TA Expectations and Responsibilities

Teaching Assistant Responsibilities During Lab

Teaching Assistants are assigned to 1 or 2 lab sections, lasting one hour and 50 minutes, once per week. The maximum enrollment in a lab section is 21 students (or 18 for ARSC).  Each class will be divided into lab groups of two or three students.

Preparation for Lab

  • Get to the lab about ten minutes early. 
  • Check out the room for missing or broken equipment. If the TA for the previous section is still there, ask about any problems that they encountered.
  • Return the reports that were submitted the week before. Go over any common mistakes made by the students in the reports you return. Then do the same for the pre-labs for the current experiment.
  • Give the lab talk for the week. This talk should last about 10 minutes, and include
    1. Any special procedures or safety concerns for the experiment. 
    2. Demonstrating the use of the equipment.
    3. Warning the students about potential dangers posed by the equipment or the procedure.
  • Remaining lab time is to be used to complete the lab assignments. Analysis assignments are due to the D2L drop box before the students leave the lab. If the situation warrants an extension, students may be given 24 hours to complete the lab.
  • Check out any special equipment, such as the resistivity unknowns. Use the sign-in/out binder available at the front of the lab.

During the course of the lab

  • Don’t leave the lab unless absolutely necessary. You are responsible for everything that happens in the lab. If they are not on the second floor, the Lab Supervisors will try to be in the building and logged in to D2L. Page them if necessary using D2L or send a student to their offices.
  • Roam about the lab, checking on the progress of the different lab groups. If any students are having trouble, ask them questions to get them going in the right direction. Do not just take over and fix things yourself. Part of the lab learning process is for the students to gain a physical intuition of how the equipment works.                   
  • Walk the students through the problem and any trouble shooting procedures. Example: One lab group is not getting current through their circuit. First, walk them through the circuit diagram to check their circuit. If that does not fix the problem, have the students use a voltmeter to find out which part of the circuit has a break - usually a blown fuse in the power supply or multi meter, or a blown light bulb.
  • Do not wait for them to ask you questions; your students may be afraid to look stupid. Develop a set of questions for each experiment to help you gauge your students’ understanding of the experiment. For example, “Why is it important to have the track completely level when we run the collisions?”
  • Have an estimate of how long each section of the lab will take.  Share your estimates with your students and help to keep them on track.             
  • If the same question is asked by more than two lab groups, get everyone’s attention and discuss the question and its answer with the group as a whole.
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t make up an answer.  Admit that you are not sure of the answer and try to find an answer for them.
  • Respect the students’ intelligence.  If they have made a mistake in setting up their experiment, use that as a teaching tool.  Help them understand where they went wrong and how to correct it.  Don’t just say, “You should have done it this way...”
  • Know that you will make mistakes. Shake it off and then try to correct it as soon as possible, in the next class period at the latest.
  • Don't sit in a corner and grade papers! A good TA moves around the classroom, identifying problems before they occur, and helps students step back and evaluate what they're doing.
  • If you have any major problems during the course of the lab, find Mrs. Vigil or Dr. Hirsch.

At the end of the lab session

  • Students will be submitting work at the end of each experiment.  You will need to check their results before you let them leave the lab.  Make sure to check their data against your own.  If you notice something wrong in their data, have the students go back and correct the problem before they leave. 
  • Check the stations after the students have left to make sure that the equipment still works and that all of the necessary parts are still there.  If equipment is broken, replace it.  Put the broken equipment on the TA’s table in the lab and notify Professor Vigil or Dr. Hirsh ASAP.
  • If any equipment was checked out that week, make sure that all of it has been returned.

Other Responsibilities

Office hours

  • TAs are responsible for holding office hours for at least 1 hr/week in room 347. Make sure your hour does not overlap with the lecture sections. Mondays are encouraged, before the lab week begins. More than one TA can hold office hours at the same time if necessary.

TA meetings

  • Attendance is required for all TAs at all meetings, which are weekly and approx.. 2 hours long. At the meetings, equipment will be distributed and tested. One TA will give the lab talk on the experiment and lead the discussion of the equipment and procedures. Teaching methods and grading will also be discussed at the weekly meetings. If you cannot attend, inform Professor Vigil ahead of time to set up a time to meet and makeup what you’ll miss. Excessive absences will result in termination.


  • Attendance needs to be taken each week. Records of attendance and report grades will be kept in D2L for each course.
  • Pre-lab assignments are almost all auto-graded quizzes posted in D2L. Occasionally, however, the pre-lab will need to be submitted on paper. D2L pre-labs are due 30 minutes before lab begins. The pre-lab assignment will be used as a springboard for the discussion at the beginning of lab. 
  • Assignments submitted after the due date are penalized 1 point per day late.
  • If you have any grade challenges, refer the students to Mrs. Vigil.

Reporting Your Grades and Attendance Records

  • Record your grades in D2L each week. You can access the attendance record by following the Attendance link in the “More Tools” dropdown menu at the upper right corner of the lab web-page. Remember that the grading hours are not self-reported, and will depend on whether or not the grades and attendance records are posted.
  • Tell the students to check the grades in D2L against the grades on their papers to avoid typographical errors. If changes are necessary, refer the students in question to Dr. Hirsch.

TA Resources