Duties Specification Agreement

What is the Duties Specification Agreement?

The Duties Specification Agreement (DSA), outlined in Appendix B of the PSAC 610 Collective Agreement, is a mandatory document that outlines all assigned duties and calculation of required hours of work for GTAs.

Duties may include (not limited to): instruction or supervisor of classes, tutorials or labs; preparation of materials or reviewing course material; presence at lectures; holding office hours; grading; proctoring, field trips, required training; required meetings; email correspondence with students, etc.

This form is available in electronic format and is distributed to Course Supervisors via their Western email, once a GTA accepts their offer of employment, for review, update and submission.  Once complete and approved by a Course Supervisor, the DSA is made available in electronic format to the GTA via Western's Graduate Student Web Services Portal.  An email sent to the GTA's Western email account informs them that the DSA has been released and is awaiting their review and approval.

What is the Duties Specification Agreement Review Form?

The DSA Review Form, located in Appendix C of the PSAC 610 Collective Agreement, is a tool to revise the original DSA and to resolve any concerns with the support of the Director of Administration for the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. The Review Form can be used at any time during the appointment to amend the DSA.

Key Dates

  • Three weeks after the start of term: DSA must be completed, signed by both GTA and Course Supervisor (electronic signatures are acceptable)
    • Note: DSAs can be submitted earlier than the 3 week point.
  • Mid-Point of Appointment: Course supervisor must meet with TA(s) to review the DSA
    • Note: Mandatory to conduct an in-person or virtual meeting (Article 17.05b) to check in with TA around whether hours of work are manageable. If not, strategies can be discussed to support the TA in managing the workload while balancing graduate studies (recorded consent from both parties recommended e.g. via email)
    • Note: If there are changes to be made to the DSA (e.g. redistribution of hours across duties), these can be made at any time during the appointment if mutually agreed upon, including at the mandatory mid-point review. If there are concerns, the DSA Review Form can be utilized.

Responsibilities

Course Supervisor (or person designated by the Department, School or Faculty)

  • Shall ensure that the DSA for each TA is completed.
  • Has the authority to develop/distribute work assignments
  • Arrange meeting with the TA(s) to discuss work assignments and allocation of hours as provided in the DSA at or before the start of term
  • Complete the DSA electronically by using the “GTA Approval System”.  An email sent to the Course Supervisor once the GTA accepts the offer will provide a link to each DSA.
  • Meet with TA at the mid-point of the appointment to review the DSA;
    • If there are changes to the DSA, submit the revised DSA by email or campus mail
    • If there are concerns to be resolved, complete the DSA review form (Appendix C) and submit to SGPS
  • Respond to any Overtime Requests within seven days of the request

Graduate Teaching Assistant

  • Review, understand and sign the DSA (electronic signature is acceptable); discuss any concerns with Course Supervisor
  • Complete the duties as assigned in the DSA
  • Attend meeting with course supervisor at the mid-point of the appointment to review the DSA
  • If there are challenges with completing the duties in the time allotted, discuss with Course Supervisor
  • If overtime hours are anticipated, complete the Overtime Request form and submit to the Course Supervisor and Director of Administration for the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

Considerations for Course Supervisor (or Designate) in Completing the DSA

Note: Work assignment should not exceed ten (10) working hours per week, except as mutually agreed to between the course supervisor and the TA at the beginning of the appointment up to a maximum of 20 hours per week if indicated at beginning of appointment (17.02).

A. Training

Has the TA previously completed the required training? 

Administrators have access to training records to confirm whether employees within the unit have completed training; if training has been completed, there should not be additional hours allotted on the DSA.

Some training is valid for periods of time greater than one term and do not need to be completed for each term (e.g. WHMIS training, valid for 3 years).

Has the TA requested additional training? 

Any additional training approved by the supervisor should be included in the DSA.

Itemize all your required training including those outside of the department, such as the Teaching Assistant Training Program:

Do you require that TAs attend an orientation or information session?  All required training must be included on the DSA.

If a new technology is being implemented, all hours spent in required training shall be considered time worked in the DSA. If formal training is unavailable the TA and course supervisor will discuss the amount of self-directed training that is required for the new platform and included in the DSA (article 30.04).

If it is the TAs second or later appointment, such training will be paid for a maximum of 2 hours per 70 hours of employement.

B. Weekly Duties

Option: Consider assigning tracking of hours as a duty for TAs

Tracking hours of work each week can be a duty included in the DSA. If you are assigning this duty, include the time required for this task on the “Other” line. 

Do you require TAs to attend lectures?

If attendance is required at lectures, these hours must be paid and must be included on the DSA. If attendance is not required, consider whether TAs are required to review course material, complete readings, etc. and ensure these are included on the DSA.

If the TA is responsible for labs, classes or tutorials, do they require additional time to read, prepare or set up materials or equipment ahead of time?

The hours of preparation time may vary dependent on the type of activity taking place in class/lab/tutorial each week. This variance should be discussed with the TA at the start of term to identify peak weeks. The hours noted on the DSA can be an average of the estimated hours required for prep over the term. If there is disagreement over the hours’ distribution on the DSA, these concerns can be discussed with the Director of Administration.

Do you require TAs to attend department orientations or information sessions, meetings or discussions with the supervisor/designate?

If attendance is required, the hours should be included on the DSA.

Holding of office hours, meeting with students, corresponding electronically with students:

Discuss expectations with your TAs around what is required regarding communication with students. Are they expected to be flexible around office hours, meeting with students outside of scheduled hours? Can office hours be electronic? Consider defining the number of hours during which your TA can be responding to email from students each week. In doing so, consider the number of students estimated to be in the course/section and determine a reasonable estimate of the amount of time one might be expected to be available for communication outside of class hours.

C. Non-Weekly Duties

How many students do you estimate will be enrolled in the course/section?

It is understood that the number of students will likely fluctuate; in calculating time to complete essays, assignments, exams, etc., use a reasonable estimate of the number of expected students to determine how many hours should be allotted to each task per week. If volumes change, these can be amended at any time and/or discussed at the mid-point review.

Tip: Consider adding “flex” hours or “buffer” hours to allow for extra time on weeks where there is high volume (maximum of 20 hours per week if indicated at beginning of appointment (17.02)).

Indicate where/when the high volume will be (ie grading assignments/exams) – must be indicated when DSA is first signed within 3 weeks of start of course to allow appropriate TA preparation.

Will hours vary each week?

Consider that some weeks may have higher volume (e.g. essay marking, mid-term marking, exam proctoring, etc.) than others. Flex hours can be allotted on the “Other” line to allow for additional hours where required, without going above the total required hours.

  • Marking:
    When identifying a reasonable estimate of number of hours for marking, consider:
    • Its recommended that the course supervisor provide a rubric, marking guidelines, and/or solutions to assignment questions
    • The medium of the assignment (e.g. paper-based quizzes may require more time than online quizzes)
    • The length and subjectivity of the assignment/exam for marking (e.g. is the TA required to use their own judgment to evaluate responses vs. marking to a provided answer guide)
    • The amount of evaluation feedback required (e.g. are TAs required to provide commentary vs. marking correct/incorrect; are TAs required to review assignments/papers with students, etc.)
  • Proctoring:
    TAs are required to be present 30 minutes ahead of and following the exam for setup and clean-up; this should be reflected in the hours and should be made clear to TAs ahead of proctoring assignments. If you require additional setup or clean-up time, ensure this is captured in the DSA.

Note for Administration of Proctoring: TAs must be notified of TA assignments no later than 5 business days prior to the exam. If the department requires TAs to sign up for proctoring assignments, for courses other than their own assigned course, confirm with the TAs that they have available hours within their DSA to do so and ensure that TAs will not be going over their total allotted hours by signing up for additional proctoring hours. If TAs are permitted to proctor exams over and above their allotted hours in their TA contract and/or DSA, note that this will result in overtime hours/pay.

Overtime

All hours worked beyond the hours described in the Duties Specification Agreement shall be remunerated at a rate of time and one-half (1.5X) the hourly rate of pay. Any hours worked beyond those described shall not be worked without an Employee sending a completed Overtime Request Form (Appendix D) to their Course Supervisor and Director of Administration for the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

If overtime is not approved, the Course Supervisor should work with the TA to reduce hours elsewhere in the DSA or redistribute tasks to ensure the TA does not go over the hours allotted or to let the TA know they can stop working once they reach the hours indicated in the contract.

Once overtime is approved by all parties, the Department works with Human Resources (Sandy Del Vasto) to pay the overtime on the next possible pay period.

Evaluations (Article 14)

  • Performance Evaluation:

The employer may conduct an evaluation during the term and the employee may request a performance evaluation.

  • Student Evaluation:

A student evaluation by means of student responses to questionnaires is to improve the quality of teaching and to enhance career development. Student Evaluations will be optional to the GTA.

If duties as indicated in the DSA are not being completed to a satisfactory degree, resources are available to assist in managing and improving performance:

  • The Centre for Teaching and Learning, Weldon Library, Rm. 122 (x80346)
  • Chris Thompson, Senior Human Resources Consultant, Employee Relations - Human Resources (x85563)
  • Ron Wagler, Director of Administration, School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (x84636)

Additional Resources

PSAC 610, staffpsac610@gmail.com or 519-661-4137