Guidelines for the Use of Undergraduate Teaching Assistants
Penn State University
Department of Economics
All undergraduate teaching assistants must enroll in ECON 296. Enrolling in this course allows qualified undergraduates to earn 1.5 elective credits per semester (a maximum of 6 credits toward their degree) for serving as a teaching assistant in an undergraduate ECON course. The goals of ECON 296 are to improve the quality of instruction for students taking the assigned course, and to provide students serving as teaching assistants increased knowledge of the course content, hands on experiences with course instruction, and a chance for additional mentoring from the faculty. This document reviews the department’s expectations for students serving as teaching assistants and expectations for the faculty serving as mentors. In exceptional cases, the instructor can petition the undergraduate chair to waive one or more of the requirements and expectations reviewed below.
The qualifications for undergraduate teaching assistants will vary by course and instructor, but the minimum qualifications are:
- Successfully complete the assigned course in a previous semester and earn a minimum of an A-.
- 3rd semester standing and earn an overall GPA of 3.2 or higher.
- Receive an invitation from the instructor to serve as the undergraduate teaching assistant.
- Undergraduate teaching assistants must earn an A grade in ECON 296 to continue in the course in subsequent semesters.
Expectations for Undergraduate Teaching Assistants
Expectations will vary by course and instructor, but the following are the expectations for all undergraduate teaching assistants:
- Complete the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) test and submit quiz results with your ECON 296 Registration Form (70% or higher to pass)
- Treat all students in the course with dignity and respect, as outlined in Penn State’s written policies on sexual harassment.
- Treat grades and the content of student assignments confidentially and share these only with the instructor.
- Complete all assigned course readings and attend classes regularly.
- Complete assigned duties in a responsible and timely fashion.
The specific duties of undergraduate teaching assistants might include leading discussions, grading assignments (e.g., short answers, multiple choice exams, or weekly homework), holding office hours, proctoring exams and quizzes, and performing tasks and/or errands related to the course (e.g., taking attendance or keeping records). The instructor will assign specific duties at the beginning of the semester.
Termination may result from any of the following reasons:
- Failure to uphold the general duties and responsibilities of a grader as outlined by your instructor
- Failure to maintain confidentiality
- Violation of University policies regarding academic integrity
Expectation for Instructors
As the instructor of the course and the undergraduate teaching assistant’s supervisor for ECON 296, the expectations for faculty are as follows:
- Meet with the undergraduate teaching assistant during the first week of the semester, or sooner, to review the specific duties of the position.
- Prior to the performance of teaching assistant duties, the instructor should review Penn State’s written policies on sexual harassment with the undergraduate teaching assistant.
- If appropriate, provide the undergraduate teaching assistant with desk copies of books and other materials used in the course.
- Give the undergraduate teaching assistant adequate guidelines for all duties (e.g., grading
- assignments, leading discussions, etc.)
- Provide a mid-semester performance review.
If possible, instructors should meet with their undergraduate teaching assistants prior to the semester of the assigned course.
Although instructors will assign specific duties for undergraduate teaching assistants, they should recognize the following restrictions on undergraduate teaching assistants:
- Should not be responsible for grading over 33% of the total points counted toward the final course grade.
- Should not grade assignments or exams submitted by a friend, relative, or any students holding a close, intimate, or romantic relationship with the undergraduate teaching assistant.
- Should not be required to perform duties unrelated to the assigned course.
- Should not proctor regularly scheduled exams without a graduate student or instructor present.
- Only the instructor should be able to match student identity with final grades. If the
- undergraduate teaching assistant helps compile final course totals, names and other identifiers should be removed (e.g., students’ names should not be listed next to the final grades).
Undergraduate teaching assistants will assist in course instruction, but instructors remain responsible for the content of the course and for the final evaluation of the students.
Statement of Understanding of University Policies for Undergraduate Teaching Assistants
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 governs how educational institutions control and safeguard their student records. All Undergraduate Teaching Assistants of educational institutions who have access to student records must abide by FERPA requirements. It is vital that you understand your responsibilities with respect to FERPA. For that reason, the Office of the University Registrar has developed an on-line FERPA tutorial and quiz available in ANGEL. All undergraduate teaching assistants are required to read the material and pass the quiz in order to maintain their access to student data.
I understand that, by virtue of being an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant with the Department of Economics at Penn State University (the "University"), I may have access to private and confidential records of other students at the University, including student education records which contain personally identifiable information pertaining to one or more students. Under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act ("FERPA") and University policy, student education records are protected from disclosure to third parties unless the disclosure is authorized under narrow exceptions. Accordingly, I agree to maintain the confidentiality and privacy of all such records during and after my period of time as an undergraduate teaching assistant at the University. I acknowledge that any unauthorized disclosure by me in violation of FERPA and University policy may constitute just cause for disciplinary action, including immediate termination and an assigned F in my ECON 296 course and other disciplinary sanctions.
I also understand that I am only authorized to access those student education records in which I have a legitimate educational interest as defined in University Policy AD-11, based on the responsibilities and duties of my position as described by my supervisor. Any access to student education records other than those in which I have a legitimate educational interest is a violation of University policy and may constitute just cause for disciplinary action, including termination of my undergraduate grading position (ECON 296) and imposition of other disciplinary sanctions. Furthermore, I have read and understand the following University policies:
- AD-11 University Policy on Confidentiality of Student Records
- AD-20 Computer and Network Security
- AD-23 Use of Institutional Data
and have successfully completed the online FERPA tutorial.
By submitting this form you agree with the above statements contained within the Guidelines and Policies set forth for Undergraduate Teaching Assistants.