Approved by Senate May 25, 2005
amended January 29, 2009
This policy only applies to undergraduate teaching assistants.
All material referring to graduate student teaching assistants is now superseded by the collective agreement governing Graduate Teaching Assistants and Teaching Fellows at Queen’s University found at: http://www.queensu.ca/provost/faculty/facultyrelations/psac/collectiveagreement/CAV4Aug1911Finalwithlinks.pdf
Table of Contents
In the fall of 1991, a Committee on Teaching Assistants began to examine the roles and responsibilities of Teaching Assistants (TAs), their training and evaluation as well as funding issues. Its report was presented in the spring of 1993 to the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research, and many of the committee’s recommendations were implemented in the following years. After almost a decade, it was recognized that it would be useful to revisit and review a number of the issues addressed in the 1993 report. Therefore, from June 2001 to March 2002, a SCAD Sub-Committee on the Training of Teaching Assistants reviewed some of the concerns raised previously and made new recommendations that were approved by Senate in May 2002 and subsequently implemented (for details, see report to SCAD by the Sub-Committee).
In the Spring of 2003, the Senate Committee on Academic Development (SCAD) established the Sub-Committee on Teaching Assistants at Queen’s. This Sub-Committee received the mandate to continue the work of the previous committees and to make recommendations to the Senate Committee on Academic Development (SCAD) regarding policies and guidelines leading to a common frame of reference with respect to the hiring and funding of TAs and their roles and responsibilities. In addition, the Sub-Committee was charged with reviewing existing policies and procedures regarding dispute resolution, and with identifying areas where revisions or additions would be appropriate. The following policy is the result of the Sub-Committee’s deliberations and integrates recommendations from prior committees as well as feedback received from the university community.
Andrzej Antoszkiewicz, Graduate Student-at-large (to April 2004)
Sam Hosseini, Graduate Student-at-large (from April 2004)
Ahmed Kayssi, Graduate Student-at-large
Chrissie Knitter, Undergraduate Student-at-large (to April 2004)
Tyler Turnbull, Undergraduate Student-at-large (from April 2004)
Merrilees Muir, Office of the Vice-Principal Academic (Secretary)
Ulrich Scheck, Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research (Chair)
Laureen Snider, SCAD Representative (to December 2003)
David Turcke, Faculty Member-at-large
David Wardlaw, Faculty Member-at-large
The purpose of this policy is to provide a common frame of reference with respect to the hiring and funding of Teaching Assistants (TAs) at Queen’s University as well as the rights and responsibilities of TAs and the University. In general, it is intended that the guidelines and procedures articulated in this document enhance the graduate and undergraduate learning and teaching environment.
In addition to the issues discussed by the Sub-Committee on Teaching Assistants at Queen’s (2003-04), a number of recommendations and policies outlined in the following documents have been incorporated into this document: Teaching Assistants at Queen’s: A Report Prepared for the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research (1993) and the Report of the Sub-Committee on the Training of Teaching Assistants at Queen’s University to the Senate Committee on Academic Development (2002).
This policy applies to all graduate or undergraduate students registered at Queen’s University who are employed by the University as TAs.
A teaching assistantship is a contractual agreement between the University, normally represented by a unit, e.g., a department, faculty or school, and a student for a specified number of hours of teaching support for a degree-credit course and delivered within a particular period of time such as an academic term or part of a term. Awarding teaching assistantships serves three valuable functions: A teaching assistantship provides teaching support to undergraduate courses; it is a significant component of financial support for a considerable number of graduate students; and for many students it is an important — in some academic disciplines even necessary — component of their professional development.
Throughout this document the term “Teaching Assistant (TA)” includes:
In the context of this document “Course Supervisor” means any individual who has responsibility for a course, a course section or a laboratory and is supervising one or more TAs who have been employed to perform specified duties such as teaching, demonstrating, tutoring or marking in connection with that course or laboratory.
All TAs are employees of Queen’s University and must be recognized as such with respect to this policy, and all relevant university policies and legislation.
Rights and Responsibilities of Teaching Assistants
TAs at Queen’s University have the right
TAs are responsible for discharging their duties according to the terms of the Student Employment Contract (see Appendix A) and the TA Agreement (see Appendix B). TAs are also responsible for fulfilling the requirements of the Student Employment Contract and the TA Agreement in a positive manner that is supportive of the learning environment at Queen’s.
Rights and Responsibilities of the University
Queen’s University is committed to maintaining and enhancing the quality of the teaching and learning environment and promoting excellence in the entire educational experience for its undergraduate and graduate students. The University recognizes and highly values the important role played by TAs in achieving these goals.
The University acknowledges that it has responsibilities towards TAs with respect to their scholarly development and professional preparation for academic and non-academic careers. Therefore, Queen’s University will continue to encourage and support program-specific and university-wide TA training initiatives.
Furthermore, the University recognizes its responsibility as an employer of TAs and is committed to fair and consistent treatment of all undergraduate and graduate students who are so employed. As employees of Queen’s University, all TAs must be recognized as such with respect to this policy, and all relevant university policies and legislation.
The rights of the University as an employer include, but are not limited to:
Equity, Safety and Health
TAs at Queen's, by virtue of their status as registered students at the University, are protected by applicable equity, safety and health policies including the following:
Protocol for Resolving Disputes Between Teaching Assistants and Course Supervisors
This protocol is intended to provide a comprehensive mechanism by which TAs and their course supervisors can resolve disputes with respect to their employment relationship. For information about University policies which may govern other aspects of a student’s activities and relationships, please consult the website of the University Senate: http://www.queensu.ca/secretariat/policies.html
This protocol does not apply to situations that are governed by other University complaint policies. Specifically, matters covered by the Harassment/Discrimination Complaint Policy and Procedure must be dealt with according to the provisions of that policy and are expressly excluded from this Protocol.
A dispute or grievance arising out of employment-related issues between a teaching assistant and her/his course supervisor should be addressed in the sequence described below. At each stage of the resolution process the student may be assisted or represented by a person of his or her choice, as a matter of right, and should be informed of this right.
Students may choose to seek assistance from the offices of the Co-ordinator of Dispute Resolution Mechanisms, the AMS, the SGPS, or the Rector. All of these bodies have trained individuals available to provide assistance.
It is understood that a student who is involved in the dispute resolution process as set out in this protocol will continue to receive her/his TA salary until a resolution is reached or until the teaching assistantship ends, whichever comes first.
A student who is involved in the dispute resolution process as set out in this protocol shall not be subject to retribution.
The grievance is made either orally or in writing to the course supervisor. A TA may seek the assistance of a friend or advisor in the preparation and/or presentation of the grievance to the supervisor.
The Teaching Assistant Agreement Form identifies the various teaching activities expected of the TA and an estimate of the hours per term to be devoted to each activity. As such, it outlines the nature of the working relationship between the TA and the Supervisor and will be used as a reference document for the purpose of resolving grievances. Failing a resolution to the grievance through informal discussions between the TA and the course supervisor, the course supervisor will make a definitive ruling on the matter in writing. If not satisfied with the decision, the TA may submit;
An appeal in writing to the Head of the unit. After further efforts to resolve the situation informally, if a resolution to the grievance cannot be reached, the Head shall render a written decision including notification of the right to request that the parties meet to enter into discussions with the Co-ordinator, Dispute Resolution Mechanisms (CDRM) as chair or, if the parties agree, as mediator.
After consultation with the parties, and upon agreement between them, the CDRM will schedule and convene a meeting. Those attending will include the TA and Head of the unit, and may include anyone else with direct involvement in the matter (such as, for example, the person whose actions or decisions are the subject matter of the grievance).
The TA may be accompanied by a friend or advisor. The Head of the unit may be accompanied by another member of the Department.
This meeting may be continued on a later date if time poses a barrier to its progress, or it may be adjourned to a later date if additional information or material would assist in resolving the matter. Normally the period for alternative dispute resolution will not exceed four weeks.
The CDRM will prepare and obtain the parties’ signatures on a Meeting Memorandum indicating either the terms of settlement of the grievance or that the meeting concluded without resolution. In the event that the meeting concluded without resolution, the Memorandum would include a statement informing the TA of;
The right to proceed with the matter to the University Student Appeal Board. The rules of procedure and time limits for filing such an appeal are set out in Senate policy on Student Appeals, Rights and Discipline beginning at section 25 (see http://www.queensu.ca/secretariat/policies/senateandtrustees/SARDPolicy.pdf).
Discrimination and Harassment
Queen's University recognizes that all members of the University community have the right to be free from harassment and discrimination on the grounds of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status, disability and gender identity. As members of the Queen's community, TAs are afforded the protection of the Harassment/Discrimination Complaint Policy and Procedure which was approved by Senate in March, 2000 and subsequently ratified by the Board of Trustees: http://www.queensu.ca/secretariat/policies/senateandtrustees/harassment.html
With respect to issues related to human rights legislation, TAs may seek assistance from the Human Rights Office at Queen’s.
This section is inspired by, and to some extent modeled on, “Ethical Principles in University Teaching.” This document was developed by the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE).
The purpose of these principles is to assist in defining the professional responsibilities and attitudes of university TAs in their roles as classroom teachers, laboratory demonstrators, markers, tutorial leaders, etc. Adherence to these principles will enhance the quality of TA teaching and improve student learning experiences at Queen’s.
Knowledge of Subject Matter
A TA has a duty to acquire and maintain general knowledge of the content of the course to which she/he is assigned as well as a thorough understanding of the components of the course for which she/he is directly responsible. The teaching of the content needs to be consistent with the stated course objectives. For subject matter that is open to interpretation or benefits from differences of opinion, the TA has a responsibility to convey this situation to students and to enable different interpretations/opinions to be represented in her/his component of the course.
Competence as a Teacher
In order to be effective instructors, TAs should actively assess, acquire, and improve their knowledge of teaching skills and methods through some combination of self-reflection, peer assessment, mentoring from their course supervisor, TA development programs offered by the unit, special workshops/symposia on teaching, and TA programs offered by the Centre for Teaching and Learning1.
Respect for Students
Every student is an individual who deserves respect regardless of academic or cultural background, attitude towards the course content or the discipline, academic performance or ability, or differences of opinion on topics included in the course. The TA is a role model for students and has a responsibility to provide leadership in developing the mutual respect between TA and student that is required to create a positive learning environment.
Respect for Colleagues
An essential element of the profession of teaching is respect for colleagues. Disagreements with another TA or the course supervisor should be settled informally whenever possible. In the case of a grievance against a course supervisor, TAs must follow the protocol as outlined in section V (Dispute Resolution).
Respect for the Institution and Its Programs
As an employee of the University, a TA represents the institution to students. In this role, she/he shares a responsibility to uphold the University’s educational and equity goals as well as its academic standards, to contribute positively to the learning and teaching environment, and to follow policies and regulations relating to the education and well being of students. A TA must demonstrate and promote respect for all academic subject areas, disciplines, and programs regardless of her/his personal preferences.
Valid Assessment of Students
TAs are responsible for clearly communicating assessment procedures and marking systems to students, and for grading assignments, tests, exams, essays, etc., carefully, fairly, and in a timely fashion. TAs should provide an explanation of marking decisions and re-assess their evaluation of student work if given reasonable grounds for so doing. If a TA discovers that an assessment technique or marking system is flawed, she/he has an obligation to report this to the course supervisor and to engage in a discussion for improving the situation. The principles of valid assessment extend to the case of a TA providing a reference letter for a current or former student.
Course grades, course work (assignments, essays, exams, etc.), transcripts and other academic records, private communications, personal information, and medical documentation are subject to the University’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Guidelines and can only be released for valid academic purposes and with the consent of the student.
Decisions to release information are normally made by the course supervisor or at a higher level. The initial response of a TA to such a request should be to immediately refer the matter to the course supervisor.
Conflict of Interest
A TA has a responsibility to disclose possible conflicts of interest with respect to carrying out her/his TA duties. The existence of an actual or apparent conflict of interest does not necessarily preclude the involvement of the TA in the situation where the conflict has arisen, or may arise, but it does require that the conflict be formally disclosed in writing to the course supervisor before any action or decision is taken. In cases where the course supervisor also has an interest in the matter, the disclosure shall be made in writing to the Head of the unit. The course supervisor, or, where necessary, the Head of the unit, after consultation with the TA and any other appropriate persons, shall determine whether a conflict, actual or apparent, exists, and determine an appropriate way to deal with the actual or apparent conflict of interest.
There are numerous ways in which conflict of interest can arise. Dual-role relationships with a student, with another TA in the course, or with the course supervisor comprise the most common class of conflict of interest. Examples of dual-role relationships with a student (from the STLHE website) are: a sexual or close personal relationship with a current student; teaching a student who is a close relative or close friend; excessive socializing with students outside class; lending money or goods to, or borrowing from students; requiring or encouraging students to engage in movements or organizations in which the TA has a vested interest; offering additional instruction to a student outside of the regular class for a fee. An example of dual-role relationships with another TA is the situation in which a TA is teaching a close friend or relative of their spouse or partner who is also a TA in the same unit. Examples of dual-role relationships with the course supervisor are situations in which the TA is the partner of, or has an intimate relationship with, the course supervisor.
A conflict of interest also arises in situations where TAs who are in an employment relationship with the University at the same time are hired to conduct tutoring sessions that are offered by commercial exam preparation and tutoring organizations. This is especially apparent in cases where TAs are hired by such organizations to tutor students in the same course for which they have been hired by the University. For a TA to accept remuneration from commercial organizations for tutoring students in courses for which the TA has been hired by the University, therefore, is viewed as a conflict of interest.
TAs are important members of the teaching enterprise and, therefore, deserve to be treated with respect and professional courtesy. Where appropriate, units should invite TAs to participate in discussions and decisions regarding course structures, administration and evaluation. However, the final responsibility for such decisions must always lie with the course supervisor. The working environment of TAs should be enriched where possible by encouraging a team-teaching approach in which TAs and faculty work closely together in delivering the course content.
Currently, full-time graduate students are limited to a maximum of ten hours of paid employment per week (averaged over the employment period). Since Queen’s operates on a twelve-week lecture period, the maximum workload, therefore, is 130 hours per term (12 weeks plus one week, where appropriate, for marking final exams). This maximum also extends to undergraduate TAs. Units may assign partial teaching assistantships by lessening the workload to reflect fewer hours and by adjusting remuneration accordingly. It is the responsibility of the course supervisor to define the expected duties in such a way that the TA is used efficiently and that the average number of hours worked per week does not exceed 10 hours over the course of the TA’s employment.
If a student receives more than one teaching assistantship in a term in order to accommodate academic requirements, e.g., to facilitate a term of fieldwork, the average number of hours worked per week should not exceed 10 hours during the combined period of the TA’s employment and his/her fulfillment of the academic requirements.
For further information about the 10 hour rule, please consult the website of the Ontario Council on Graduate Studies at http://cou.on.ca/policy-advocacy/graduate-education/policy.
Student Employment Contract and TA Agreement
As stated in Section I, a teaching assistantship is a contractual agreement between a unit and a student. For each teaching assistantship, the Student Employment Contract must be completed for purposes of appointment and pay. The contract form can be found on the Human Resources website (see Appendix A).
In addition to completing the Student Employment Contract, TAs must be informed in writing by means of a TA Agreement regarding the specifics of their assignment including the number of hours to be dedicated to particular tasks and total remuneration. Units have an obligation to set sufficiently detailed guidelines for expectations, standards of work and reasonable turn-around time. Units are responsible for ensuring that the TA Agreement is duly signed before any duties under the Agreement are performed. A template for the TA Agreement can be found on the Centre for Teaching and Learning website at (see Appendix B).
All units shall observe the University-wide minimum hourly TA rate for graduate students as determined by the Vice-Principal (Academic) in consultation with the Faculties, the AMS, the SGPS, the School of Graduate Studies and Research, and the Consultative Committee on Teaching Assistants (see Section X). Effective September 2004, the rate of pay for registered graduate students who are employed as TAs to provide support for degree-credit courses is $32.50 per hour. The hourly TA rate is inclusive of vacation pay and statutory holiday pay. TA pay rates will be reviewed on an annual basis under terms defined in Section X.
Effective September 2005, the minimum undergraduate hourly TA rate is $17.
Statutory and Religious Holidays
No TA shall be compelled to perform her/his duties on any statutory holiday, or any holiday declared by Queen’s University, or on a recognized religious holiday of a religion to which the student adheres. If the religious holiday occurs on a day that the University is open, the person planning to observe the religious holiday shall give reasonable notice to the course supervisor and the affected students.
Leaves of Absence
TAs are eligible for up to two weeks of paid sick leave if unable to perform their duties because of illness or accident. TAs may have to provide the course supervisor with an appropriate medical note.
TAs are also entitled to a paid leave for up to one week in the event of a death (bereavement leave) or serious illness or injury (compassionate leave) in the TA’s immediate family. While immediate family is defined as spouse, partner, parent, child or sibling, bereavement or compassionate leave should also be granted in cases where the TA has a close relationship with the individual affected, such as a close friend or other family member.
Accommodation for a Disability
Requests by a TA for accommodation for a disability will be considered in a timely and respectful manner. TAs should make requests for accommodation as early as possible to their supervisors. Accommodation for a disability shall be provided in as timely a manner as possible, and the assistance of the Coordinator of Disability Services may be requested whenever appropriate.
Allocation of Teaching Assistantships
The mechanisms for allocating teaching assistantships vary greatly across units and are a function of unit size and the criteria used for the selection of TAs, e.g., financial need, teaching ability in specific areas, and academic merit. Whatever the allocation procedures, it is essential that the selection process be transparent to TAs. Units must provide their TAs with written guidelines which explain the principles for defining eligibility for and the allocation of teaching assistantships.
The preferred procedure is to delegate the assignment of teaching assistantships to a TA Appointments Committee. It is recommended that the committee will advertise TA opportunities to students in the unit. If a committee structure is not feasible, e.g., in small units, or if units already have a well-established, consultative process in place, alternate methods of assigning teaching assistantships may be used.
In determining allocation, units may take into consideration any of the following: the academic needs of the unit, the expertise of the student, financial need, and the need of graduate students to gain instructional experience in their area of expertise. Where possible, teaching assistantships should be allocated in a way that exposes TAs to diverse teaching functions such as instruction, demonstration, marking, etc., during their academic career.
Training and Evaluation
There are currently many initiatives on campus that actively promote TA training and development. These programs provide TAs with a minimum of specific, relevant training from individual units and provide opportunities for advanced training in teaching and learning for those TAs who wish to improve their instructional skills. Many of these initiatives are outlined in the 2002 Report of the SCAD Sub-Committee on the Training of Teaching Assistants and on the website of the Centre for Teaching and Learning (see report to SCAD by the Sub-Committee).
In keeping with the 2002 recommendations that have been approved by Senate, each unit designates an individual who is responsible for providing a brief annual report on TA training and development activities to the Head (with copies to the respective Faculty Dean, the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research, and the Centre for Teaching and Learning). Designated individuals should identify themselves to the Centre for Teaching and Learning by 1 July of each year in order to facilitate appropriate reporting, planning and communication for the following academic year.
All new TAs must participate in a three-hour mandatory training session organized by their units before taking up their assigned duties, except where there is a process in place providing ongoing training throughout the term of the teaching assistantship. TAs are entitled to be paid for three mandatory hours of training at the minimum rates set for graduate and undergraduate students respectively. Payment for time spent in training sessions exceeding the three mandatory hours is at the discretion of the units providing the training.
Initial mandatory training must include informing TAs about the provisions of this document, explaining the unit’s practice regarding the TA assignment process, explaining the purpose of the Student Employment Contract and of the TA Agreement, discussing the roles and responsibilities of TAs, and introducing TAs to other issues relevant to their particular duties, such as assessing students’ work, leading labs or discussions, and communicating effectively. Attention should also be given to increasing the sensitivity of TAs to issues associated with gender and race relations as well as accessibility and accommodation for disability in the classroom/lab at Queen’s.
Units are encouraged to offer initial training sessions exceeding the three-hour minimum.
New TAs are encouraged to participate in the Professional Development Day for Teaching Assistants offered by the Centre for Teaching and Learning and avail themselves of any further training opportunities within their respective units.
Graduate students who are required under current Graduate School regulations to submit satisfactory results in an English language test such as TOEFL for the purpose of admission, will be required to participate in the mandatory on-campus assessment of their oral proficiency in English before taking up TA duties that require verbal communication with students. Details about this assessment as well as support provided to international graduate students to prepare them for their TA duties can be found on the Centre for Teaching and Learning website.
There is currently no formal standardized system for assessing TAs. The Centre for Teaching and Learning provides a form on its website which can be used to obtain mid-term and/or end-of-term feedback from undergraduate students on the performance of their TA. Until a more comprehensive system of TA evaluation has been developed, the Centre for Teaching and Learning will continue to make these forms available. Once a university-wide evaluation system has been developed, all TAs should be assessed accordingly.
The Centre for Teaching and Learning will also offer a workshop for TAs on collecting, evaluating and summarizing student evaluations.
Wherever possible, TAs should be evaluated on their performance in each course by their course supervisors. Course supervisors should attend at least one session during a term to observe a TA when student contact is a significant part of the role of the TA. Written feedback should be provided that can be used as a basis for improvement.
Consultative Committee on Teaching Assistants
In order to ensure that this policy remains current, meets the needs of TAs and the University, and has effect, a Consultative Committee on Teaching Assistants shall, as needed, recommend new provisions or amendments to any of the sections already contained in this document. The Consultative Committee shall report to the Vice-Principal (Academic) who will also consult with the Committee regarding adjustments to the minimum graduate and undergraduate TA rates and any other issue that may come up from time to time. The final decision regarding University-wide minimum TA rates rests with the Vice-Principal (Academic).
The Consultative Committee shall review this policy at least every two years and may request information from units regarding any procedures covered in this policy, e.g., TA allocation mechanisms or TA training initiatives.
The Consultative Committee shall be established by the Vice-Principal (Academic) and shall be composed of:
1 undergraduate student nominated by the AMS
1 graduate student nominated by the SGPS
1 faculty member-at-large nominated by the Vice-Principal (Academic)
The University TA Coordinator or other representative from the IDC
The Dean of Graduate Studies and Research or her/his delegate (Chair)
Committee members are appointed for a period of two years.
In addition to its mandate as outlined above, the Consultative Committee shall provide a forum for discussion of any issues related to TAs at Queen’s University.
Units shall provide each of their TAs with an electronic or paper copy of this policy, or make the policy available to TAs on the unit’s website.
Appendix A (PDF*, 62 KB)
Appendix B (PDF*, 83 KB)
1The Centre for Teaching and Learning was formerly known as the Instructional Development Centre (IDC). The name change was approved by Senate on May 25, 2005.
*PDF files can be viewed using Adobe Reader.