EECS20N: Signals and Systems

Teaching Assistants and Readers

Tasks for TAs

Each TA has the following responsibilities:

  • Prepare for lab/discussion by going over lab/homework assignments (1 hour).
  • Lead one three hour lab/discussion for each 10 hours of TA duty (3 hours).
  • Grade the labs reports for your session(s) (2 hours).
  • Attend the lecture (3 hours).
  • Attend the weekly staff meeting (1 hour).
  • Help to grade exams (replaces lab grading three times during the semester) (2 hours).
It is not necessary to hold separate office hours. Instead, you should be available during the entire 3 hours of the lab session, and you should welcome students to ask you questions about the homework towards the end of this period. Attending the lecture may not be necessary every time, so you should use your judgement if you need to miss some of the lectures. However, experience dictates that TAs do a much better job if they attend regularly.

The above consumes fully a 10 hour TA, but since preparation, staff meeting, and lecture attendance are done only once, leaves a 20 hour TA with an additional 5 hours of time to devote to the course. The 20 hour TAs are therefore also assigned the following responsibilities.

  • Head TA. At the weekly staff meeting, review the lab and discussion mission for the week. Manage assignment of computer accounts for the lab, and represent the course for the technical support staff to resolve problems with lab equipment and software.
  • Reader supervisor. Manage collection and return of homeworks and supervision of the reader. Assist with recruitment of readers.
  • Tutor supervisor. Manage assignment of tutors to students and supervision of tutors. Assist with recruitment of tutors.
  • Newsgroup monitor. Check the newsgroup at least daily, including weekends, and respond promptly to messages.

In addition, on a rotating basis, TAs will be asked to lead one of the two problem sessions. TAs may obtain access to the website repository in order to make improvements and updates. See web page maintainance.


You will need to recruit readers. You will need more than one. The reader supervisor has the following responsibilities:

  • Allocating the grading to the other readers. Each problem should be graded entirely by one reader, rather the dividing up the homeworks among the readers. You can use the locked box in the lab to hand off papers between readers.
  • Recording the grades. These grades should be recorded on a single spreadsheet. Since collaboration on homeworks is allowed, be careful to record all the grades, one record for each name on the homeworks.
  • Make sure solution sets are available to the readers. The instructor will provide these.

It is important to coach the readers. In particular, they should not nit-pick in the grading. There is no point. Be generous. To discourage bad habits, just write notes on the papers and mark "-0" to indicate that no points were lost. The purpose of the homeworks is to encourage students to keep up with the class, to give them practice solving problems, and to give them a framework for asking questions. Homeworks rarely have any significant impact on the final grade (except for students who simply don't do them). Nor should they.

Mechanics of hiring readers

Prospective readers should:

  • Contact the instructor of the course.
  • If the instructor decides to hire, student should obtain a Reader application from the department office.
  • Student fills out the application and the instructor signs it.
  • The completed application goes to Colin Downey, 367 Soda Hall (at least, in Spring of 2000).

How are the hours determined?

Hours per week are detemined by the number of students enrolled times the number of units divided by 30. The hours allotted for the semester will change (5th week enrollment) to reflect the true enrollment. Use the pre-enrollment figures only as an estimate. For example, if you have 250 students for a 4 unit course, then you can hire readers for 250*4/30 or 33 hours per week.