Currently, at a broad level, the scenario I am observing is as follows:

Tasks by Instructor (assistant professor, associate professor, professor)

  1. Collecting presentations from either the internet or asks TA's to make a presentation or rarely prepares a presentation for a given topic and presents it in front of students.

  2. Doesn't deal with coding

  3. Clarifies the theoretical doubts asked by students during class timings only.

Tasks by Ph.D. TA

  1. Prepares content for instructor class (sometimes)

  2. Prepares coding and theoretical content for tutorial class

  3. Clarifies doubts in tutorial class

  4. Deals with both theoretical and coding aspects for the tutorial sessions.

  5. Receives more doubts from students since students work on the topic after a (theoretic) introductory lecture by the instructor.

  6. Prepares assignment questions and also answers keys.

  7. Evaluates the submitted assignments, makes result sheets, distributes grades and deals with grade discrepancies.

Most of the time, postgraduate TAs assists in the last two steps. (It is not happening during pandemic days).

In general, for every couple of weeks, there will be a tutorial class. It takes at least 4 full days to complete all the tasks with satisfaction. Covering both mathematical and coding aspects in great detail is a challenging task. And even if one prepares with so much effort, it may not be useful for the research work.

So, I am wondering whether the workload is the same for a Ph.D. TA's in other universities or is my university is using them excessively?

Note: Although there are guidelines regarding TA work, no instructor follows them in strict sense.

  • 1
    You could also look on this as an opportunity. All of those skills are needed if you want to be an academic.
    – Buffy
    Apr 2, 2021 at 12:57
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    Who can say about down votes. Not me in this case. Lots of questions get down voted for reasons I haven't yet figured out. This one, perhaps, because it has a certain "rant like" quality to it, even though it does ask a question. Some because the answer seems obvious, but I don't think that was true here. And some questions (not this one, I think) just seem to be "litter" on the site. But unless the vote is explained it is best to just ignore it. And, professors can get overworked too, of course.
    – Buffy
    Apr 2, 2021 at 14:40
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    At my university, the load for TAs was not framed in classes, it was framed in hours per week. Courses were then given designations like “10 hours” or “20 hours” based on expected tasks and number of students. Is there anything written down about expected hours per week?
    – Dawn
    Apr 2, 2021 at 14:43
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    @hanugm Is there a typo in your comment about guidelines? Maybe include any information about guidelines part of the question and not a comment. That would make the question less rant like and maybe more about a specific issue. Apr 2, 2021 at 15:19
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    How many TAs are there for the course? The tasks seem mostly reasonable provided there are sufficient people.
    – GoodDeeds
    Apr 2, 2021 at 19:11

2 Answers 2


Actually, I don't think it is excessive, though it may be a bit steep. It was a long time ago, but when I was a PhD student in mathematics at an R1 in the US, the "load" of a TA was about half that of the teaching load of a professor (1 course equivalent vs 2 for a professor). I don't see anything in your list that is really out of bounds, assuming #1 is occasional. In fact, all of it is good training for anyone wanting a career in academia. You need to practice all these things to get good at them.

I was thrilled (thrilled, I say) when, as an advanced TA, I was given complete responsibility for one section (of many) of an elementary course. The course was pretty standard so there wasn't much course design prep and the final exam was common to all sections, but, otherwise, the course was mine.

  • 5
    For what it's worth, I had complete responsibility for 2 courses each semester during a 2-year Master program in math during Fall 1984 to Spring 1986. There wasn't even a course supervisor I had to report to, although the director of graduate studies did oversee things. Apr 2, 2021 at 15:33

Yes, because this is unfair to the students.

Simply put, every student should have exactly the same opportunities, regardless of who their TA is. As such, every TA should be working off of the same lesson plans, the same example questions, the same homework problems, etc.

If each TA is responsible for creating the material for their own tutorials, then this isn't possible, and you have a fundamental problem of equity. Either the instructor in charge should be organising meetings for the TAs to share the material they've prepared to finalise the plans for each week's tutorial, or the instructor in charge should be the one deciding what is being taught in each tutorial.

Similarly, all students should be getting the same items for their marked assessment, and there should be moderation sessions for each piece of assessment where the TAs get together, show each other examples from the work submitted to them of what they think each letter mark looks like, and then discuss this with each other to ensure consistency in their marking.

  • 1
    True... and, also, having everyone re-invent their own wheel is inefficient. Still, "equity/fairness" is not quite the same as demanding that everyone be in lock-step. Yes, lazy faculty/TA's dis-serve their students... but it is hard to legislate fairness without corrupting the system, in particular, squelching the initiative of fac/TAs who want to do more than the minimum. Not a trivial puzzle to solve. Students are sensible to "vote with their feet" and enroll for classes with better fac/TAs. Mar 16, 2022 at 23:01

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