Teaching Assistant Handbook

Compiled by Prof. Gary E. Ford, September 1999
Revised by Prof. Richard R. Spencer, July, 2000

Problem Sets

Problem sets are assigned in most of the undergraduate ECE courses and TAs usually have responsibilities for assisting in preparing the assignments, solutions, and grading guides. If a reader is assigned to the course, the TA is usually asked to supervise the grading of the problem sets by the reader.

Preparation of Assignments

Problem set assignments are usually prepared by the instructor, but the TA may be asked to assist. The TA may be asked to make minor changes to assignments that were used in the course previously and to prepare the assignment as a paper or web document.

Preparation of Solutions

The TA is usually asked to prepare solutions for the problem assignments. If the assignments have been used in the course previously, this may only involve modifying previously prepared solutions. The solutions should be prepared soon after the assignment has been completed, so that they will be available to the instructor and TAs prior to office hours.

Solutions should be very neat, to encourage neatness by the students. Give full explanations of all difficult steps. Give different forms of the answer if there are any. Give alternative solution methods if these are important.

The solutions should be made readily available to the students, which may include scanning them to place them on the course web pages and/or taking a master copy to one of the copy shops on or near campus (confer with the course instructor to see what they he or she wants done).

Preparation of Grading Guide

A grading guide should be prepared by the TA for use by the reader. It is often not worth the effort to prepare a guide for each problem, as a general guide is adequate. The following is a suggested guide (you should always discuss the grading procedures with the instructor)

Each problem on a problem set is worth 5 points, with points allocated as follows:

Problem solution: 4 points
Attempted: 1
Major errors: 2
Minor errors: 3
Correct: 4
Neatness: 1 point

Comments can be provided about neatness for the first couple of weeks and then points can be deducted.

Late problem sets can be given 2 points per problem unless the problem set has been initialed by the instructor, in which case it should be graded for full credit.

Collecting and Returning Problem Sets

Problem sets can be collected in class or the students can turn them into a problem set box. If they are collected in class, the instructor can make arrangements to pass them to a TA or reader. The preferred method is to use a problem set box in 2131 Kemper Hall. Box assignments and keys are available from the Advising Assistance, Maria Parker, in the ECE Office. A TA should obtain a box assignment, pass the key to the reader, and place a label on the assigned box. Students can then be directed to turn their problem sets in to the box by an announced deadline. Graded problem sets are usually returned in a lecture, discussion, or laboratory session, but they may be placed in a publically accessible location for the students to pick them up IF the students have signed a permission form.

Supervision of Readers

A TA is usually assigned the responsibility of supervising the reader in a course. This task includes making the arrangements to deliver problem sets to the reader along with the solutions and grading guide, providing general instructions on grading, and explaining how to record the scores and when and where to return the problem sets.

The following are suggestions on grading to be passed to the reader:

  • Give constructive criticism to the students and refrain from writing comments that would upset them.
  • Look at more than just the answers and be careful to check whether the answer has several forms. Try to find and point out errors if you have enough time.
  • Write the student's score on the outside of the problem set, in the form X/Y, where X is the score and Y is the maximum number of points possible.
  • Record all scores by hand, to be later entered into a computer database.
  • If many students make the same mistake on a problem set, relay this information to the instructor so that clarifications can be made in class.
  • All requests for regrading should be forwarded to the supervising TA.

Regrading Problem Sets

A TA is normally responsible for handling complaints about problem set grading. The instructor should ask students with complaints to resubmit the problem set with written complaints. These will be passed to the TA for regrading. Regraded problem sets should be returned to the instructor to hand back to the students in class. If the students still have complaints, the instructor should handle them.

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