Button to scroll to the top of the page.

UGCA Resources for Instructors

Undergraduate Course Assistants (UGCAs) refer to any undergraduate student worker who is providing instructional support for undergraduate courses. (Note: UGCAs may also be called "peer mentors" or "learning assistants".) As near-peers, UGCAs can be a valuable part of many CNS course teaching teams, as they can provide supportive, relatable academic assistance for students. The following outlines some best practices so that you can effectively utilize your UGCAs to support student learning.

Recruiting UGCAs

  • Each department has a contact point person and/or or website for undergraduates interested in serving as a UGCA (Department UGCA Contacts). 
  • You can help ensure your department has a great pool of UGCA candidates by making general announcements in your class and personally encouraging your top students to consider applying for the role. 
  • In selecting UGCAs for your courses, it is good to think about having a variety of backgrounds and perspectives as part of your instructional team. A diverse team of UGCAs can provide valuable academic support and mentoring to your students.

Setting Expectations for your UGCA

  • It is a great idea to set clear expectations for the responsibilities for your UGCA. The following template provides suggestions for how you might structure your expectations and communicate these with your UGCA student(s) (UGCA Expectations Contract).
  • The following are acceptable roles for a UGCA:
    • Facilitate class activities (walk around, answer questions, check-in with groups, distribute supplies, etc.)
    • Grade (UGCA grading should be done with faculty supervision and input. Faculty should supply or approve rubrics for non-binary grading and spot check UGCA grading. Final grades should be determined by the faculty and faculty should be responsible for all questions on grades.)
    • Hold office hours
    • Run discussion section (Must be under the direct supervision of the instructor of record.)
    • Run laboratory section (Must have an appointed faculty or staff assigned to the course/lab who is physically nearby and on-call to assist in short order. Additional training should be required for UGCAs supervising a laboratory.)
    • Run supplementary review sessions 
    • Prepare review guides or supplementary problem sets
    • Prepare and set-up laboratory supplies
    • Prepare instructional materials and make copies
    • Proctor (Must have an appointed faculty who is physically nearby and on-call to assist in short order.)
    • Drive vehicles for field courses and field trips
  • **See the bottom of this page for important policy on using paid vs. course credit UGCAs

10 Best Practices for using UGCA Support for your Course

  1. Provide instructional materials (such as PPTs, notes and actvities) to UGCAs prior to class session so that they can review and be prepared to assist.
  2. Explicitly discuss how you would like UGCAs to help during class sessions. [Should they wait until students have questions or proactively offer to help? Should they provide answers? Should they ask students to explain their reasoning? Should they move around or stay with a particular group? Should they keep students on task? Should they try to make sure all students have the opportunity to contribute?]
  3. Give your UGCAs regular feedback on how they are doing in supporting your class sessions. Remind them of how you would like them to be interacting with students.
  4. Tell your UGCAs where you expect students might struggle with the material and any tips you have to guide their office hours, review sessions or in-class contact with students. 
  5. If you have a UGCA helping with a laboratory, make sure they have ample training for the role and repeatedly stress the primary responsibility to ensure safety.
  6. Always provide a rubric to UGCAs when having them grade.
  7. Explain to your UGCAs how to provide useful feedback, beyond just numerical grading.
  8. Always spot check work graded by a UGCA.
  9. If you are having your UGCA help with proctoring, explain their role carefully ahead of time, including logistics for distributing and collecting exams. It is recommended you have UGCAs report any suspected academic misconduct to you or a graduate TA and not ask them to address these situations directly. 
  10. Occassionally, take an opportunity to talk with your UGCA about their own academic goals and provide your insight and mentoring. 

Additional Resources for Effective Teaching using UGCAs

UGCA Performance Evaluation

Faculty are asked to review the performance of all of their UGCAs each semester. Please submit an evaluation for each of your UGCAs prior to the start of the next semester: Link to evaluation form coming soon!

The UGCA evaluations are used to help inform future student hiring. They are also used to select the CNS Oustanding UGCA awardees. 



**CNS Policies for Paid vs. Course Credit UGCAs

  • All students serving as UGCAs should either be paid employees or registered for course credit for the UGCA experience. Note: Departments may utilize their own courses or use the variable-hour (0-6 hour) NSC course for this purpose.
  • Students serving as unpaid UGCAs for credit should only be given responsibilities with clear learning experience value. UGCAs working for course credit should not be making copies or doing other menial office tasks.
  • Unpaid UGCAs should be used with caution. Not all students have the financial ability to take unpaid positions and thus such students would not have access to UGCA experiential learning, career building opportunities. Departments should be mindful of equity of access in designing compensation for departmental UGCA usage.