TA Employment

Welcome to the role of Teaching Assistant (TA) for the School of Computing Science at Simon Fraser University.  The following information are guidelines for your reference.

Before Applying

Before applying to be a TA, please read the minimum requirements for the course you're applying for.  The School of Computing Science includes a wide range of specializations and, in order to be appointed, a person must have sufficient knowledge in the discipline of the course to interpret the course material.

By accepting a TA/TM appointment, you are indicating your availability for the entire term, including the following (if assigned or required):

  • orientation, planning and coordinating meetings
  • lectures, if required
  • assigned labs or tutorials
  • assignment, mid-term, and final exam marking
  • mid-term and final exam invigilation
  • office hours

After Accepting Your Offer

After accepting your appointment, please contact the course instructor immediately to determine your duties/requirements for the semester.

If the instructor is noted as "Faculty", we are in the process of hiring a Sessional for the course, and we'll update the schedule as soon as possible.

Please note that appointment changes may occur from your acceptance of the offer until the fourth week of classes.  If you receive a revised offer, please respond within the time period specified.

If you have accepted a TA appointment for a Distance Education course (sections C), you will accept the appointment through Computing Science, and CODE (Centre for Distance Education) will be contacting you regarding your contract.  You MUST attend CODE Tutor Marker Orientation; you will receive notification of this prior to the semester start.

If you have questions, please contact the course instructor and/or the School (cmptappl @ sfu.ca).

Thank you, and we look forward to working with you.  


Domestic Students

There are 3 important documents that the School requires from you, if you haven't been in the payroll system before.

  1. TD1 BC Tax Credit form – If you require assistance filling this form in, please contact SFU Payroll directly.
  2. TD1 Federal Tax Credit form - If you require assistance filling this form in, please contact SFU Payroll directly.
  3. Personal Data form – This form is required for Payroll as well. Please be sure to completely fill out this form.
  4. Please include your direct deposit information– This may be in the form of a void cheque OR a direct deposit form that you can request from your bank.

International Students:

There are 6 important documents that the School requires from you, if you are a new international student.

  1. Study/Work Permit – This immigration document is crucial to your ability to study/work in Canada. For this reason, the CS department will require a copy of your valid study permit to be kept on record (only required if your SIN begins with a '9').
  2. SIN Document – Applying for Your Social Insurance Number Information document – This Canadian Social Insurance Number is required for the University’s records. It is important important if you are to work in Canada or intend to receive benefits and services from government programs.
  3. TD1 BC Tax Credit form – If you require assistance filling this form in, please contact SFU Payroll directly.
  4. TD1 Federal Tax Credit form - If you require assistance filling this form in, please contact SFU Payroll directly.
  5. Personal Data form – This form is required for Payroll as well. Please be sure to completely fill out this form.
  6. Please include your direct deposit information– This may be in the form of a void cheque OR a direct deposit form that you can request from your bank.

Please ensure that your study/work permits are valid for the entire term in which you're applying for a TA position.  If you have any questions about this, please contact cmptappl @ sfu.ca.

Priority Ranking

Teaching assistants are assigned to courses based on the School’s Priority Ranking:

All appointments will be made as per the TSSU Collective Agreement (Articles XIII, F.3.a. (i through iv) and XIII.F.4 (a through c)).  Whenever the number of graduate students who have priority for appointments as defined in Article XIII of the Collective Agreement exceeds the number of TA and/or TM appointments available in a given semester, the following priority ranking may be taken into account when determining which applicant(s) should be offered appointments.

(i) Graduate students registered in the department
(ii) Graduate students registered in other departments
(iii) Undergraduate Teaching Assistants (UTA) or External Teaching Assistants (ETA)

We also take into account:

1.      Financial needs of the student
2.      TA preference
3.      Instructor preference  

If an assignment within a priority group requires selection between applicants, the graduate student without financial support from merit based scholarships or merit based fellowships during the semester of appointment will have priority for the appointment.  For specific information please refer to the TSSU Collective Agreement.

TA appointments are completed by the Manager, Academic Programs, (MAP - cmptappl @ sfu.ca) and the Graduate Director or his delegate.

Your TA Contract is effective from the first day of the semester until the final grade deadline (approximately 17 weeks) and you are expected to be available for the entire period.  You must also be available for all scheduled labs (course dependent) at the time you apply.  There may be some flexibility in the lab schedule and this is determined by the course instructor once all of the appointments have been finalized.

Please note that some scholarships or fellowships have restrictions limiting the amount of additional funding that a student can hold during the period of the award, please ensure that you review the Terms of Reference for any awards that you have received.  


  • Any course conflicts, change requests or identified scheduling conflicts must be brought to the attention of the MAP immediately and prior to accepting an offer.
  • If the status of your TA application changes you MUST contact the MAP.
  • Computing Science Graduate students are invited, by email, to apply for teaching assistantships about 8-10 weeks before the beginning of the next semester. This same information is also posted under TSSU TA/TM Employment at this link.     
  • You must review your funding plan (if any) with your Supervisor and/or Committee prior to submitting your application. Student’s supervisors are cc’d on all TA offers to ensure that they are aware of your activities for the semester.  
  • Graduate students apply online for TA appointments and must be must be fully registered for the semester they are applying for.  Students indicate the number of base units desired, land have the option of listing ranked by course knowledge and campus preference.  Students must review the minimum course requirements posted on the TA/TM application page as well as course outlines.  All course outlines can be found at our Course Central website.
  • Based on enrollment expectations the MAP and Chair assign applicants to courses according to the School’s priority ranking.  When an applicant's base unit request is not met by a single course, a second course may be assigned BUT there is NO guarantee that you will receive a full appointment in any given semester.
  • Appointments are made for the Burnaby, Surrey and Vancouver campuses and there are some differences when working as a TA at the different campuses, specifically in regard to lab work and lab assignments.  
  • Appointment revisions are made throughout the appointment period and once completed copies of the contracts are provided to students.  Please note that students no longer have to sign contracts before the appointment information is sent to payroll – we consider our electronic acceptance of the appointment as your “signature”.  There may be contract updates during the first 2-3 weeks of the semester as enrollments stabilize and changes will be reflected in updated contracts.  
  • Course instructors are notified when an appointment is finalized and you are both responsible for making contact – if there are any concerns please notify the MAP immediately.


TAs and the course instructor are responsible for ensuring that the following timelines are met with regard to Time Use Guidelines (TUGS) and the Workload Review to ensure that the time assigned to each individual TA is adequate to complete the required work for the course.
  • TUGS must be completed by the instructor in consultation with the TA NO LATER than the end of the FIRST WEEK of classes - these are completed online and a copy is provided by the instructor to the TA.
  • WORKLOAD REVIEW – this is completed by the instructor in consultation with the TA NO LATER than the end of FIFTH WEEK of the semester.  The forms are completed and returned to the department.

The Role of a Successful TA

TAs play an integral and important part in providing teaching support for the School and although TA duties may vary with each appointment, there is an expectation that high-quality and timely work will be performed.  An example of the work expected is:

  • Mark assignments, mid-terms and exams
  • Hold regular office hours and/or attend open labs/tutorials
  • Help supervise ALL mid-terms and the final exams
  • Assist the course instructor with preparation of assignments, tests and solutions

1) Training/Preparation

  • TA/TM Day:  This instructional day is held at the beginning of each semester and we recommend that all NEW TAs as well as returning TAs.  
  • International Teaching Assistants Program (ITA):  This program is designed for TAs and international graduate students who speak English as an additional language and/or are new to a North American university setting. The resources are designed to help students' academic communication and teaching skills.  WE STRONGLY ENCOURAGE all students to engage with the ITA program during their first semester.  There is no cost to students.

2) Working with Students

The majority of your time will be spent working with students, face-to-face and by email.  Students who come to you are looking for help which, as a TA, is your primary focus.  
Please be responsive and timely in your dealings your students and if you have specific concerns or problems, it is your responsibility to follow-up with the course instructor as soon as possible.

  • The level of information/help you can provide students should be clarified with the course instructor.
  • Questions regarding marks/grades should be referred to the course instructor.

3) Confidentiality

During the semester you will have access to confidential information such as: student information, marks, marking keys for assignments, exams, etc.  None of this information is to be shared with anyone. Keep student marks confidential; students may ONLY see their own marks.

If you have access to marking keys and/or answers to assignments, mid-terms and exams:

  • do not make copies or share information
  • do not take these materials off campus
  • return all materials at the end of the semester
  • do not post answers to assignments without direction

4) Course Materials

  • You will meet and correspond with the course instructor throughout the semester so be sure to ask for software and text resources, reading materials, assignment and exam schedules so that you are fully prepared to support students in their learning. 
  • If you need time to prepare for your role as a TA, talk to the course instructor to ensure that you are given time to prepare to meet the course expectations.  This should be done during the preparation of the Time Use Guidelines (TUGS).

5) Office Hours

  • Office hours may or may not be required for the course. 
  • This schedule is decided between yourself and course instructor and once set, any deviations from this must be approved by the instructor. 
  • You may also be asked to make up missed hours, particularly near assignment due dates, mid-terms and exams.
  • It is your responsibility to be prepared for your office hours as you need to ensure that students are not only comfortable asking for assistance but that they know they are working with someone who “knows their stuff”.
  • Treat the students with respect and in a manner that you would want to be treated in the same situation.  Remember, they are working with this material for the first time so please be patient and understanding. 
  • It is your role to provide guidance, assistance and knowledge, but do not be afraid to say “no” if something makes you uncomfortable.  In these situations, refer the student to, and/or consult with, the course instructor.
  • Do not be afraid to give good marks and good comments to good answers.
  • Do not be afraid to give positive comments. People tend to do their best when encouraged.
  • Do not worry about re-marking assignments or exam questions.  If they deserve the marks, then re-mark, and make sure the course instructor corrects his/her grade information accordingly.
  • There are often cases where questions are marked incorrectly due to hurrying, or not understanding what the student is trying to express.  In re-marking cases, do watch out for attempts to cheat by changing incorrect answers, or by adding material. (see the section on cheating below).

6) Marking Style and Procedures

  • Show the mark given for each question and part-question out of the total possibleCross out unused space so that students cannot add to their answer after the exam or assignment is returned
  • If students use the left-hand page of an exam booklet, circle the area used and initial it to show that it was seen and marked
  • Record the marks accurately
  • Keep your own confidential record of the class marks
  • Give the course instructor a copy each time a new assignment is marked
  • Inform the course instructor of any changes to earlier marks
  • After the work is handed back to the students, you will probably get questions about the marks they received. These questions may range from "I don't understand what I did wrong here" to "I deserve more marks for this."  After consultation with the instructor you can discuss what the students did wrong and why you gave them the mark you did.
  • Different course instructors have different policies on changing marks.  Some ask the TAs to re-evaluate marking while others prefer to do it themselves.
  • If you are asked to reevaluate a student's work remember:
    The number of marks an answer deserves is your decision, not the student's.
    It is unfair to give marks back to one student and not others just because some complain more or louder than others.  You can say "all students were marked this way, and though you may feel it's harsh, it was evenly applied”.
    You are assigning a mark based on the work they handed in, not their explanation of it after the fact.
    It is okay to be wrong.  If you gave less marks than the student deserved, don't deny it, fix it.
    If you get persistent complaints about marking from particular students, send them to the instructor.

7) Academic Dishonesty

Unfortunately incidents of Academic Dishonesty do occur.  This is very serious, so please remember that being accused of academic dishonesty can have a devastating effect on a student.  Regardless of your suspicions, the student may be innocent.  Do not make hasty decisions or accusations.  If you suspect academic dishonesty has taken place refer this to the course instructor immediately; you should not be dealing with this directly.  

Tips for dealing with suspected Academic Dishonesty:

  • Do not make any accusations – if you have suspicions take them to the Course instructor
  • Do not return an assignment or exam to the student(s) – give them to the course instructor
  • Get the names of any witnesses and ask them to make a written record of what they heard and saw if this is something brought to your attention by another student
  • Keep a written record for yourself of everything that happened prior to referring this to the course instructor

Some examples of academic dishonesty are:

  • A student may copy another's assignment
  • A student may take notes or other material into a closed-book exam
  • A student may copy answers from another student during an exam
  • A student may change the answers on a returned assignment or exam, then come back to the marker for reassessment

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