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Challenges Faced by Teaching Assistants in Computer Science Education Across Europe [ACM ITiCSE 2021]

   Authors: Emma Riese, Madeleine Lorås, Martin Ukrop and Tomáš Effenberger

 Primary contact: Martin Ukrop <>

 Conference: ACM ITiCSE 2021

   DOI: 10.1145/3430665.3456304


  Title         = {Challenges Faced by Teaching Assistants in Computer Science Education Across Europe},
  Author        = {Emma Riese and Madeleine Loras and Martin Ukrop and Tomas Effenberger},
  BookTitle     = {Proceedings of the 2021 ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education},
  Series        = {ITiCSE ’21},
  Publisher     = {ACM},
  Location      = {Padeborn, Germany},
  Year          = {2021},
  DOI           = {10.1145/3430665.3456304},


Teaching assistants (TAs) are heavily used in computer science courses as a way to handle high enrollment and still being able to offer students individual tutoring and detailed assessments. TAs are themselves students who take on this additional role in parallel with their own studies at the same institution. Previous research has shown that being a TA can be challenging but has mainly been conducted on TAs from a single institution or within a single course. This paper offers a multi-institutional, multi-national perspective of challenges that TAs in computer science face. This has been done by conducting a thematic analysis of 180 reflective essays written by TAs from three institutions across Europe. The thematic analysis resulted in five main challenges: becoming a professional TA, student focused challenges, assessment, defining and using best practice, and threats to best practice. In addition, these challenges were all identified within the essays from all three institutions, indicating that the identified challenges are not particularly context-dependent. Based on these findings, we also outline implications for educators involved in TA training and coordinators of computer science courses with TAs.