Definitions

teaching-assistant

Teaching assistant

A teaching assistant (TA) is a junior scholar employed on a temporary contract by a college or university in teaching-related responsibilities. TA responsibilities vary greatly and may include tutoring; holding office hours; grading homework or exams; administering tests or exams; assisting a professor with a large lecture class by teaching students in recitation, laboratory, or discussion sessions; and even teaching their own classes. In some universities (such as the University of Michigan), they are known as graduate student instructors (GSIs). In New Zealand, Australian, and some Canadian universities, they are known as tutors. At Harvard College, Boston University, and other universities, they are known as teaching fellows (TFs). TAs include graduate teaching assistants (GTAs), who are graduate students, and undergraduate teaching assistants (UTAs), who are undergraduate students. While the term assistant implies that they assist with a class, most (about two-thirds) GTAs serve as the sole instructor for one or more classes each semester; although these GTAs may work under a supervisor or course coordinator, they have the responsibility to prepare and teach class, make and grade homework and quizzes, and even create and administer their own exams. Like professors, GTAs generally have a fixed salary determined by each contract period, usually an academic school year.

Undergraduate Teaching Assistants

UTAs usually serve as true assistants to a class; they typically have taken the course with which they are assisting, often with the same professor, and have performed well in it. This case is less common for GTAs, since many would have been undergraduates at other institutions. Unlike professors and GTAs, UTAs generally do not have a fixed salary but instead are paid by the hour, earn credit hours, or volunteer their time.

High School Teaching Assistant

The term teaching assistant is used in the high school and middle school setting for students or adults that assist a teacher with one or more classes. The responsibilities, situations, and conditions of these individuals' involvement differ from those in higher education. A less formal position, a TA job in secondary education is generally determined by the supervising teacher. Common tasks include grading tests and papers, assisting students with their work, and taking attendance. Some teaching assistants at this level may teach portions of the class lessons, or teach lessons to small groups of students who need extra instruction. Many TAs work "one-on-one" with special needs students; these TAs shadow their student and assist with classwork, organization, and behavior management. In some parts of the United States it is customary or even required that each classroom have one certified teacher and one or more co-teachers or teaching assistants.

Elementary School Teaching Assistant

An elementary school teaching assistant is the same as a teaching assistant in middle and high school; they are sometimes referred to as paraprofessionals or 'paras' for short. These teaching assistants have the same responsibilities a high school teaching assistant has.

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