An integral part of graduate education is the development of effective communication and teaching skills. The role of a TA is to assist in the instruction of undergraduate and graduate courses. The Bioengineering faculty regard this as an essential academic experience and a valuable opportunity for professional development. This section will provide you with valuable information upon receiving a Graduate Instructional Assistant (GIA) or “Teaching Assistant (TA)” appointment.
For questions about the Bioengineering TA application, please contact our Teaching Coordinator, Kelly Thorpe, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Bioengineering Department has appointed Bioengineering Adjunct Professor Bruce Wheeler to serve as the faculty advisor for TAs. Questions about bioengineering TA training can be directed to him at email@example.com.
- General Information
Under faculty supervision, the duties of a TA include, but are not limited to:
- Holding regularly scheduled tutorial discussion sessions
- Assisting in laboratory instruction
- Holding office hours
- Conducting review sessions
- Assisting instructors in designing courses
- Preparing materials and tests
- Proctoring exams
- Grading students' papers, homework and exams
- Maintaining records of grades for assignments.
A TA is not responsible for:
- The instructional content of a course
- The course policy
- The selection of student assignments
- Writing examinations
- Assigning grades
TAs are required to comply with all relevant university regulations. These prohibit sexual harassment, misuse of university property, substance abuse, and any violations of the law.
It is both department and University policy that all TAs must complete a training course prior to the first quarter of assigned teaching, so please refer to information on training in the “Training” section below.
- Ethical Principles
It is the responsibility of a TA to behave in a professional manner, and to follow the ethical principles which all university instructors must adhere to. This clearly prohibits the following:
- Discrimination against any student on political grounds, or for reasons of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or ethnic origin, or for other arbitrary or personal reasons.
- Refusal to follow instructions of a faculty member in charge of the course.
- Discussion of the academic work of a student with people other than the faculty member and the other TAs involved in the course.
- Criticism of the course, instructor, or other TAs in the presence of the students.
- Exploitation of students for private advantage. Decisions made by TAs have a significant effect on their students’ grades. TAs should be especially careful not to abuse their authority. TAs should evaluate student work as objectively and as fairly as possible. In particular:
- TAs may not serve as paid tutors for students in their class.
- TAs must avoid romantic involvement with students in their class. Such involvement makes objective evaluation difficult and also raises questions of sexual harassment. These prohibitions may generate problems for a TA who is normally a friend or coworker of a student. Such situations must be dealt with on an individual basis in consultation with the instructor or Graduate Coordinator. If any real or perceived conflict of interest arises, notify the instructor, Graduate Coordinator, or Department Chair immediately.
- Ph.D. Teaching Requirement
All PhD students in the Department of Bioengineering are required to fulfill a teaching requirement as specified below and in the “PhD Teaching Requirement” section on the “Degree Programs” page on our website.
The teaching requirement must be completed prior to taking the Senate Qualifying Exam. Teaching experience is defined as service as a Graduate Instructional Assitant (GIA) or “TA” in a course designated by the department. The total teaching requirement for new PhD students is three quarters at 25% effort (10 hours per week) or one quarter at 50% effort (20 hours per week) and one quarter of 25% effort. At least one quarter of teaching experience is required during the first year, normally during the Winter or Spring Quarter (prior to the Departmental Qualifying Examination). The teaching experience should be taken as a course for academic credit (BENG 501). Formal participation as a TA is recorded by the student accepting an official TA offer in the ASE System and by enrollment in the graduate course BENG 501 under the instructor for whom the student will serve as a TA. The student’s performance as a TA is evaluated by the faculty instructor before credit for satisfying the teaching requirement is granted.
Note: Service as a TA in another department will not satisfy the departmental teaching requirement. This applies to both PhD students and to students who transitioned from the MS Plan I- Thesis program to the PhD program.
- How to Apply
The Bioengineering Student Affairs office will set the deadline for applications for TA assignments each quarter. An email notice will be sent by the Bioengineering Teaching Coordinator to all bioengineering graduate students with the link to the TA application when the application opens. The application will generally open once the Schedule of Classes is released for each quarter, which is approximately in May for Fall TAships, in November for Winter TAships, and in February for Spring TAships. The application is generally open for one to two weeks.
For questions about the TA application, please contact our Teaching Coordinator, Kelly Thorpe, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TA applications for other departments open at approximately the same periods as listed above. Questions about applications in other departments can be directed to the TA Contact for each department as listed on the Positions Available & Contacts page of the Division of Graduate Education & Postdoctoral Affairs website.
- Paid TAs - Tuition Remission & Stipend
Students who are assigned as paid TAs can find information about salary and pay rates on the Salary & Fee Remission page of the Division of Graduate Education & Postdoctoral Affairs’s website. Additional information about Tuition Remission can be found on the Fee Payment Information page, and information TA Fee Deferment can be found on the TA Fee Deferment and TA Loan Programs page.
Note: the Department can only make the Tuition Remission payment request after a student has officially accepted their TA offer in the ASE System. As such, students should take prompt action to accept their offer when they receive the notice from ASES. Delay in accepting the offer or asking questions about their offer before the tuition/ fee deadline each quarter can result in a delay in the processing of the Tuition Remission payment, and could result in an assessment of late fees the student may be responsible to pay. Once the Department submits a Tuition Remission payment request, the request must be processed by the Division of Graduate Education & Postdoctoral Affairs and the Registrars’ Office which can add to a time delay between when the student accepts their offer and when they see the remission post to their TritonLink account.
- Role in Course
Prior to the beginning of the quarter in which you TA, the student must meet with the course instructor to agree on their role in the course. To facilitate this, the department has a course planning form that the student and the instructor will fill out. On this form the instructor will indicate the tasks the student is expected to perform as well as the time that the student will probably devote to the course. This form will be signed by the student, the instructor, and turned in to the Student Affairs Office by the end of the first week of the quarter.
The course instructor will have specific information on what is expected of a TA for that particular class. Some examples of duties the student may be asked to perform and some guidelines are given in the “Responsibilities” and “Grading and Recording Keeping” sections below.
In addition to being fully prepared for scheduled meetings, TAs should arrive punctually and be available to the students during the entire period, which is normally 50 minutes. A TA may not cancel a section. There are occasions when it is unavoidable for a TA to miss a section meeting due to a conflict with a planned event, such as a conference or trip. It is always the responsibility of the TA to notify the instructor in this event and to arrange for another TA to cover the class.
TAs are expected to attend all lectures unless the instructor gives specific permission for an absence, or explicitly states that lecture attendance is not required.
TAs are required to hold office hours every week to assist students in understanding the subject matter of the course. Office hours have to be held in an area that assures that course related concerns of a student, such as grades, can be privately discussed.
TA and instructor meeting
TA meetings serve several important functions:
- They provide time for the TA to give the instructor comments concerning the course
- In meeting with the instructor, the TA learns more about the course philosophy and structure
- The TA can clarify questions on the course material
Attendance at TA meetings scheduled by the instructor is mandatory. Since part of the purpose of these meetings is to educate the TA, it is important that TAs use this opportunity to ask questions about the course material or any matters of instruction.
Prior to midterm and final examination times, TAs are often asked by the instructor to hold review sessions in addition to regular sections and office hours. Room reservations for these sessions must be scheduled by the TA.
Effective teaching of a lab class mandates that TAs are able to perform all assigned lab experiments and understand them completely. They must also be fully versed and trained in all relevant laboratory safety procedures and regulations. To assure this, instructors may require the TAs to practice the experiment in a pre-lab session before the beginning of the class. The TA normally participates in lab set up, and grading lab reports. Effective laboratory instruction is among the most challenging but also rewarding of teaching experiences.
Effective teaching of a computer lab requires that the TA understand the programming assignment completely. To assure this, instructors may require the TAs to write sample programs before the beginning of the lab. The TA may also participate in grading computer programs.
- Grading and Record Keeping
In some classes the TAs must participate in the preparation of solutions to homework assignments and may be requested to post these solutions or take them to Soft Reserves.
Two of the most important duties of a TA are proctoring and scoring examinations. A TA must be available for both the administration and scoring of exams (including the final). Discuss any time conflicts with the instructor. A TA must do the utmost to discourage cheating by vigilant proctoring, and by reporting any suspected incidents to the instructor. University policies and procedures on academic integrity are summarized in an instructor’s guide published by the Academic Integrity Office.
The TA is responsible for maintaining the records for all students in the class. The TA is responsible for keeping those records in a secure place, and if kept on a computer, for keeping a current backup. Keeping all student records secure and confidential is a major responsibility of the TA that should be treated with the utmost care. All completed assignments, exams, grades, correspondence, and other information about individual students in the class shall be kept confidential except when the student has given written consent. Papers and examinations have to be returned to the students in a way that protects the privacy of the student. Grade records are kept for one year.
Assignment of Grades
While the faculty member in charge of the course is responsible for assigning students’ grades, TAs play an important role in the evaluation of students’ work. If a student complains about a final grade, the TA should refer the student to the instructor because the instructor has final responsibility for the conduct of the course. Only the instructor has the authority to change a grade. The instructor should announce the policy regarding late homeworks, etc. at the beginning of the quarter. If the TA is unclear on any of these policies, they are to be discussed with the instructor.
A TA who suspects cheating on assignments or exams must report suspected incidents to the instructor.
Problems involving a student's grade that cannot be resolved informally with the instructor should be brought to the attention of the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee or Department Chair.
There are up to three methods used to evaluate TA performance in Bioengineering:
- Evaluation by the students enrolled in the course through CAPE (undergraduate courses) or ASES (graduate courses). These evaluations can be of help to the TAs to recognize areas in which they are very capable and others in which improvement may be necessary. However, many students' evaluations will focus primarily on the instructor or the course, and student evaluations are sometimes not available to the TA due to low sample size.
- For Ph.D. Students Only: Evaluation by the instructor of the course who also assigns the grade report for BENG 501 at the end of the quarter. The completed instructor evaluation will be available to the TA, and may be used by the Bioengineering Graduate Student Affairs Office for making future assignments.
- Optional: Evaluation by a representative of the Engaged Teaching Hub in the Teaching + Learning Commons.The evaluations done by the representative are meant purely for the TA’s own information, and the results are not given to the department. These evaluations are the most helpful because they are made available to the TA during the quarter, and their purpose is to identify ways in which the TA can become more effective. If TAs wish to have an evaluation, arrangements can be made directly with the Engaged Teaching Hub.
- Helpful Links and Offices
- Canvas: https://canvas.ucsd.edu/
- Canvas user guide and resources: https://edtech.ucsd.edu/faculty/
- Graduate Division general TA information: https://grad.ucsd.edu/financial/employment/ases/ase-employment-types.html
- Teaching + Learning Commons workshops: https://engagedteaching.ucsd.edu/educators/workshops.html
- Academic Integrity-- How to Report Cheating: https://academicintegrity.ucsd.edu/take-action/report-cheating/index.html
- Academic Integrity Office: https://academicintegrity.ucsd.edu/
- Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS): https://caps.ucsd.edu/
- Engaged Teaching Hub in the Teaching + Learning Commons: https://engagedteaching.ucsd.edu/
- Division of Graduate Education & Postdoctoral Affairs: https://grad.ucsd.edu/
Student Affairs Office:
Coordinator of Graduate Affairs
Chair of Bioengineering:
Professor Adam Engler
TA Faculty Advisor:
Adjt Professor Bruce Wheeler
Graduate Studies Committee:
Professor Pedro Cabrales, Chair
Professor Jeff Hasty, Co-Chair