Teaching Assistantships

In general, employment as a teaching assistant (TA) constitutes a part of the guaranteed funding package. All students except those holding an NSERC are required are required to TA for 60–90 hours, which in some cases may necessarily be found in cognate departments outside the Department of Earth Sciences. Failure to apply for and obtain a TA position can jeopardize guaranteed funding. A student who refuses a TA assignment that is offered as part of the funding package relinquishes the corresponding funding that the TA assignment provides.

In some cases, TA hours in addition to those required for the funding package are available (for example, summer courses, assignments in cognate departments, exam invigilation and other “emergency” assignments). TA hours above those required to make up the funding package provide extra money directly to the student. Students considering extra TA hours should consult their research supervisors to ensure that the extra hours do not jeopardize their research.

Teaching assistants in the Department of Earth Sciences are automatically members of CUPE 3902, the union representing contract academic staff at the University of Toronto since 1975. Being a member of this union has several benefits, including the Health Care Spending Account (HCSA), Fellowship Defense Fund, Childcare Financial Assistant Funds, and the Fund for International Student Health Expenses. To be eligible for the CUPE insurance plan, a student must have a TAship with at least 30 hours. All new employees must attend a training program of at least three hours in duration that must be included as part of the paid TA contract hours. Each year, AGESS elects a CUPE Liaison; you are encouraged to contact this representative if you have any concerns with regards to TA positions and CUPE. Visit CUPE 3902 for more information.

New Postings

View postings at the Earth Sciences TAship Application.

  • Department Standards and Policies are available in the department office and in the CUPE, Local 3902 office.
  • The position(s) posted is (are) tentative, pending final course determinations and enrolments.

Jobs will be posted in accordance with the CUPE 3902 Unit 1 Collective Agreement.

Although a graduate student’s preference as to the campus location of their TA appointment will be taken into account, both the initial TA appointment (or Course Instructor (CI) appointment) and the subsequent appointment obligation related to that appointment may be met through position(s) on any one of the three University of Toronto campuses (UTM, UTSC or St. George) in courses in the same discipline as the initial appointment. TAs will only be assigned to courses in fields in which they are or should be qualified to assist.

Tips for TAs in Earth Sciences

The passing of knowledge is an essential part of the progression of science. TAships allow you to develop your teaching skills and your knowledge base. Teaching can be as rewarding as it is intimidating; to ease the stress and help broaden your skills, here are some tips to make most out of this opportunity.

Once you have a TA position:

  • Meet with the professor teaching the course:
    • Once before the course starts in order to define your responsibilities for the course. Dividing the work for large courses with multiple TAs is essential.
    • Once around the midterm to get all TAs on the same page and to get hints to improve the course and to make sure you will not go over your contract hours.
    • Once at the end of the course to get feedback from students and professor on how you can improve and to allow suggestions on how the course/TAship can be improved.
  • Keep track of hours worked; don’t work for free! Think ahead so you don’t go over.
  • Ask for a textbook (Professors can get review copies free. Make sure you have one to borrow at least.)
  • Ask for feedback at the end of semester on how to improve.
  • If you don’t feel comfortable with TAingask your professor if you can sit in on the course lecture. This may help you learn how to teach, present material, interact with students, and connect the topics/content you are presenting in the lab sessions.
  • If you TA for your supervisor and you are being asked to work beyond your TA contract obligations then talk to fellow TAs, the undergraduate chair, the graduate chair or the department chair to help you resolve the problem with the least conflict possible.

When Marking or Grading:

  • Talk to the professor about grading expectations.
  • Follow a rubric or marking guide. Ask the professor or previous TAs for their assignment rubrics.
  • Be consistent! Make sure you mark all material equally.
  • When giving feedback, focus on a few main points that are helpful to the student in each exercise.Try to give constructive criticism (do not just identify faults).

For more Questions: