In the first or introductory lecture of a course, either associate professors or professors of my university tells to students to clarify doubts with teaching assistants. Faculty do not say to students any explicit statements regarding how, when and where to ask doubts.

In general no course site or any centralized communication channel is present.

Most of the students comes with lot of doubts without proper study and asks for TA time individually. For example some students asks TA to tell the entire course in an easy manner. Some students asks advance questions that TA cannot answer. Some students ask for mobile number, personal mail etc., Some students asks for appointment and lot of time for discussions.

In the scenario of academics, is it apt for a TA to inform to the corresponding faculty about these issues or is it apt to give strict instructions to students in the absence of the faculty regarding how to ask, where to ask and when to ask their doubts based on TA's personal comfort?

Note: I am asking this because faculty consider these as minor issues. But as a TA, one mayn't able to manage such unorganized stuff.

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    If you give out your phone number and email, they will expect you to be available 24/7....
    – Solar Mike
    Jun 23, 2019 at 19:12
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    This is going to depend on the expectations set by your supervisor, university, or academic culture in your country or region. I could tell you what is normal in my country, but it may not be the same as yours. Jun 23, 2019 at 19:26
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    Possibly related: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/80524/… Jun 23, 2019 at 21:04
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    Are you given a university email address? That is the only method of contact I've ever heard of being acceptable. Jun 24, 2019 at 1:08
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    Some students asks advance questions that TA cannot answer — Good! Thank them, say "I don't know", and move on. — mobile number, personal mail, etc. — "What? No, of course not!"
    – JeffE
    Jun 24, 2019 at 3:55

1 Answer 1


From the student's standpoint it is very helpful to learning to be able to ask questions when they arise, rather than waiting hours or days for the opportunity. But if you are managing a number of students you need to be able to respond to student needs both effectively and efficiently. Also, responding to student questions doesn't always mean actually answering them. More often, actually, you can show them where to get the answers themselves. Their learning will be deeper if they put effort into it, so make them do that. One exception is that you sometimes need to dispel misconceptions that people have so that they don't waste time on unproductive study.

One of the best techniques that I used in the past (I'm retired now) extensively was an email list to which I and all the students were subscribed. I didn't answer questions sent to my normal email - individual questions - but I always saw that student questions directed to the mailing list were answered. But other students were also encouraged to answer questions posted to the list, so that not all answers came from me. I normally had to answer about a third to a half of the questions. Moreover, every student was able to see every question and the answer. Then, you don't have to answer the same question multiple times. And you also have a record of questions that can be useful for future course preparation.

I had to monitor the list, of course, in case incorrect answers were given, and I had to set some ground rules so that answers to exercises weren't given, but generally, the list was very open. People were encouraged to help their classmates learn, by pointing to resources, for example.

Such a list is also helpful if some students are dissatisfied with the course and complain on the list. I never had to "defend" myself on the list but occasionally students would themselves respond to complaints of their peers.

There are, I assume, other ways to do this, but the keys were (a) complete transparency of questions and answers, and (b) ask a question or express a concern at any time, day or night.

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    Back in the stone age, my classes used local Usenet newsgroups for this. These days we mostly use Piazza, although some smaller classes use Slack.
    – JeffE
    Jun 24, 2019 at 3:53

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