A Professor normally send his TA to conduct some sessions of his course (e.g., for problem solving).

It is also possible to ask the TA to attend all sessions to keep the track of the course. This is helpful if the TA is responsible for reading the essays of students, as he can be aware of discussions in the class.

How much the second scheme is popular?

Is it right to force a TA to stay and listen to the basic topics? When someone provide TA service for a course, he knows that topic well, and it is boring to sit and listen it again.

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    In many cases it would not actually be possible to "force" the TA to sit in on the classes, as this would have to count towards their teaching duty, which is usually set to a maximum percentage of their time. Sep 20, 2014 at 11:36
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    It is very popular in the academic courses that I have seen. I have also been asked to do this. I do not think this is unreasonable. Perhaps, this is more common in North America.
    – Shion
    Sep 20, 2014 at 14:05
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    Are you allowed to just stay in the back and bring a laptop, or a book to study, or something else to do? Sep 20, 2014 at 15:36
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    I have not seen it ever or heard of it ever happening in my academic environment (Serbia). In fact, I've only seen the opposite happen: Professors sometimes attending classes conducted by TA, especially if TA is new and inexperienced.
    – AndrejaKo
    Sep 20, 2014 at 17:44
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    are they being paid for these hours? (Most TA's where i am from are on a hourly rate) Sep 20, 2014 at 23:18

4 Answers 4


Yes, attending lectures or other class sessions is a reasonable duty for a TA. Of course, if your contract specifies a maximum number of weekly hours to work, time spent attending the lectures would count toward those hours.

Keep in mind that even though you may be familiar with the basic material, the professor may feel it would be helpful for you to see the same presentation that the students are getting, so that your teaching will be consistent with his.

If you don't agree that this is the best use of your time, and there are more productive ways you could spend that time, then you could certainly suggest to the professor that you try something else. (Be polite about it - I would avoid using the word "force".) But ultimately it is his decision - he is the boss and you are being paid to work under his direction.


This is institution-dependent, at least in the US.

When I was a grad TA, it was written into our union contract that we would attend the lecture. Some people didn't, but it was generally expected that the TA's would go, and I went.

My first occasion supervising TA's, at a different university, I asked them "You'll be attending my lectures, right?" I may as well have asked them to bring me coffee every morning and shine my shoes.

I'd recommend finding out what the norm is at your institution, and following it. In particular, don't try to require lecture attendance of your TA's if the graduate director won't back you up.


I see the TAing as a time of apprenticeship and learning how to be a professional scholar. I require my TAs to attend all of my lectures -- and I also require them to visibly take notes.

The undergraduates often want to address issues raised in lecture. I do not go strictly by the book and on occasion deviate considerably into a tangential area. Without knowing what is going on, how will the TAs handle the students' questions in section?

And the reason I require the TAs to take notes and not to noodle around on their computer is that they are setting an example of professional behavior in the classroom. If the undergrads see the TA wasting time on StackExchange the entire class period, the students will also feel free to go to FaceBook, etc.

If a TA has an issue with this, I would suggest that they talk with the department registrar and find another TA assignment more to their liking.

  • "Tough-guy" answer. :)
    – 299792458
    Sep 21, 2014 at 5:18
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    Mind mentioning where you are located? Because I've never seen this in Europe.
    – Davor
    Sep 21, 2014 at 8:49
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    @Davor I agree. In the european universities where I taught so far, there were generally significantly more posts for TAs than there were good students interested in TAing. If you would at my current university force TAs to sit through class and take notes, you would likely not have TAs next year (or only those that nobody else wanted to hire).
    – xLeitix
    Sep 21, 2014 at 12:24
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    -1: I feel this is not a good exemple to set. Taking notes is by far not the most efficient way to learn for a lot of people (myself included). See this question and answers academia.stackexchange.com/questions/1956/…
    – Zenon
    Sep 21, 2014 at 14:57
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    @Zenon: The answers in that question are conflicting and hardly conclusive. In any case, surely there is room in academia for a wide variety of teaching styles. RoboKaren's practice isn't what I would use in the classes I teach. But if she were my colleague, I would respect her judgment as to what works best for her teaching style in her classes; and I'd hope that she would likewise respect mine. +1 to cancel your -1 :-) Sep 22, 2014 at 5:08

I think it's best to leave this to the TA's discretion in many cases. Professors ought to respect the fact that TAs may be deeply immersed in their thesis research, and really need to have enough time for that.

This may depend a lot on the academic field, though.

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    Ehhh... no. A TA assignment is a job or is professional training, whichever way you want to look at it. The TA needs to behave professionally. To take your answer to its logical conclusion, if a TA doesn't feel like grading or leading discussion sections, they shouldn't have to do those arduous tasks either, right?
    – RoboKaren
    Sep 20, 2014 at 21:25
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    @RoboKaren that depends on whether it is officially considered a duty of the TA to sit in on lectures. If it is, then sure, but if it is not, then for experienced TAs, it will be a huge waste of time to sit in on all lectures. Sep 21, 2014 at 13:02
  • I'm at a university in the United States where we have more latitude in what the requirements for TAs are. Personally I'm surprised that TAs aren't required to go to lectures, I can't possibly see what the purpose of the professors would be if the lectures are so rote that the TAs don't feel they need to attend -- why would anyone else attend lecture?
    – RoboKaren
    Sep 21, 2014 at 15:08
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    @RoboKaren Those others have not already taken the course and possibly TA'ed it several times. While I would not necessarily mind sitting in on lectures to make sure I knew where the lecturer had deviated from the course notes or similar, I would hate to be told that I could not also do some productive work at the same time. Sep 22, 2014 at 17:15
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    @RoboKaren Ahh, that is actually a very nice attitude. In that case it makes a lot more sense to require their presence (btw, remember that you can ping me with @ to make sure I see your reply). Sep 23, 2014 at 11:01

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