the programming assignments. It should definitely be assigned more TA hours than an equivalently sized non-programming course.