What Help Do Students Seek in TA Office Hours?

Yanyan Ren, Shriram Krishnamurthi, Kathi Fisler

SIGCSE International Computing Education Research Conference, 2019


In many universities, Teaching Assistants (TAs) are an important part of students’ educational experience. This is especially true in early courses, where students may suffer from inexperience and anxiety, and find fellow students more accessible than professors.

Despite its importance, this learning channel has not been studied very much. Part of the difficulty lies in how to meaningfully evaluate it. Any intervention needs to be both unintrusive and lightweight, and yet yield useful data. As a result, to many faculty and researchers, TA office hours remain fairly opaque.

This paper presents one approach to studying the technical component (but not the social dynamics) of TA office hours. We use a program-design methodology as a device to help track what students are asking about in hours, using a simple survey-based method to gather data. Data from TAs effectively summarize students’ questions. In addition, contrasting data from both TAs and students provides insight into students’ progress on program design help-seeking over the course of the semester.



These papers may differ in formatting from the versions that appear in print. They are made available only to support the rapid dissemination of results; the printed versions, not these, should be considered definitive. The copyrights belong to their respective owners.