Faculty of Arts & Science Just-in-Time Instructor Reminders
The A&S Academic Handbook contains all policies and recommended practices related to undergraduate teaching and courses in the Faculty of Arts & Science.
These weekly Just-in-Time instructor reminders highlight relevant sections of the Handbook as well as other A&S and UofT resources for instructors, including the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation (CTSI).
If you have any questions about any issues related to teaching or to items in the handbook or in these reminders, your first contact should typically be the undergraduate administrator in your department or unit* (a list of undergraduate administrators is available on the A&S website). If they can’t answer your question themselves, they can direct you to the appropriate resource.
If you receive these emails from your academic unit, they might include additional details about unit-level practices. Items that you might wish to consult with your unit about are highlighted in yellow below.
* “Unit” or “academic unit” is a term used in A&S to indicate a department, a centre, an institute, a school, a program or a program within a college.
- Sections 1 and 2 of the Academic Handbook detail required and recommended elements of your syllabus. Section 5 addresses other considerations about designing your course.
- Did you know that once your marking scheme has been distributed to students, you can only change it with student consent? (See Section 5.2 of the Academic Handbook for details.)
- A list of dates of some religious observances is updated annually. The Policy on Scheduling of Classes and Examination sand Other Accommodations for Religious Observances advises you to take these dates into account when scheduling tests or in-class assessments and offers guidelines for accommodating students who will miss academic activities for religious observances.
- Course evals from previous semesters can point to elements of your course that you might want to revise or restructure. CTSI has a course evaluation interpretation guide for instructors to help you assess and integrate student feedback.
- Course readings and texts:
- Visit the UofT Bookstore Faculty & Staff site for information about ordering textbooks and coursepacks.
- Will you be putting your readings online? Learn about copyright and the library syllabus service.
- Are you new to Blackboard or interested in trying something different? There are resources and workshops to get you started.
- Become a Green Course by reducing paper usage.
- Check with your academic unit for information on the process for selecting and hiring TAs.
- Download your class list from Blackboard. (Even if you’re not using Blackboard for course management, you can still use it to retrieve your class list.)
- Section 3 of the Academic Handbook describes how the course enrolment process works for Arts & Science students. Note that enrolment in A&S courses is a registrarial matter and not within the control of instructors.
- Will you be using any teaching technology in your classroom?
- Don’t forget to make your course available to students on Blackboard (otherwise, students won’t be able to see it).
- Tipsheets and consultations are available from CTSI.
- In a classroom with a Teaching Station or Teaching Station Jr.? Learn more.
- You will soon receive an email asking you whether or not your course includes a final exam. Contact Bev Lewis in the Office of the Faculty Registrar if you have any questions.
- Check with your academic unit about selecting TAs, completing DDAH forms, pre-req checks, and managing student requests to waive pre-reqs or audit courses.
- Section 4 of the Academic Handbook contains a range of suggestions regarding course and classroom procedures and classroom management.
- How do you feel about students using laptops or other electronics in the classroom? Share your expectations and rationale with students. See Section 4.3 of the Academic Handbook for details.
- It’s up to you as an instructor whether or not you allow students to record your lectures. They must obtain your permission. See Section 4.5 of the Academic Handbook for details.
- Wondering how to respond to requests for accommodations and your responsibilities as an instructor of students with disabilities? See Section 13 of the Academic for details.
- Print or bookmark this list of referrals for students in distress.
- Explore resources from CTSI about working effectively with your TAs and suggestions from Section 5.3 of the Academic Handbook about running successful tutorials.
- Check with your academic unit about procedures for placing students into tutorials or lab sections, if relevant.
- Clarify how students should get in touch with you and your TAs (see Section 2.4 of the Academic Handbook for suggestions) and what kind of response they can expect (See Section 2.20).
- How should students submit their work? Indicate your expectations in the syllabus or assignment description – see Section 2.14 of the Academic Handbook. Section 5.7 has suggestions for collecting work electronically or in class.
Check with your academic unit about policies or preferences for student submission of assignments to departmental offices.
- We’ve heard from students that when instructors share how they’ve used student feedback to improve their teaching and courses with current students, it’s a strong motivator for current students to complete their own course evals. See some see some suggestions about sharing course eval feedback with students from CTSI.
- Section 12 of the Academic Handbook includes all you need to know about academic integrity and what to do if you suspect an academic offence. Additional resources are available from the Arts & Science Office of Student Academic Integrity (OSAI) and the UofT Academic Integrity website.
- Facing a stack of student work? Resources about:
- Grades and their meaning, from Section 10.1 & 10.2 of the Academic Handbook.
- More information about ‘A’ grades. See Section 10.5 of the Academic Handbook and the document 80% is an A?
- Explaining marks to students, from Section 5.10.
- Providing effective feedback efficiently.
- Assessing the work of multilingual students.
- First names only – how to preserve students’ privacy and avoid trouble. (See “Protecting Students’ Privacy in Class”)
- You might wish to talk to your academic unit about administering midterms and responding to requests from students for late enrolment.
- Do you have a midterm or term test coming up? Section 6 of the Academic Handbook contains all you need to know about midterms and term tests. Some things to keep in mind:
- Terms tests are administered by the instructor (final exams are administered by the OFR) in your usual classroom at the usual class time. If you need a different space, contact your unit administrator. If for exceptional reasons you must hold a midterm outside of normal class time, you must follow a set of additional practices described in Section 6.3.
- What to do if a student has a conflict, misses your test, or requests an accommodation for a disability, described in Section 7.
- What to do if a student cannot complete their term work or term test for any reason, from Section 8.
- Section 5 of the Academic Handbook has all you need to know about grades for term work, including strategies for collecting and maintaining course work, communicating marks to students, and calibrating scores on tests and assignments.
- Best practice is to return all term work within at most two weeks of the submission date, from Section 5.9.
- Section 2.11 notes that students must have some graded worked returned before the drop date. This helps students track their progress, but can also help you:
- Compare your expectations to typical grade distributions across the Faculty
- Identify students who are struggling, and suggest they contact their College Registrar for support.
- What to do if you receive a request to re-mark an assignment or test is described in Section 5.14.
- Can you believe the term is almost halfway through? Conduct a mid-course evaluation to see how students are responding to the course and to identify any problem areas. There are many approaches to mid-course evaluations, but a simple approach can be to ask students to write – in an email or on paper – a version of Start/Stop/Continue:
- What is working well for you in the course so far?
- What isn’t working well?
- What is something that could be added to or changed about the course that would enhance your learning?
At the next class session, briefly summarize the feedback and identify any changes you’ll make going forward.
- You might wish to talk to your academic unit about TA mid-course review practices.
If a student comes to you with academic or financial questions or concerns beyond the scope of the course, connect them with their College Registrar. As detailed in Section 14.1, The student’s College Registrar is always a reliable first stop for any student support needs. They can answer many questions directly, or refer the student to the appropriate office.
If you have concerns about a student and you would like to connect them to support, or if you have a student whose behaviour is disruptive, contact Caroline Rabbat, the Arts & Science Director, Critical Incidents, Safety and Health Awareness at 647-215-3064 / 416-946-4023 / firstname.lastname@example.org. She will connect you and the student with the appropriate services.
If you fear a student may harm themselves or others, call Campus Police (8-2222) or 911. See Section 14.3 for details.
- The April exam timetable is available online as of February 17. Students will receive communication from the Registrar’s Office directing them to the timetable.
- The last day for students to drop courses without it appearing on their transcript or to add/remove Credit/No Credit option this semester is: February 21 for Y courses and March 13 for S courses. See Section 3.4 and Credit / No Credit for more information.
- Students might have questions about their current or prospective performance in the course; if they request information or advice that you cannot provide, you might suggest they discuss the issue with their College Registrar.
- Faculty regulations, outlined in Section 2.11, require that, by the drop date, students have received their mark on one or more assignments worth at least 10% of the total course mark for H courses and 20% for Y courses. Students must receive these marks no later than the last regularly-scheduled class meeting prior to the drop date, with one exception: for courses that run the entire Fall/Winter Session (H1Y or Y1Y courses), the deadline is the last regularly-scheduled class meeting of the first week of classes in January.
Is your course targeted by commercial test prep services? There are many private companies that provide various types of tutoring and test prep aimed at UofT students. Some companies use campus space for this tutoring, use materials developed by UofT instructors, and suggest to students that their services are formally associated with or authorized by the university.
Instructors and units whose courses are targeted by these tutoring services might help their students make informed decisions about a company’s status and quality by:
- Helping students understand the services available to them through the course and on campus (e.g. Writing and Math Aid Centres, TA and instructor office hours, etc.). See Section 16.3 for a list of services available to students.
- Distributing or linking students to the list of Free U of T Academic Resources.
- Noting the presence of commercial tutoring companies, and clarifying that they have no formal affiliation with the university or with the course.
Instructors should also inform the Dean’s Office if their materials are appropriated by such a company without permission.
- Students will complete their course evaluations this term from March 27 – April 9. Talking to students about how you use evaluation data to shape your teaching can help students provide useful and constructive feedback. CTSI provides some suggestions for talking to students about evaluations (you will need to log-in with your UTORid and password to access the information).
- Many departments/programs have an established practice for the evaluation of TA teaching. If yours does not, here are some options for providing your TA with some feedback on their teaching:
- Offer to observe a tutorial or lab session, and provide some feedback to the TA on their teaching (TATP will also provide this service, if arranged early in the semester).
- Create a simple evaluation form that TAs can distribute to their students – talk to your unit administrator to find a way to release the evaluations to TAs after grades have been submitted.
- As you choose your course evaluations questions, select question bank items that address the role of TAs and tutorials or laboratories in the course
Selecting course-specific course evaluation items:
Instructors can select up to three course evaluation questions to gather feedback from students about your teaching strategies, assignments, or course resources. These questions are for formative purposes, and only you will see the results. The question bank and support for selecting questions is available on the Course Evaluations site during the instructor period from March 13 – March 22. You will need to log-in with your UTORid and password to view the question bank.
- Hold on to students’ work and all records from a course for at least one year, and preferably two. After that time, you can discard it.
- Any course work that you return to students should be done with confidentiality and security in mind, as detailed in Section 5.9 of the Academic Handbook, both out of respect for student privacy and to prevent assignments being collected and sold to essay banks. Email or Portal is a good way to return work securely. If you want to return physical papers, hand them back in class (with the mark on an inside page), or talk to your unit about options for student pick-up.
- Section 10 of the Academic Handbook contains everything you need to know about assigning final marks in your course. A few things unique to Arts & Science:
- Keep in mind that the grade distribution guidelines apply only to large, lower-level courses, and are intended to help instructors gauge their expectations relative to institutional norms. There are valid reasons why grade distributions might fall outside of these norms. See Sections 10.3 and 10.4 for details, and talk to your Associate Chair, Undergraduate or equivalent if you have any questions.
- Nonetheless, many instructors find that they wish to calibrate final course marks if, for example a test or assignment might not have produced the grades you expected. The Handbook provides detailed guidelines and suggestions for ways to calibrate marks meaningfully and equitably (see Section 5.11 and Appendix B). If you are calibrating final marks, keep in mind that the UofT Grading Practices Policy states that “the distribution of grades in any course, examination or other academic assessment must not be predetermined by any system of quotas that specifies the number or percentage of grades allowable at any grade level.”
- You should not release final course marks to students until they have been approved by your department and posted on ACORN, as noted in Section 10.9.
NEW SUGGESTED PRACTICE
Conducting Online Course Evaluations In-Class in Arts & Science Courses
The results of a pilot study at UofT indicate that giving students time in class to complete their online evaluations may enhance their engagement with the evaluation process and may encourage more students to participate. Interested instructors in Arts & Science courses are encouraged to adopt this practice. If you have time during the final weeks of the term, we recommend the following:
- Choose a date during the A&S student evaluation window (Thursday, March 23-Sunday, April 9) to provide 10-15 minutes in class for students to complete their evaluations online.
- Announce in advance that you will be providing class time to complete evaluations and that students should bring, if able, a smart phone, tablet or laptop to do so. Share this announcement in class, via email, through the Portal/Blackboard/course website, etc.
- If possible, schedule this activity during the start of class to encourage students to spend the full allotted time on the evaluations.
- Please be sure to leave the room while your students are completing their evaluations.
- Designate a student volunteer who will notify the class when the time is up and come retrieve you to continue with your class.
Additional suggestions, strategies for discussing evaluations, and slides that you can use in class are available on the Arts & Science Teaching & Learning Support website under “Course Evaluations.”
Note on access to personal devices: While acknowledging that not all of our students have access to an appropriate electronic device for completing online evaluations, the university recognizes that sufficient numbers now do to make it worthwhile to allocate class time for this activity, especially given advanced notice to students.
- If students disagree with the feedback they’ve received, they may ask you to review or remark assignments or term tests. Section 5.14 of the Academic Handbook offers suggestions for responding to requests to review or remark assignments or tests. (Requests to changes to final exam marks are made through the OFR).
- Reminder: details about addressing potential academic offenses are in Section 12.
- Reminder: new suggested practice for conducting online course evaluations in-class (see week 11 for details)
The Faculty of Arts & Science exam period this term is from April 10 – 28.
Section 9 of the Academic Handbook addresses final exams.
Student questions about final exams
Exams are administered by the OFR, and so students should go directly to the OFR with any questions or concerns about the administration of final exams (e.g. the timing of the exam, conflicts between two final exams. or the need for accommodations). Information about final exams for students is available on the Exams section of the Current Students website.
Conflicts between finals and midterms
If students have a conflict between a final exam (in an H course) and a midterm (in a Y course), the final exam takes precedence. The OFR will contact you or your department to move the midterm.
Student appeals in Arts & Science.
If students wish to challenge or appeal a decision that has been made, they take one of two pathways, depending on the nature of the request:
- Requests for exceptions to Faculty policy or normal practice (e.g. requests to defer an exam or withdraw from a course after the drop date) are submitted as petitions through a student’s College Registrar.
- If students disagree with an academic decision you’ve made as an instructor (e.g. the nature of a test or assignment, or the grades received) they should first talk to you as the instructor. Make sure to document your discussion with the student (e.g. in an email to the student, yourself, or your Associate Chair, depending on the nature of the discussion). If you cannot come to a satisfactory agreement with a student, you should next refer them to your Associate Chair, Undergraduate (or equivalent).
Section 11 of the Academic Handbook addresses student appeals and UofT appeals in more detail.