The work of graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) is an integral part of the training for all full-time research postgraduate (RPg) students regardless whether they are recipients of postgraduate studentships or scholarships. It helps prepare them for teaching-related work they need to undertake.
In performing their GTA duties, RPg students may be assigned to mark and grade assignments, help course instructors conduct tutorials and/or laboratory sessions, answer questions/queries from students, and/or help prepare class materials among other tasks. These assignments are limited to 36 effective hours per month on average. “Effective hours” include both contact hours and preparation time. In the case of research-related duties, if the duties performed by an RPg are directly related to his/her own thesis research or project, the 36-hour limit should not apply.
For this kind of work, students need to have a thorough understanding of the subject area being dealt with. They are also exposed to varied situations where they can acquire and improve transferable skills which will be useful to them in the long term. The range of skills involved includes time management, communication skills, group discussion techniques, techniques for conducting materials or information searches, writing skill, critical thinking skills and organization skills.
Graduate Teaching Assistant Coordinators (TACs) are experienced GTAs chosen by departments to work as a bridge between GTAs, the department/School and the University; their job is to help co-ordinate GTA-related matters.
Newly-admitted non-local RPg students who are unfamiliar with the local environment will normally not be assigned any GTA duties during their first term of study at the University.
The Center for Education Innovation (CEI) organizes GTA Training Programs for new RPg students to equip them with the basic skills needed in order to perform their GTA assignments. GTA training is normally offered before or at the start of an academic year. In addition, some departments may provide additional program-specific training for new RPg students before they start their GTA duties.