Teaching Assistant Workload

According to the Graduate School, the workload of a Teaching Assistant ordinarily requires between 360-380 hours per semester, but a 50 percent appointment should not normally exceed 20 hours per week. For a 33 percent appointment, the work should not normally exceed 240-254 hours per semester, or a little more than 13 hours per week. Still, Teaching Assistants are not paid hourly and their workload will be heavier some weeks than others, so not every week will require precisely 20 hours, and some may require considerably more. Time investments vary considerably depending on the kinds of activity required, familiarity with the material taught, and the teacher’s experience. New Teaching Assistants frequently spend much more time preparing than experienced assistants.

New Teaching Assistants are strongly advised to observe how much time they spend on teaching activities. Keeping a time log can help assistants assess where extra effort might be needed, and where too much effort might have been exerted. Assistants might review their time log with a supervisor to get input on whether they are spending a reasonable amount of time on preparation, grading, meetings, reading, or online discussion feedback. There are a number of time logging apps available for free for desktop computers and cell phones that can help automate this process. Tracking the amount of time spent on different activities can be carried out at the beginning of the semester and once a suitable pattern arises it may be dropped. For more information, see Time Management section.

For example, many new Teaching Assistants overprepare for discussion sections, which not only burdens them with extra hours of preparation but also can make the discussion too scripted. Assistants must prepare thoroughly, but some are relieved to learn that a little less preparation can make the discussion flow more naturally, while also giving students more control over its direction.