Hello and welcome to Simon Fraser University!

  • When you take a class, the educator at the front of the classroom is not always a traditional professor. They could be one of a number of different people; this guide will help you know who they are and what their role is in your education.
  • It is important to remember that many classes have different components (lectures, tutorials, labs, seminars, etc.), and that each could be conducted by a different person.

Who is that teaching in my lecture component?

At SFU, about 25% of the time it’s a Sessional Instructor and about 75% of the time it’s a Professor. While Sessional Instructors and Professors do the same teaching job, many aspects of their job conditions are different.

  • Sessional Instructors are not tenured, are paid significantly less, and frequently do not have an office in their department. Sessional Instructors may teach one or multiple classes a semester, and must reapply for a position each semester. Many Sessional Instructors hold a Master’s or PhD, though some are still working on it while they teach.
  • Professors are a permanent fixture in the department, and typically have their own office. They supervise graduate students in addition to their research and teaching duties. All Professors hold a PhD.

I must also attend a smaller component once or twice a week called a Lab or Tutorial – who is teaching that?

  • That person is a Teaching Assistant (TA). TAs are most commonly graduate students working on their Master’s or PhD; however, they can be undergraduate students or even people who aren’t students at all.

I’m taking an online distance course – who is responding to my emails/grading my papers?

  • That person is a Tutor Marker (TM). Each class also has a Professor or a Sessional Instructor associated to it, but they aren’t necessarily involved with communication.

I’m in an English Language & Culture class/Interpretation & Translation Program class – who is teaching my course?

  • Your instructor is a member of a group of continuing instructors known as ELC/ITP. They are neither faculty nor Sessional Instructors, and they teach courses at Harbour Centre.

What does a TA/TM do?

  • TAs/TMs frequently design and deliver tutorials, mark assignments, and hold office hours. Office hours are frequently the best way to get extra help — make sure to note when and where these are scheduled.

What does a Sessional Instructor/Professor do?

  • Sessional Instructors/Professors design the course, decide what will be covered in class, deliver the main lecture, and deal with academic dishonesty. When no TA/TM is assigned to their course, Sessional Instructors/Professors often do the marking too.

How do I become a TA/TM?

  • See our page on getting TA/TM work. We encourage undergraduate students to apply for TA/TM positions.

If I am a TA/TM/Sessional Instructor, does that mean that I’m in a union?

  • Yes! All TAs, TMs, Sessional Instructors, and ELC/ITP instructors at SFU are represented by the Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU). TSSU bargains for better work environments, which translates into better classroom environments for you. As a union member, you’d have rights and limited benefits in your teaching work.