II. Responsibilities and Duties of Teaching Assistants in Chemistry

The following comments are general statements of policies and duties of teaching assistants in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry.

  • The teaching assistant is expected to display the utmost integrity and professionalism in dealing with the students.
  • It is against Departmental policy for a TA to fraternize with his/her students either during school hours or after.
  • Paid tutoring of students in a course to which you are assigned as a TA is not allowed, nor may you charge for tutoring during office hours held as part of your teaching assignment.
  • The UA Policy on Confidentiality of Records recognizes the privacy rights of students in matters such as the posting of grades and release of information about students, as outlined in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 and in subsequent amendments.

A. Laboratory TA

Most TA appointments involve instruction of students in laboratory courses. The functions of the laboratory teaching assistant are to provide instruction, supervision, and assistance, as required, to the students in his/her section. The proper performance of these duties requires the undivided attention of the teaching assistant during each laboratory period.

Specific policy details concerning the operation and maintenance of the laboratory will be formulated by the faculty and administered by the teaching assistants under the direction of the faculty and the laboratory supervisor. It is the responsibility of the teaching assistant to become thoroughly familiar with the policies and procedures of the chemistry stockroom, to support these policies, and to work within these procedures in his/her dealings with the students in his/her laboratory sections.

Prior to the beginning of the laboratory period, the laboratory and equipment rooms should be inspected to make sure they are clean and orderly. A check should be made to ensure that all the required reagents, equipment and supplies are available and in sufficient quantity. If the preceding section did not leave the laboratory in the proper condition, this condition should be reported to the laboratory coordinator or faculty member in charge of the laboratory. During the early part of the laboratory period, the teaching assistant should determine that each student has the necessary equipment and that it is assembled properly. The TA should circulate through the laboratory during the period to determine that each student does the assigned work in an acceptable manner, and to answer any questions which the students may ask. Do not rely on the student to come to you for questions. Finally, no student should be permitted to leave the laboratory until his/her work has been completed (including cleanup) to the satisfaction of the TA.

The number of students in each laboratory section is set according to recommendations of the American Chemical Society and UA Fire Safety policies so that the TA will be able to devote his/her personal attention to individual student problems. Department policy requires all people in a teaching lab to wear approved safety goggles at all times; this includes students, TAs, staff and faculty! As the person supervising the laboratory, it is your responsibility to enforce this rule. Departmental policy is that no student will be permitted to smoke, eat, or drink beverages in the laboratory. Furthermore, operation of electronics and cell phones is not permitted. The TA is likewise expected to observe these policies. Specific safety rules for the laboratory will be given to the students on the first day of the lab meeting. The TA must not leave the laboratory while he/she has a lab in session unless he/she has the permission of the supervisor or the professor in charge. At all times, the laboratory students and their safety must have the full attention of TA. Nobody other than students registered for the lab section should be allowed in the laboratory without permission of the lab supervisor.

Graduate students should inform the course/lab supervisor if they must miss any part of the assigned TA duties, and this should be done as far in advance as possible. TA’s are encouraged to arrange for other graduate students to cover missed assignments, but such arrangements must be approved by the supervisor in advance. During weeks when labs do not meet, the TA may be expected to help try new experiments that may be adopted in future courses and/or demonstrate that he/she has practiced the labs that he/she will teach for the semester. Failure to perform this aspect of the TA duty may result in loss of pay. Other special assignments by the lab coordinator may also be requested in weeks when the lab is not in session.

B. General Chemistry Laboratory TA’s

A 0.5 FTE TA requires twenty (20) hours of work per week. Typically, three hours (3) are spent for each general chemistry laboratory section, and a typical TA load is three sections. About three (3) hours should be spent grading lab reports each week. The TA is also expected to attend a weekly meeting that is designed to review grading, planning for the experiment in the following week, and/or training sessions. One (1) hour per week is spent in a room (to be designated) to help any 100-level Chemistry student that may need assistance. The TA should set two (2) office hours and make himself/herself available on a reasonable basis to his/her students who wish to see him/her concerning their laboratory work. The balance of the work load includes periodic safety training and may also include any request by the lab coordinator or Director of Undergraduate Studies.

C. Upper Level Laboratory TA’s

TA’s for 200~500-level laboratories (quantitative analysis, organic, physical, instrumental analysis, and biochemistry) also require twenty (20) hours of work per week. The breakdown of contact time in the laboratories, preparation time, grading, staff meetings and office hours will be determined by the instructor of each laboratory course. Furthermore, additional time may be required to become familiar with the operation and execution of each laboratory experiment. In all, TA’s should average no more than 20 hours per week of effort.

D. Other TA Assignments

As needed, graduate student TA may be assigned to other duties including laboratory preparation, proctoring, leading recitations, course development. All of these assignments are important and require the same diligence as a lab TA assignment. For example, a reagent solution prepared incorrectly can negatively affect the laboratory experiences of hundreds of students. As with other TA appointments, the effort should average no more than 20 hours per week.