Centre for Teaching and Learning

Centre for Teaching and Learning
Centre for Teaching and Learning

Student Complaints

Student complaints are an inevitable aspect of working as Teaching assistants (TA's). Complaints that often arise from students typically stem from feelings of being treated or marked unfairly. Regardless of the reason for a student complaint,it is the responsibility of the TA to react swiftly and professionally under all circumstances.The most useful resource for handling complaints is your TA contract as t covers aspects on student complaints. Discussing your TA contract early in the term with the course instructor is beneficial to solving students complaints successfully.

Below are some useful tips for dealing with student complaints in specific settings:

  1. The student complains directly to you.
    • If the complaint comes during tutorial, it is best to acknowledge the issue, and state that you are happy to discuss this at the end of tutorial, or through email. Specific complaints should not be addressed and resolved during tutorial time.
    • If the complaint is made over social media, it is not appropriate to respond to the complaint over the platform. Please refer to the “Social Media” for more tips on how to handle student communication over social media platforms.
    • If the complaint is made over email or during office hours, focus on the nature of the complaint and determine if it is something that can be resolved under your jurisdiction as a TA. Often times, remarking is handled by the professor directly, in which case you will need to refer the student to the professor. It may be useful to send an email to the professor privately discussing the nature of the complaint, and any communication you have had with the student prior.
    • It is possible that the complaint is a constructive criticism of your teaching style or methods. It is important that you listen to student complaints in a respectful way, and keep an open mind towards improving your own teaching to reach more students.
  2. The student complains to the course instructor.
    • If the course instructor reaches out to you about a student complaint, it is important to respond swiftly and honestly. If the complaint was made in confidence to the instructor, it is not appropriate to address the issue with the student. Oftentimes, the course instructor is supportive of the TA, and will attempt to resolve the matter appropriately.