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Professor Evaluations of TA Work


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So I checked my mailbox today and I had ratings on a scale of one to five of my performance as a TA from both of the professors I TAed for last semester. They had both indicated to me in person that they were perfectly happy with the work I was doing, so I didn't expect any bad ratings.


One professor rated me 5/5 (excellent/well above expectations) on everything and had only good comments. The other rated me 3/5 on everything, which indicates good/meets expectations. This was unexpected. This professor's comments said I was not proactive because I didn't engage with students in the mini discussions they had in class, which was not something I was ever told I should be doing during the semester. The only time it was suggested I participate in these discussions was when one student was purposely not participating and I was told to talk to her next time if she didn't find a classmate to talk to.


We have discussions mid-semester about how everything is going. If this professor had a concern with my performance, why wasn't this brought up then? I am a first-year and have never TAed before; there was no training whatsoever - they just throw you into the fire. The class was in my area, but a part of my area that I have little familiarity with. Why refuse to tell me I'm doing something wrong and then rate me lower because of it? I'm trying not to take this too hard, but since it's a professor evaluation I feel it should be taken more seriously than student evaluations. The worst part is that the other grad students in my area got 5/5 from all their professors even though one was consistently behind in getting work back to students.

Edited by Pretty_Penny
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Honestly, if a 3 equates to "good/meets expectations", then what Professor 2 said to you about being "perfectly happy" with your work matches up with that score. Your TAing abilities didn't blow him out of the water...but you met his expectations and were consistently good. I'd say that 3/5 is a positive rating and nothing to stress about. 


Some people are just harder to squeeze marks out of, even if they are pleased. Other people are overly generous with their marks. All the professors probably have different internal criteria for judging their TAs - getting marking in on time might not be important to some (if say the marking is graded thoroughly and fairly) but explaining stuff clearly & helpfully to students counts for a lot. 

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I agree with St. Andrews Lynx, but I also think that there should be a standardized evaluation scheme across the department and I sympathize with your frustrations! I think that TA evaluation and feedback is very important and a system like the one described here (arbitrary criteria, no real feedback) is not ideal at all.

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One difficult part about transitioning to graduate school is that you are likely used to being the smartest person in the room, always. I actualy considered dropping out last year over an A- (underserved!) but it took a lot of contemplating about needing to realize that less than perfect marks =/= bad marks. Your professor said you did a good job, and you could have done better. Both of those things are probably true. It's best to take this as a lesson to say you need this feedback from your next professor.


For my program, we are thrown directly into teaching basic public speaking classes with little training beforehand, and a lot of training during the semester. Every other semester we have our course director sit in the class and he writes a letter to both us and the chair about some things that are going good and going bad. I've never agreed with the nitpicky things that are going bad but it at least tells me that there is something that I need to take a closer look at in the future in order to better myself as a teacher.


Best of luck with the next semester, you'll be fine!

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