If you are a teaching assistant, finding out the answers to these questions may help you feel more at ease in the grading process:

  • How much responsibility do I have for assigning particular or overall grades?

  • Will my supervising faculty member provide instructions on grading and a grading schedule? 

  • Does my department recommend a grading curve that I am supposed to use in the course?

  • Does my department or the course faculty instructor employ a rubric for grading particular assignments or exams? If so, when will I provide it to students?

  • Will TAs and the course faculty instructor discuss standards and expectations for grading? Will TAs “calibrate” their grades via a practice grading exercise?

  • How will I handle the grading of students for whom English is a second language?

  • What is the departmental, course supervisor’s, or my policy on makeup exams and late assignments?

Your course supervisor or department may dictate grading guidelines, although you may have discretion in assigning at least some percentage of grades in a course.

TAs who serve as graders for a professor should receive clear instructions about how to evaluate subjective responses. If more than one TA works with one class, the assistants and professor should meet to hammer out consistent grading standards. TAs also can rehearse and “calibrate” their grading. During this process, TAs review identical exam answers or papers, compare the responses and grades they would have assigned, and discuss differing reactions and perceptions. They and the supervising faculty member then develop a rubric that specifies the criteria everyone will use to evaluate student work.

Image of chemistry student and instructor overseeing equipment.