Understanding TA terms and work hours

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yaskhn3
Posts: 89
Joined: Fri Aug 03, 2018 1:23 pm

Understanding TA terms and work hours

Post by yaskhn3 » Tue Feb 25, 2020 4:11 pm

Hi! I have been admitted to a master's program with a TAship. The terms read as follow:

This appointment will be for 50% time (20 hours per week) with the stipend prorated for the number of days worked in the pay period.

1. What does this mean? What is 50% time?
2. Is 20 hours per week a reasonable workload?
3. I have never worked as a TA before and nowhere in the offer states what do TAs need to do. Can someone elaborate on what type of work to expect?

Cheers!

chrisps1992
Posts: 135
Joined: Sat Jul 22, 2017 6:17 pm

Re: Understanding TA terms and work hours

Post by chrisps1992 » Tue Feb 25, 2020 4:14 pm

Full time is considered 40 hours per week, so 50% time is 20 hours (part time). They are all usually stated for 20 hours per week, but my adviser says the actual time is much less. You will either be a recitation instructor or grader or some other task for the professors at your school.

yaskhn3
Posts: 89
Joined: Fri Aug 03, 2018 1:23 pm

Re: Understanding TA terms and work hours

Post by yaskhn3 » Tue Feb 25, 2020 4:30 pm

chrisps1992 wrote:
Tue Feb 25, 2020 4:14 pm
Full time is considered 40 hours per week, so 50% time is 20 hours (part time). They are all usually stated for 20 hours per week, but my adviser says the actual time is much less. You will either be a recitation instructor or grader or some other task for the professors at your school.
Thanks for clarifying this. By the way, those 20 hours per week have a fixed schedule, or one can say, just work 10 hours on Sat-Sun and be done?

chrisps1992
Posts: 135
Joined: Sat Jul 22, 2017 6:17 pm

Re: Understanding TA terms and work hours

Post by chrisps1992 » Tue Feb 25, 2020 4:36 pm

yaskhn3 wrote:
Tue Feb 25, 2020 4:30 pm
chrisps1992 wrote:
Tue Feb 25, 2020 4:14 pm
Full time is considered 40 hours per week, so 50% time is 20 hours (part time). They are all usually stated for 20 hours per week, but my adviser says the actual time is much less. You will either be a recitation instructor or grader or some other task for the professors at your school.
Thanks for clarifying this. By the way, those 20 hours per week have a fixed schedule, or one can say, just work 10 hours on Sat-Sun and be done?
I doubt you get to choose. You will be given work to be done by the professor and it needs to be done whenever he needs it. If you instruct recitations, then obviously that will be on a fixed schedule.

fluffball
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Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2019 4:06 pm

Re: Understanding TA terms and work hours

Post by fluffball » Tue Feb 25, 2020 4:54 pm

yaskhn3 wrote:
Tue Feb 25, 2020 4:11 pm
This appointment will be for 50% time (20 hours per week) with the stipend prorated for the number of days worked in the pay period.
This is probably more about university accounting and HR than about your actual workload. ≤ 0.5 FTE workers are usually in a different category when it comes to allocating benefits. Calling grad students 0.5 FTE is probably for the purpose of being able to legally extract 20 hours of work from you without giving you benefits, but it doesn't necessarily mean you'll be working 20 hours. Ask the department specifically what your expected average workload will be.

asterac
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Joined: Sun Jul 29, 2018 11:48 pm

Re: Understanding TA terms and work hours

Post by asterac » Tue Feb 25, 2020 5:20 pm

chrisps1992 wrote:
Tue Feb 25, 2020 4:14 pm
Full time is considered 40 hours per week, so 50% time is 20 hours (part time). They are all usually stated for 20 hours per week, but my adviser says the actual time is much less. You will either be a recitation instructor or grader or some other task for the professors at your school.
Yeah, they do tend to be stated similarly, but the reality depends quite heavily on the program. You need to talk to current grad students about this.

At my undergrad uni, it says the 20 hour in the contracts, but the grad students here are extremely burdened with teaching. (Like if they’re TAing, they’ll have something like 4 discussion sections and 120 students, all of whose work they have to grade and whose emails they have to answer. They’re required to be the actual instructor for many terms, too, and that’s fewer sections but not really less work.) Many students complain about the adverse impact of that on their classes and research.

Other schools that have a similar-looking contract have a much lighter burden in reality.

davis7e
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Joined: Sat Nov 24, 2018 6:02 pm

Re: Understanding TA terms and work hours

Post by davis7e » Tue Feb 25, 2020 9:39 pm

50% time is just an official categorization for how you are to be paid since you will technically be employed by the university. My current TAship is also labelled 50% time but my schools graduate coordinator told us that we are unofficially expected to work 10 hours per week or less for the first year (first years are graders at my school) and many of us certainly get to the upper bound in an average week. Some other schools will give you a TAship for the first year so that you get paid even if you have no TA duties for that year whereas others may stick you into a classroom right away either as a recitation leader or as an instructor of record (I was an instructor of record while I worked on my masters). In those particular cases, the amount of time you are expected to put into those positions each week can vary heavily on the nature of the course and also on your schools expectations of you. When I was an instructor of record, I was required to spend one hour per week in a tutoring center on campue and dedicate a minimum of two hours per week to office hours for my students but the course that I taught was low level and so I tended to spend only 20-30 min each week with lesson planning (writing a few quick notes to present and finding example problems similar to their homework problems). Exams were put together by a lead TA and homework was online so I didn't have to put exams together and I just had go into the website to click a button to assign the hw as the semester went on and I only had to grade exams. The TA workload has been reasonably manageable overall at both institutions that I've attended (with the exception of one particular week but that has only happened once). If you are unsure about the nature of your TA assignment then you should send an email out to the graduate coordinator for that dept and ask. They will probably be more than happy to respond.

yaskhn3
Posts: 89
Joined: Fri Aug 03, 2018 1:23 pm

Re: Understanding TA terms and work hours

Post by yaskhn3 » Wed Feb 26, 2020 4:23 am

davis7e wrote:
Tue Feb 25, 2020 9:39 pm
50% time is just an official categorization for how you are to be paid since you will technically be employed by the university. My current TAship is also labelled 50% time but my schools graduate coordinator told us that we are unofficially expected to work 10 hours per week or less for the first year (first years are graders at my school) and many of us certainly get to the upper bound in an average week. Some other schools will give you a TAship for the first year so that you get paid even if you have no TA duties for that year whereas others may stick you into a classroom right away either as a recitation leader or as an instructor of record (I was an instructor of record while I worked on my masters). In those particular cases, the amount of time you are expected to put into those positions each week can vary heavily on the nature of the course and also on your schools expectations of you. When I was an instructor of record, I was required to spend one hour per week in a tutoring center on campue and dedicate a minimum of two hours per week to office hours for my students but the course that I taught was low level and so I tended to spend only 20-30 min each week with lesson planning (writing a few quick notes to present and finding example problems similar to their homework problems). Exams were put together by a lead TA and homework was online so I didn't have to put exams together and I just had go into the website to click a button to assign the hw as the semester went on and I only had to grade exams. The TA workload has been reasonably manageable overall at both institutions that I've attended (with the exception of one particular week but that has only happened once). If you are unsure about the nature of your TA assignment then you should send an email out to the graduate coordinator for that dept and ask. They will probably be more than happy to respond.
Thanks for sharing this. I agree it depends heavily on the program and the institute. Upon my inquiry, I was informed that:

"Each academic year, each TA is assigned 2 twice-weekly one-hour discussion sections (4 weekly contact hours) in one term, and 3 discussion sections (6 weekly contact hours) the other
term. "

I'm not sure what to make of it though. What are contact hours? What would I be doing in those?

davis7e
Posts: 26
Joined: Sat Nov 24, 2018 6:02 pm

Re: Understanding TA terms and work hours

Post by davis7e » Wed Feb 26, 2020 10:54 am

yaskhn3 wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 4:23 am

Thanks for sharing this. I agree it depends heavily on the program and the institute. Upon my inquiry, I was informed that:

"Each academic year, each TA is assigned 2 twice-weekly one-hour discussion sections (4 weekly contact hours) in one term, and 3 discussion sections (6 weekly contact hours) the other
term. "

I'm not sure what to make of it though. What are contact hours? What would I be doing in those?
It would be best to ask the graduate coordinator but if I had to guess, it seems like a recitation. At larger universities, it is not uncommon for classes such as calc 1 or 2 to have 200+ students in one section (since it tends to be required of math, CS, physics, engineering, chemistry, etc. majors) and so there doesn't tend to be an opportunity for students in such classes to ask questions they may have either conceptually or on some trouble they may be having with the hw. So, what tends to happen is that the 200+ students in that one section will be split into recitation sections of 20-30 students. In a recitation, the students will have the chance to ask questions either on hw or on something they may not have understood in the lecture and they may also have to take a quiz on the material covered up to that point. The "weekly contact hours" would refer to the total amount of time you would be leading a recitation per week.



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