Cleveland State University
Teaching Assistant Handbook

College of Graduate Studies


Graduate teaching assistants (TAs) are a valued resource at CSU. TAs may be involved in course instruction, small group discussions, tutoring, assisting in laboratories or other tasks. This handbook provides you with valuable information to assist you with all aspects of your assistantship. You will find this information especially useful as you begin your teaching assistantship. Review your TA roles and responsibilities carefully with your supervisor(s). Ask questions to clarify your roles and responsibilities at the beginning of your assistantship and throughout the semester.


It is important to carefully review the content of the TA handbook and ask questions about your role throughout the year. Consider asking the following questions for clarification of your responsibilities before your assistantship begins:

    1. What are my specific responsibilities as a TA?

    2. Will I be responsible for planning and implementing instruction for entire classes?

    3. Will I be using Blackboard for this class?

    4. Should I establish the attendance policy for the class or follow an instructor's or department policy?

    5. Will I lead discussions? Will I be lecturing? How often?

    6. Am I responsible for tutoring and/or giving individual assistance? Should I organize group review sessions throughout the semester?

    7. Will I be conducting/supervising laboratories? What are my responsibilities for equipment and supplies in the laboratory?

    8. What are the emergency procedures in the laboratories and throughout the university?

    9. What are the procedures for getting and returning AV material? What are the procedures for reserving equipment?

    10. How much responsibility do I have for assessments of the course? Will I be responsible for creating assessments for the class? Will I evaluate and grade papers, projects, reports, quizzes, examinations or student participation on my own or with the assistance of the instructor?

    11. Should I review my lesson plans and strategies with the instructor? How much autonomy will I have to plan and implement new learning activities? Should I share perspectives different from the instructor's?

    12. How many office hours are required per week? Should I coordinate my office hours with the instructor's hours?

    13. Who will supervise me in my classes and in my assistantship? What procedures are used to supervise and assess my performance?

    14. What procedures should I follow and whom should I contact if I will be absent from a lab, discussion section, or class?

    15. What other responsibilities will I have?


An Ohio law mandates that all state-supported colleges and universities shall establish a program to assess the oral English language proficiency of all Teaching Assistants providing classroom instruction to students and shall ensure that Teaching Assistants who are not orally proficient in the English language attain such proficiency prior to providing classroom instruction to students. In order to meet this mandate, CSU has developed the English as a Second Language (ESL) Program.

The English as a Second Language (ESL) Program, under the direction of Continuing Education, is designed for nonnative speakers of English who are enrolled at or plan to attend Cleveland State University at the graduate or undergraduate level. The goal of the ESL Program is to provide language instruction that enables these students to succeed in their academic studies. Both international and resident students are served.

International Graduate Teaching Assistants who will be providing instructional activities must be certified as possessing sufficient oral proficiency. Assessment for certification is done through an oral test called Test of Spoken English (TSE). The TSE can be taken in a student's country by computer. Information can be found at Students can also take the SPEAK test once they have arrived at Cleveland State University. Students not passing these tests must complete a program of study and then pass a retest in order to be certified.

The ESL program consists of two courses at different proficiency levels. They provide integrated language skills, cross-cultural communication and teaching strategies instruction. While the courses are designed for International Teaching Assistants, all graduate students are welcome to register. The ESL Office is located in the Cole Center, 3100 Chester Ave., Room 215. ESL classes are often held in the Main Classroom buildings. The program administrator can be reached at (216)875-9669. Additional resources for ESL students at CSU can be found at


Check with your primary course instructor or your supervisor to determine any departmental policies used in determining final grades. Only the teacher or instructor of record may assign final grades. Once those grades have been submitted to the registrar, only grades of "I" and "X" may be changed by the faculty member without obtaining the permission of the appropriate Dean.


The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and the policies followed at Cleveland State University in order to comply with the requirements of the Act, are described in the current CSU Bulletin: Graduate Catalog Issue. As a part of the teaching staff of the University, you are required to abide by the provisions of the law and by University policy. The main areas in which these rules and policies affect your actions are in the positing of grades and in the returning of graded materials. In essence, both of these functions must be carried out in such a fashion that the students' scores and grades are available only to the students who have earned them (in addition to the faculty and staff members who need to have access to these records as part of their University functions). The posting of grades and scores by student number, or the return of graded materials by simply leaving the materials in a public place, does not satisfy the confidentiality requirement of the Family Privacy Act. Various mechanisms have been developed to allow the posting of scores and the return of graded materials that satisfy the legal requirements, including the use of Blackboard. You should consult with the faculty member(s) in charge of the course(s) to determine the methods used.

Guidelines for maintaining student rights to privacy:

  • A student's academic standing should not be discussed with anyone other than the faculty member in charge of the course and the student in question.

  • Do not give students' grades to another TA or another student.

  • Be sure that you do not discuss students' grades in public or online.


All Teaching Assistants are expected to follow professional guidelines and a professional code of ethics. These are parameters for what is considered "professional practice" at CSU. Teaching assistants must be prepared to practice these guidelines upon first contact with students. Bring any questions that you have about the meaning or interpretation of these guidelines to your supervisor at appropriate times.

The professional guidelines include but are not limited to:

  • Being professionally dressed.

  • Using language and acting in ways that are appropriate to the context.

  • Arriving and leaving at times that are expected of you.

  • Notifying appropriate people of your inability to be where you are expected.

  • Not being complacent about the learning of your students: accepting your teaching role as one that is important and necessary.

  • Limiting your interactions and relations with students to a professional nature.


The educator strives to help each student realize his or her potential as a worthy and effective member of society. The educator therefore works to stimulate the spirit of inquiry, the acquisition of knowledge and understanding, and the thoughtful formulation of worthy goals.

In fulfillment of the obligation to the student, the educator:

  • Shall not unreasonably restrain the student from independent action in the pursuit of learning.

  • Shall not unreasonably deny the student's access to varying points of view.

  • Shall not deliberately suppress or distort subject matter relevant to the student's progress.

  • Shall make reasonable effort to protect the student from conditions harmful to learning or to health and safety.

  • Shall not intentionally expose the student to embarrassment or disparagement.

  • Shall not on the basis of race, color, creed, sex, national origin, marital status, political or religious beliefs, family, social or cultural background, or sexual orientation, unfairly-

    • Exclude any student from participation in any program.
    • Deny benefits to any student.
    • Grant any advantage to any student.

  • Shall not use professional relationships with students for private advantage.

  • Shall not disclose information about students obtained in the course of professional service unless disclosure serves a compelling professional purpose or is required by law.

(Excerpt from the CSU Master of Urban Secondary Teaching Handbook, 2008-2009, adopted the National Education Association 1975 Representative Assembly.)


All Cleveland State University students are expected to maintain the highest standards of academic honesty and integrity in their academic work. In your role as a teacher you can help elicit honest behavior in three ways:

    1. At the beginning of the course make sure that your students understand that cheating is unacceptable and that you will not tolerate it. In certain circumstances it may be important to specify what is, and what is not, considered honest behavior (for example, laboratory partners may share data, but they should individually prepare their own written reports).

    2. You should try your best to arrange testing procedures and grading so that cheating is discouraged. Students taking examinations may be seated in alternate rows and different forms of quizzes should be used for sections meeting at different times.

    3. When a dishonest act is discovered, the student and the appropriate faculty member should be informed and the appropriate penalty administered. The nature of the punishment and how the student is informed will vary with the seriousness of the act and the circumstances. Consult the faculty member in charge of the course in all cases and be sure to keep him or her apprised.

For additional information, consult the "Student Conduct Code" section within the Student Handbook, available from your College Dean's Office, or the Department of Student Life (Main Classroom, Room 106; 216-687-2048). The Student Handbook also appears on the Student Life Web page at


On rare occasions, an emergency situation will occur in the classroom or laboratory. You should be prepared to handle these situations. Check with your supervisor or department chairperson for any specific emergency plans that are in effect.

In cases where students become injured or ill during your class, you should remain with the student and ask another student to call the University Police Department at (216) 687-2111. The Police Dispatcher will need to know the exact room location, type of problem, and the severity of the emergency. The Police Department will send an officer and will make additional arrangements, as needed (i.e., transportation to hospital).

You should be aware of the fire evacuation instructions for all buildings in which you work. Ask your supervisor for details. If an evacuation alarm does sound you should immediately leave the building. If you have a class, be sure that all of the students leave the building with you and stand completely clear of the building. Do not return to the building until instructed to do so by the police.

Cleveland State University recommends specific procedures to be followed in the event of an emergency. Additional information regarding university emergency procedures is available at


Your preparation for teaching in laboratories should include being acquainted with the materials and supplies as well as being familiar with the procedures for getting emergency assistance and knowing the location of first aid kits, fire extinguishers and other emergency equipment. Check with the course instructor to learn the proper techniques and procedures for using materials and equipment and handling emergencies.

The following suggestions will help ensure laboratory safety:

  • Identify the emergency exit and evacuation route(s).

  • Know basic first aid procedures.

  • Wear rubber gloves when assisting with flesh injuries.

  • Know where the phone is located in the classroom. Call 9-1-1 in case of an emergency or call campus police at 216-687-2111.

  • Report any equipment that is not functioning properly.

  • Review laboratory safety rules and procedures with your students.

  • Be sure students know the location of fire extinguishers, safety showers and eye wash stations and know how to use them.

  • Be alert for unsafe practices and techniques used by students.

Additional information regarding specific procedures for safety in the laboratories and throughout the university is available from the CSU Department of Environmental Health & Safety at

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Phone: 216.687.9370
Fax: 216.875.9933

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