1. General Information
|Department Chair||Dr. Hugh Broders||ESC-349||35208|
|Associate Chair, Undergraduate (Fall 2018)||Dr. Christine Dupont||B1-277||37804|
|Associate Chair, Undergraduate (January 2019)||Dr. Jonathan Witt||B2-252A||35951|
|Associate Chair, Graduate||Dr. Mungo Marsden||B2-253||36530|
|Administrative Officer||Jennifer Lehman||ESC-350B||32141|
|Graduate Studies Coordinator||April Wettig||B1-274A||36392|
|Undergraduate Studies Coordinator||Sue Whyte||ESC-351C||36394|
|Radiation Safety Officer||Dr. Simon Chuong||B1-267A||38142|
|Safety Officer||Dr. Barbara Moffatt||B2-357C||32517|
|Controlled Growth Chambers||Scott Liddycoat||B1-290||32353|
|TA Workshop Organizing Committee||Dr. Barbara Moffatt||B2-357C||32517|
|Dr. Cheryl Duxbury||ESC-357F||36450|
|Dr. Dragana Miskovic||ESC-357E||35330|
|Dr. Bruce Wolff||B1-357D||38977|
1.2 Emergency Telephone Numbers
|Ambulance, Fire, Police||6-911|
|Health and Safety (UW)||33541|
|Health Services (UW)||33544|
|Security (UW Police)||22222|
|Campus Response Team||31000|
|Crisis Clinic at Grand River Hospital||6-519-742-3611|
|Mobile Crisis Team (24/7)||6-519-744-1813|
|Poisoning Control Centre||6-519-749-4220|
|UW Police - calling from on campus||22222|
|UW Police - calling from off campus||519-888-4911|
The Department of Biology acknowledges, with thanks, the contributions of the TA Workshop Organizing Committee in the preparation of this manual.
The Department also extends its gratitude to Dr. Mary Thompson who, while Associate Dean Graduate Studies, the Faculty of Mathematics, allowed the Department to incorporate portions of that faculty's TA Manual into the original version of this publication.
This manual describes the role of Teaching Assistants in the Department of Biology. It provides practical advice to address some common concerns about the duties and expectations of Teaching Assistantships. While we cannot anticipate every situation a Teaching Assistant might encounter, we hope that the guidelines contained here will prove generally useful, particularly to new Teaching Assistants.
Some sections of this manual may refer specifically to graduate students; however, undergraduate students and "others" who accept Teaching Assistant positions in the Department of Biology are expected to perform similar teaching duties. There may be some variation in number of hours and duration of employment for the different categories of graduate, undergraduate and "other" Teaching Assistants.
The letters TA stand for Teaching Assistant. In fact, throughout this manual "TA" stands for either "Teaching Assistant" or "Teaching Assistantship". TAs in the Department of Biology are required to carry out duties assigned by the course instructor in a particular course. The letters RS, stand for Research Studentship. The duties for an RS are specified by the faculty member(s) who pays for the studentship from funds set aside for research. Payroll for TA and RS amounts are handled by the Graduate Studies Coordinator.
In this manual, the teacher of a course is referred to as a “course instructor”. The course instructor may be a Professor or Lecturer, an Instructor, or a Sessional Lecturer.
2.1 Types of Teaching Assistantships
"Graduate Student TA" - Graduate Students will have received an offer of financial support at the time of their acceptance into the program. If the rate and method of pay is unclear to you, ask the Graduate Studies Coordinator for an explanation.
"Undergraduate" - Students may be hired as a teaching assistant while registered in their program if they have the appropriate background and are of good academic standing. They are normally hired for a three month period only, so as to avoid any conflict with the exam period. In other words, undergraduate Teaching Assistants are employed for an 11 week period (5 hrs/wk) and are not required to proctor or mark final exams as part of their duties.
2.2 Laboratory TA
Most of the TA assignments in the Department of Biology involve teaching in a laboratory setting. Students are responsible to observe and adhere to the Code of Conduct at all times while in the laboratory and a TA’s job is to make sure the students know what is expected from them (see the Appendix VI). The role of the TA in laboratory courses is also to provide direction during the laboratory session on a weekly or biweekly basis as required by the course instructor. Duties usually include attending preparatory meetings, providing a pre-lab talk, demonstrating techniques or the operation of equipment, monitoring aspects of safety in the lab, marking laboratory assignments or reports and recording marks. TAs may also be asked to assist in the marking of Midterm and Final Exams. There may also be a minor component which involves duties outside the regular lab period (supervision of students checking lab results, proctoring midterm or lab exams). For courses with a large number of lab sections, TAs receive instructional support and direction from Instructors assigned to the course. TAs should be familiar with the subject area and willing to fill-in gaps in their information base.
2.3 Tutorial TA
Some TA units in the Department of Biology involve a tutorial setting as opposed to a classical laboratory situation.
For example Population Biology 'labs' usually take place in the microcomputer room and consist of modules that require use of statistical packages, word processing packages and computer models that address issues in population biology. In addition to the subject material that is being investigated, the TAs must be familiar with the NEXUS Network as well as the relevant software.
Other courses may involve sessions that provide guidance and discussion of the concepts covered. TAs accepting such a course should be very familiar with the subject area, have an excellent command of the English language and be comfortable with giving oral presentations. Assignments in these courses frequently cover somewhat more conceptual material (i.e. somewhat less technical material) than a standard lab report. Guidance on writing style etc. becomes an important skill for a TA to possess.
3. Administrative Details
The Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities stipulates that full-time graduate students may not engage in work unrelated to their course of studies for more than 10 hours per week, taken as an average over the term, or a total of 120 hours per term. One TA unit in Biology requires an average of 5 hours/week over the term, to a total of 60 hours per term. This maximum of 60 hours also applies to undergraduate students. Undergraduates do not proctor or grade final exams, thus their TA duties do not extend beyond the last day of UW classes. TA hours include time devoted to office-hours, marking, proctoring exams, record-keeping, tutorials and labs, and attendance at weekly TA meetings. Biology graduate students normally receive 4 TA units per calendar year.
If you are an International student it is absolutely essential that you supply the Graduate Office in Needles Hall with a copy of your "Study Permit" before you begin work. These forms are normally issued for one year by an Immigration Officer at the Canada Immigration Centre in Kitchener. It is not necessary to supply a copy each term, but when your permit is due to expire, you will need to supply a copy of a new one. Undergraduate TAs who are on a Student Visa must also provide the Registrar with a copy of a valid "Student Authorization".
A ‘TA contract’ has been developed in an attempt to be consistent in the TA hours required for all Biology courses. This administrative tool outlines the estimated time commitments for different TA responsibilities.
3.1 Getting Paid
Although a visit to the Graduate Studies Coordinator or Administrative Assistant will clear up any difficulties, a few general remarks about getting paid are outlined here.
Graduate Students are paid in four monthly instalments over the term, while undergraduate TAs are paid in three monthly instalments; all payments commence in the first month of term. TAs are paid on the last Friday of every month. You may login to Workday to check on the details of your direct banking deposit. If you have not been paid, contact the Graduate Studies Coordinator immediately to determine the problem. She will check with Human Resources and ensure that all the paperwork has been processed.
Your first TA assignment requires that you be set up in the Payroll system. The Graduate Studies Coordinator will notify each new TA, not only of their assignment(s), but also of the required payroll forms, to be completed and attached to the Temporary Payroll authorization in the case of Undergraduate TA’s, or sent ahead to HR in the case of Graduate TA’s. Each TA must ensure that they have the following to facilitate the process:
- Your Canadian Social Insurance Number. (new International graduate students should see the Graduate Studies Coordinator on arrival to obtain information as to how to procure their S.I.N.)
- Current bank, branch, and account number for salary deposit purposes (and a void cheque). Salary payments are deposited directly into this account through the University Payroll system.
- Permanent home mailing address. Your income tax slips will be mailed to this address if you are not a registered student at the time of income tax processing; otherwise your tax slips will come to your departmental mailbox. You will have to fill out federal and provincial TD1 tax forms and bring them to the Graduate Studies Coordinator.
3.2 Restrictions on Graduate TA Assignments
The Biology Department has a policy that graduate students within their program limits may receive a total of 4 TA assignments per year (starting Winter 2017). Some scholarships place restrictions on the number of TA assignments a student may accept. For example, NSERC Post Graduate Scholarships do not allow recipients to spend more than 300 hours per year on such duties. Commonwealth Scholarship holders are forbidden to undertake any TA duties unless permission is granted by the agency prior to acceptance of duties. If you have a scholarship, be sure that your TA assignments are allowed. Note also: NSERC forbids PGS awards to be paid from NSERC funds; RS payments provided as scholarship top-ups by the supervisor must thus be paid from non- NSERC funds.
3.3 TA Preferences for Graduate students
Graduate Students who are eligible for a TA assignment will receive a TA selection memo, usually 2 months prior to the beginning of the term. Graduate students who are not eligible to receive a TA, may apply for one, with the permission of their supervisor; however, they will be placed in the "other" category which is at the base Graduate student remuneration rate and does not include the SGEA (Science Graduate Experience Award). If you are in doubt as to whether you are eligible to receive TAs in a particular term, check with the Graduate Studies Coordinator. Generally, graduate students who have been promised financial assistance (in the form of Teaching Assistantships) in their original offer of acceptance, and are within the program limits for the duration of their program (M.Sc. program limit is 6 terms; Ph.D. program limit is 12 terms) can expect to receive TA assignments in two out of three terms. Most graduate students receive TAs in the Fall and Winter terms, with a smaller number receiving TAs in either Spring and Fall or Winter and Spring. Undergraduate students and "others" should contact the Graduate Studies Coordinator regarding application procedures.
The TA selection memo will include a listing of the courses being offered. You will be asked to choose a maximum of three courses. Your background must be appropriate for those courses that you list. The Department will try to accommodate your preferences, but you should be aware that this is not always possible and you may be asked to TA a course that you did not choose.
In rare situations, you may be asked to TA a course that you did not request, but are nevertheless qualified to TA because of your background. This situation can be caused by a shortage of students who are qualified to TA a particular course or because of heavy TA demands in some large courses. As a rule, the Department tries to accommodate your preferences and the needs of the courses being offered.
In exceptional cases, a student may wish to postpone their TA assignments, usually for reasons such as research work or unforeseen problems. The Department will try to accommodate such a request, but only after consultation with the student, the supervisor and the Associate Chair, Graduate. If, on the other hand, a student declines a TA because (s)he is unwilling to accept a particular TA assignment, there is no guarantee that an alternate TA assignment will be given in a subsequent term. In other words, if you don't use it when it is offered, you may lose it!
In the latter case, this action may seem harsh, but it is important to remember that the Department must endeavour to fulfil its financial commitments to a large number of students by way of Teaching Assistantships, and meet the needs of our undergraduate teaching program. The scheduling of TAs requires careful, long-range planning, and is governed by the availability of TAs from term to term, as well as budgetary constraints.
The greatest demand for TAs occurs in the Fall and Winter terms, with fewer TA assignments available in the Spring - this situation allows minimal flexibility in rescheduling TA assignments.
If a TA must miss a regular TA duty, such as instructing a lab or tutorial, then it is up to the TA to inform the course instructor, and make satisfactory arrangements for coverage. The financial arrangements for coverage with another person is the responsibilty of the TA, and can include personal payment, or an exchange of TA duties. Such coverages need to be made well ahead of time, where possible.
If you have any problems carrying out your TA assignment (for example, if your duties require substantially more that 5 hours/unit/week), you should first talk with the course instructor who supervises your TA duties. If the problem remains unresolved, discuss your concerns with the Associate Chair, Undergraduate.
In the case of graduate students, it may be appropriate to discuss concerns with your supervisor first. If your Graduate supervisor cannot resolve the problem, then the Associate Chair, Graduate Studies should be consulted. In extreme situations, if the problem cannot be resolved within the Department, you could approach the Associate Dean of Science for Graduate Studies.
The Department presents TA Workshops in September and January each year. They provide information and help for people who have been assigned their first TA. Attendees have the opportunity to interact with instructors and experienced TAs and discuss problems that they may have to solve. Participation in the TA Workshop is required for all TAs appointments.
TA duties officially start the first day of classes. As early as possible, but preferably before lectures begin, you should arrange to talk to the course instructor(s) of the course to which you are assigned. TA assignments will be emailed to you by the Graduate Studies Coordinator, who will tell you whom to contact. Your duties officially continue until the marks for the course are handed in. If you become ill, or if you will not be available for any reason, let your course instructor know immediately. In your initial meeting with your course instructor, you should work out the details about how absences should be handled/reported. Please remember that it is essential for TAs to be present at all assigned lab sessions and all scheduled TA meetings. You will receive an email from the course instructor before the beginning of the term that will give you information about the first meeting (place and time). It is essential that you answer all emails from the course instructor in a timely manner. In liu of this you should make sure the course facilitor has your correct email address (the one that you can most easily be reached at).
4.1 Effective Office Hours
Many TA positions involve being available for an average of one hour a week in a consulting capacity for students in the course. If this is an expectation of your course instructor, then it is a good idea to plan your office hours. You may find it useful to begin and end on the hour; that way you are accessible to students who may have classes on the half-hour. In other instances it may suit the course better to have extended hours at specific times such as when a lab report or assignment is due or just prior to a lab exam. Graduate students who have a desk in the Department tend to use it for their office hours. STC 0032 & 0036 are designated for TA’s to hold their office hours. These two rooms get booked through Jeannie Redpath-Erb (B1-381) or Susan Whyte (ESC-351). Once the booking is made, you will be told where to sign out the key for the room. Some choices have been to use the Science undergraduate lounge or a teaching lab when it is not in use.
The first rule of office hours is BE THERE! Only in emergencies should you miss office hours. If you cannot be there, arrange for a replacement TA, or leave a message on your door and arrange for an alternate time. Your function as a TA during office hours is not to be a quick source of answers. In many instances you may have to provide direction in report writing or provide tutorial/instructional support for lab exam preparations. Regardless of the student's opinion of the course instructor, it is not your function to re-teach the course. That does not mean you should refuse to answer general questions that are related to the lab or tutorial component of the course. If clarification or more detail is needed, please give it. It is never acceptable to “pre-mark” someone’s assignment during office hours (i.e., do not agree to requests to ‘look it over to make sure it is OK’).
4.2 Keeping Records
Guidelines for maintaining records of marks will usually be given to you by the course instructor responsible for the course. In general, each teaching assistant should maintain at least two complete sets of records including the marks maintained by their partner. It is highly recommended they be kept in at least two separate locations. It is imperative that personal student information such as marks and identification numbers be kept secure at all times while in your possession for the term and after. To this end you must adopt a practice that will ensure the security of the data while under your control. This would include at a minimum password protecting any files or spreadsheets that include essential information, to password protecting your computer, laptop, handheld devices or USB keys. For further information on practices for securing electronic information see Appendix V.
In some courses you will record the mark directly into the LEARN class list. In that case you will get the instructions from the course instructor.
4.3 TA Attendance Policy
Graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants are the primary face of the Department of Biology, for many undergraduate students. The Department recognizes the excellent and outstanding contribution made by the overwhelming majority of these TA emissaries. This notwithstanding, the guidelines elaborated below are presented as a means of approaching some of the difficult issues which may arise, albeit infrequently.
1) Unexplained absences for scheduled meetings are unacceptable. This includes missing: a TA meeting without prior consent from the course instructor, a scheduled exam marking session or a required meeting such as the proctoring instructional session before an examination period. Instances in which a TA misses a meeting will be reported to the Associate Chair, Undergraduate by the course instructor. Failing to respond to emails from the course instructor is also grounds for a discussion with the Associate Chair, Undergraduate.
On the first occasion, TAs will meet with Associate Chair, Undergraduate and be given a verbal warning. The student’s supervisor will be notified of this.
On the second occasion, a verbal and written warning will be issued. The Associate Chair, Graduate and the student’s supervisor will be copied on this letter (in those instances where the student is a Graduate Student) so that they can be kept informed of the situation and to ensure that the Associate Chair is fair and unbiased.
A subsequent infraction will normally result in the student losing one term’s TA eligibility. This will be conveyed in a letter copied to the student’s supervisor and the graduate officers. The supervisor is not required to make up the lost salary. Undergraduate students in this situation will not be offered any additional TAs.
2) Late or missed attendance for a proctoring assignment. The Biology Department has instituted policies to control exam theft, which typically require proctors to arrive 30 minutes prior to the start of the exam. Thus, a student is deemed to be late for proctoring a midterm or a final exam when they are not present 30 minutes before the start of the exam and have failed to give prior notification to the course instructor. Instances in which a TA is late will be reported to the Associate Chair, Undergraduate by the course instructor. In addition, all instances in which a TA misses a proctoring assignment without prior notification of the course instructor will be reported to the Associate Chair, Undergraduate by the course instructor.
On the first occasion of either of the above, a verbal and written warning will be issued by the Associate Chair, Undergraduate. In those instances where the student is a graduate student, the verbal and written warning will be issued by the The Associate Chair, Graduate and the student’s supervisor will be copied on this letter so that they can be kept informed of the situation and to ensure that the Associate Chair, Undergraduate is well informed.
A subsequent infraction will normally result in the student losing one term’s TA eligibility. This will be conveyed in a letter copied to the student’s supervisor and the Associate Chair, Graduate. The supervisor is not required to make up the lost salary. Undergraduate students in this situation will not be offered any additional TAs.
3) A student volunteer for an “extra” exam proctoring or marking position that is paid hourly, but then fails to turn up. That student will no longer be eligible for any future hourly paid extra positions.
All of the above decisions can be appealed to the Chair of Biology.
Since the bulk of a student’s grade for most undergraduate courses comes from their midterm and final exam grades, a major duty as a TA is to proctor tests and examinations during the term; while undergraduates will be responsible for proctoring only midterms, graduate TAs also proctor midterms and one or more final exams.
4.4 Proctoring Midterm Exams
All proctors are notified of proctoring duties for midterm exams well in advance to ensure that any potential scheduling problems can be resolved. If you are unable to proctor a midterm exam as requested, it is up to you to find another student to take your place. Notify the course instructor to give them that person’s contact information. If you are unable to find a substitute proctor, notify the course instructor immediately.
Usually, only the course instructor sees the question paper before the examination, but if they provide you with a copy, you should look over the test questions and their answers. This will enable you to answer any relevant question from the students, with confidence. Though the final exams will be written in a more formal setting (in most cases the PAC), both final exams and midterms should be administered in the same professional manner. Students usually write midterms during class time, or over the dinner hour (5:45-6:45). If it is a large class, students are assigned to write in smaller rooms on the basis of their last name. You will be designated a specific room by the course instructor for which you will be responsible.
Since the course instructor may not be available in your room at all times, great care must be taken when you proctor to ensure that students are treated fairly, that they are as comfortable as possible in a stressful environment and that cheating is kept to a minimum. Here are a few guidelines to help you prepare for proctoring your first midterm (though many can be applied to final exams also).
For a midterm exam, the course instructor will ask you to meet as a group at a designated area (outside their office or an assigned room) at a specific time (at least 30 minutes prior to the start of the midterm). Usually the course instructor will have some information they would like to convey to you about the running of the midterm (i.e. what aids are permitted, length of the midterm etc.). This will allow time for you to pick up last minute instructions and head out to your room with the material. In other cases, you will be asked to meet at the room where the midterm is taking place at a designated time. Again arrive on time!
When you get to the room make sure you have all of your materials (test papers, computer cards if necessary, booklets, pencils, attendance sheets etc.) and count the number of papers that you have been given.
If the test is to be marked by computer, place the computer card at every other seat. Try to ensure spacing is such that students cannot look directly at another student’s paper. DO NOT DISTRIBUTE THE TEST PAPERS.
Allow the students to enter the room 10 minutes before the scheduled start time.
As the students enter the room, announce that ALL bags, coats, books etc. should be placed at the back, side or front of the room. Students should sit only where they see a computer card or exam booklet. Ask the students to keep only their writing utensils, ID and calculator (if allowed) on their desk. All other materials, including their pencil cases, should be left in their bags.
5 minutes BEFORE the exam is to begin, close the doors and if possible have a proctor posted beside each exit. ALL students in the room should be seated and quiet BEFORE you begin to hand out the exams. Students should have all course material put away before you start to hand out the midterms. If possible, hand out the exams directly to each individual student. Try not to send them down a row. DO NOT PLACE TEST PAPERS ON EMPTY DESKS.
Tell the students to keep the test paper either face down or face up (depending on whether there is a cover sheet). In either case they should not be allowed to look at the test until all have been distributed and you are ready to start. They can fill out their computer card with the necessary information while they are waiting and write their name on the cover page of the exam. If you run a few minutes late in handing out the test papers, add this time on at the end of the exam.
If the test paper has a multiple choice component, announce that questions must be answered on both the paper and the computer card. Remind them to put their name on the exam paper also. Announce that the computer card should have their name, course number and I.D. number. Usually section number and test master are not required . Be very clear in your instructions: if possible, indicate on the blackboard that computer cards must be completed by the end of the exam. It is not acceptable for a student to ask for extra time to transfer answers from the exam booklet to the scantron answer card. Should this happen, confiscate the exam and the answer card and keep separate from the other papers. Soon after the exam, meet up with the course instructor and discuss how the scan card should be marked, if at all.
If the test involves written answers, then the students should answer the questions directly in the space provided on the paper, or in the answer booklets. Again remind them to put their name and student ID on both the booklet and test paper.
Before you begin the exam, announce any important instructions to the students. This would include the number of pages of the test paper and the number of questions to be answered. The start time and finish time for the exam and any aids that may be permitted (texts, calculators etc). If they are allowed to keep the test paper tell them, if not then indicate that the test paper and booklet or computer card must both be handed in to receive a grade. Follow up all of this information on the board (i.e. number of pages, number of questions and length of the exam). Remind students to turn off their cell phones and other electronic devices and put them away in their bags.
If there is a mistake or a typographical error in the questions, make an announcement at the beginning of the examination period and write the changes clearly on the blackboard. If you become aware of a mistake during the exam period, follow the same procedure as above.
Start the exam. Count the number of test papers left over. Count the number of students in the room. THE NUMBERS SHOULD MATCH. If not, recount.
Some midterm tests may not require student signature cards, and instead you may be asked to pass around a sheet to collect student signatures and ID numbers. This will allow you to determine whether a student actually wrote the midterm if it becomes lost. The number of signatures should add up to the number of students in the room writing and the number of exams handed out.
If there is no clock in the examination room, or if the one there is not giving the correct time, post the time on the board at fifteen minute intervals (more often as the exam period nears the end but not so often that it causes a disturbance to the students).
Students should raise their hand when they have finished and cannot leave their seats until you have collected their paper and computer card. Be sure to separate the computer card from the exam paper and to stack the papers and the computer cards in the same orientation and direction.
Make announcements when there are five minutes left and one minute left in the exam period. Collect exams punctually; extend the exam period only on the instructions of the course instructor. As papers are turned in, check each to make sure that the exam paper, booklet and/or computer card have been handed in and that the students name and ID are on each and that they match.
If a student is finished early, they should leave the room promptly after they have handed in their paper. At the end of the exam have the students stop writing and put their pens or pencils down. All students should remain in their seats until the last paper has been collected at which time they can all leave. Remind students not to discuss the exam and to remain quiet until all papers have been collected.
4.5 Proctoring Final Exams
As mentioned, final exams are more formal and there are a few differences from midterm tests in the way they are administered. All Graduate TA’s will be required to proctor at least one final exam during the examination period, while undergraduate TA’s are not scheduled to proctor final exams.
Before the end of term each TA must complete an in-class review of proctoring procedures. This is designed to remind you of the key issues. You will not be allowed to proctor a final exam until you have completed this training session satisfactorily.
The Graduate Studies Coordinator notifies all students of their proctoring duties for final exams well in advance to ensure that any potential scheduling problems can be resolved. It is absolutely mandatory that you show up for your proctoring assignments. If you are unable to proctor a final exam as requested, you must find another student of the same gender to take your place. Proctoring replacements can only be Biology graduate students. When you are successful, notify the Graduate Studies Coordinator who will obtain permission from the Associate Chair, Undergraduate for the switch in duties. All instances in which a TA misses a proctoring assignment without prior notification of the course instructor will be reported to the Associate Chair, Undergraduate by the course instructor. Please refer to section 4.3 of this manual (TA Exam Policy) for the detailed information regarding penalties for a missed proctoring assignment. Final examinations are almost always written during the official examination period; these are usually scheduled by the Registrar's Office to be held in the Physical Activities Complex (PAC) or elsewhere on campus.
For final exams administered by the Registrar’s Office, you must be present one half hour before the exam begins to have the exam material distributed on time. You should go directly to the room that has been assigned for the course (see below). Many of the large courses are very time consuming to set up, so it is both unprofessional and unfair to come late. In any case, you should have everything prepared so that the exam begins on time. In most cases students will be allowed to enter the room 7-10 minutes before the start so all materials that are allowed to be available when they enter must be out on the tables no later than ten minutes before the start of the examination period.
When you receive your examination assignment, you should read the instructions carefully. If the exam is administered by the Registrar in the PAC, the exam papers will be delivered directly to the front of the PAC floor. Examinations scheduled, administered, and printed by the Registrar's Office, and located in the Math and Computer Building or Davis Centre should be picked up at MC 4043 on the day of the examination. Exams scheduled in Rod Coutts Hall should be picked up at RCH 208 on the day of the examination. Registrar's Office personnel will be on duty to dispense the examinations and supplies from thirty minutes before the examination until ten minutes after the examination period begins. Proctors picking up examinations must identify themselves to the Registrar's staff and may be required to present proper identification at these locations.
For exams administered by the Registrar and taking place in the PAC, you should go to the section of the PAC which is designated to the course. Listen for and follow all instructions given by the course instructor when proctoring in the PAC or any other room on campus.In most cases now, there will be no difference between midterm set up and final exam set up in terms of distrubuting the exams. Count the exams before you begin to make sure all are accounted for. Place computer cards and signature cards on every seat of section of the PAC. Unless told otherwise DO NOT PUT EXAMS OUT ON THE TABLES OR DESKS prior to the start of the exam.In most cases exams will be counted and handed out to students once they have seated but before the exam period begins. Detailed instructions will be given by the course instructor as to how this is going to occur.
If you are proctoring in another room on campus, you should follow the instructions for the PAC but in this case any material (computer cards, booklets, signature cards etc. should be staggered (every other seat).
When the room has been set up, regardless of the location of the exam, the students should be allowed to enter the room 7-10 minutes before they are to begin writing. In the case of the PAC, a person from the Registrar’s office will officiate over this process and the Presiding Officer shall be in charge of the examinations and shall exercise complete authority during the examination period. The Presiding Officer must remain in the PAC during the entire examination period (aside from washroom breaks.)
If you are writing in another room on campus you will be required to indicate to the students when they can enter the room to write.
As the students enter the room, one TA should announce that ALL bags, coats, books etc. should be placed at the back, side or front of the room or directly under the students table (if in the PAC). Ideally, students should have only their writing utensils and ID on their desks (i.e. no pencil cases etc). No food or drink is allowed in exams.
For exams administered by the Registrar’s office in the PAC all announcements etc. will be made either by the Registrars office or the Presiding Officer. If you are administering an exam in another room on campus the Proctor will be responsible for making any relevant announcements pertaining to final examinations. For example, during final exams students are not allowed to leave the examination room for the first one hour. Students must remain in their seats during the last ten minutes of the examination period. Any other relevant announcements pertaining to the course itself should also me made (typographical mistakes, etc) at the beginning of the exam and followed up on the board.
During final exams administered by the Registrar’s Office, students must present their student ID cards and normally they fill out the coloured identification cards supplied by the Registrar's Office or sign a seating plan. Regardless of the method, you will be responsible for verifying that the student writing is indeed the person that they say they are. Other than minor differences, you should follow the directions as outlined above for proctoring a midterm. There are also recommendations and regulations that are specific to the Registrars office and they can be found in the Appendix I of this manual (Instructions for Proctors of Final Examinations, supplied by the Registrar’s Office). It is up to you to familiarize yourself with this infomation also.
4.6 Department of Biology Recommended Procedures for Proctoring
4.6.1 Proctoring Procedures
Students may not eat or drink during the exam, except for water in a clear, non-labelled bottle. Students may ask for a single nutrition break outside with a proctor. Proctors may not have food during the exam but may have a drink.
Ensure the student has a Watcard. The person presiding over the exam* may, at their discretion, accept a valid official photo ID such as a Driver's license or OHIP card. In these cases the absence of a Watcard should be noted on the signature card or signature sheet and the person presiding should check that a student of that name and student number is registered in the course. Under no circumstances should students without photo ID be allowed to write exams. They should be instructed to contact the course instructor. It is not the students right to write the exam if they have no photo ID – the exam regulations say they must present their ID at each exam.
* Usually this will be the Presiding Officer or course instructor, but for exams outside the PAC in rooms where only grad students are present as proctors, they are empowered to act in this capacity.
Ensure the photo on the ID card matches the student presenting it.
Ensure that the name and ID number on the Watcard card match what is written on Exam question books, exam booklets, computer cards and the signature card or sheet. All of this should be written in pen or a similar un-erasable medium, not in pencil.
If possible it is best to have a class list with you at the exam that you can use to check student’s and ID numbers against. Ideally one should cross check the names of all students writing the exam against this list, although this may be difficult for larger classes.
Please report incidences of false name and/or false student ID number use to the course instructor and Associate Chair, Undergraduate.
Ensure that no students leave during the first 60 minutes of a 2.5 h exam. If a student wants to leave because of illness or because they are in the wrong exam, inform the course instructor or presiding officer.
Students have to remain seated during the last 10 minutes of the exam. Under no circumstances should you collect the exam from students during this time. Collect all remaining exams after registrar's office person/proctor announces the end of the exam.
In rooms outside the PAC announce the last 10 minutes of the exam. Remind students to start filling computer cards (There are problems with students who claim that the TAs did not announce: "10 minutes left, please start filling the cards", so they filled their cards in incorrectly/didn't fill them completely as they were in a hurry).
Pay attention to calculators and cell phones. (Normally students cannot use programmable calculators in science courses). The majority of cell phones now have a camera feature. They should be stored in students' BAGS not in their pockets as they might be able to use them when they go to the washroom.
**Note: In many cases, the Biology Department is permitted to hand out the exam paper after the students are seated. Please check with your course instructor or the presiding officer when you arrive (see information above regarding exams held in the PAC).
4.6.2 Some General Tips for Proctoring Both Midterm and Final Exams
If a student asks to leave the room for a short period during the exam period, a person of the same gender must accompany them.
Quietly and unobtrusively walk past the desks during the test period; students will then ask questions, while they may otherwise hesitate to put their hands up. When answering questions, you must be careful not to give out too much information. In fact, some instructors do not want the TAs answering course-associated questions and prefer to answer these themselves. The instructor will make this clear before the exam, if this is the case. Some students are very adept at asking questions in an apparently innocuous manner whose answers will give them a big advantage over their classmates. Try to restate the problem in a different way, without giving the solution away. Often the meanings of certain terms or concepts is part of the course content; be careful not to divulge facts that a student is expected to know. If a student continues to press for information, it is best to indicate to the student that you are not sure and to hold on to their questions until the course instructor can speak to them.
If calculators are allowed as an aid, be aware that students have been known to use programmable calculators with answers stored in the memory of the calculator. This is obviously an unfair advantage and should be treated as cheating. If a student asks to borrow a calculator from another student, ask for it first, and ensure that all its memory registers are blank. Only calculators with a ‘blue goggles’ or ‘pink tie’ sticker can be used during tests or exams.
If a student is wearing a baseball cap have him either take the cap off or turn the brim to the back before the exam begins (usually a general announcement is good enough for this).
4.7 How to handle suspected cheating during exams
As a proctor it is essential that you circulate the room at all times. If you notice someone has wandering eyes, usually standing close to that individual for a period of time will stop this tendency. If this doesn’t work, a quiet message like “please keep your eyes on your own paper” should do it. When you start the exam, the only material on the desk should be a pencil case, pens, pencils and any permitted aids. Since the students have placed their books and notes away you should not see any other course material on the desk once the exam has started.
A formal description of the regulations and procedures relating to examinations can be obtained from the Office of the Dean of Science (Academic Regulations and Student Discipline Policy and Examination Regulations and Procedures). The following paragraph which is from that publication, deals with procedure to be followed in the case of suspected cheating on an examination:
"If the Presiding Officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a violation of academic regulations has occurred, he/she shall collect all of the evidence available. This may include the collection of answer books, but in this event the candidate will be provided with new answer books and allowed to continue writing. As soon as possible following the conclusion of the examination, the Presiding Officer shall inform the course instructor of the circumstances and shall turn over all of the evidence available. In the event that the instructor is not available, the Presiding Officer will inform the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies of the faculty or faculties involved."
If you suspect cheating in the form of collaboration, it is a relatively easy matter to stop. Politely ask one or more of the suspects to move to another seat, preferably in the front row or some other conspicuous spot where they will feel that you are keeping an eye on them. There is no need to make any accusation or attempt to find other evidence to support your suspicion - a simple request for relocation is not something to which any examinee (especially one with a guilty conscience) is likely to object. Take note of their names and how far along they were in the test when they were moved.
If you have any concerns about cheating, first give the student verbal notice to keep their eyes on their own paper. Also be on the look out for students who indicate their selection for multiple choice questions in unusually large letters. This is often an indication they are trying to help a nearby student. Alert your TA partner and watch the student from behind, to see if there is any evidence of collaboration.
If someone has “cheat notes”, ask the student for the material and the exam paper and give them a second copy of the exam for the remaining time period. If they refuse to give you the suspected material, do NOT attempt to take it from them. Ideally, in any cases when you suspect unfair activity you should first get another proctor to validate the student’s unusual behaviour.
In most cases, after a verbal warning, permit the student to finish writing the paper and we will deal with specific concerns after the exam. Always make the other proctor aware of the situation.
Proctors should circulate during the exam period and should try to keep their eyes on the students at all times.
5. Teaching and Demonstrations
5.1 Giving Laboratory Demonstrations
There are many kinds of laboratories presented in the Biology Department. Some require experimental techniques, while others are based on close observation of living or preserved material. Whatever kind of laboratory you find yourself in, the basic principles of good teaching still apply.
Most of the time you will find yourself in a position of having to start the laboratory session by presenting a PRELAB TALK. No matter what the topic, you should consider the following:
1. Preparation. You must be thoroughly familiar with the topic being covered. The laboratory components of most courses are managed by Instructors who hold regular meetings to go over each laboratory; in these meetings you can learn ways to solve anticipated problems, and clear up any questions you may have. To get the greatest benefit from these meetings you must read over the lab experiment before your weekly meeting. It will be necessary for you to do some background reading, particularly if the topic being covered is not your specialty.
2. Organization. You should have your instructions logically organized. Keep in mind that your audience is not familiar with the material or with the procedure you are explaining. Don't assume too much prior knowledge. If the laboratory requires specific instructions (whether it’s the proper use of a piece of equipment, or the proper dissecting technique) keep in mind that all the students must be able to see the steps equally well. That may mean breaking up a large group into several smaller groups, but in that case you will have to plan an "activity" for those students that are waiting, or they may become noisy and disruptive. No matter what the topic, the organizational aspect remains identical.
3. Presentation. Speak clearly in a voice that is loud enough to be heard at the back of the room. Your partner can help by indicating whether your words can be clearly understood. Do not turn your back to the students, and maintain regular eye contact with them. In your explanations, avoid using pronouns, "fill this with this"; instead use nouns - "fill the test tube with reagent A".
5.2 Tutorial Laboratory Sessions
A. The First Session in the Term
The first day is perhaps the most important. It is the day you set the tone for the term. It is the day you Introduce yourself to the students.
Some time before your first session, pay a visit to the room in which you will be teaching. It is important for you to know its layout, including the sightlines between you and the students in all parts of the room. Find out what resources are available – blackboards or whiteboards, a projection screen, etc.
On the day of your first session, make sure that you arrive at least 15 minutes before it is scheduled to begin. You do not want to feel flustered or rushed.
Begin the session on time. Close the doors, but make sure they are not locked. Ask everyone to sit down, and before you start your presentation, make sure that you can see the whites of their eyes.
To begin, both TA partners can make yourselves known to the students. Introduce yourselves by telling people who you are (write your names and contact information on the board), what you study or other appropriate information, and that you will be their TAs for the term. Describe to the students what your function at the lab is. Explain how they can contact you and advise them about the location and time for your office hours.
Point out the room’s safety equipment and exits. Most laboratory manuals have a section on safety concerns and features.
Explain to the students the expectations for the term. They will want to know the schedule, the dates of tests and the distribution of marks. You may also want to outline the standards by which their assignments will be marked. If yours is a laboratory session, make sure that everyone understands there will be a pre-lab talk every week, and that they are expected to arrive at the laboratory in time to hear all of it. Latecomers may miss important information concerning hazards or problems in that week’s exercise.
Students are responsible to observe and adhere to the Code of Conduct at all times while in the laboratory and TAs’ job is to make sure the studnts know what is expected from them (see Appendix VI).
Pause at intervals to ask if there are any questions. This tactic provides a change of pace in your presentation, and the responses can give you valuable feedback about how well your audience understands what you have been saying.
Establish the expectations for the first day. Describe techniques they will use and common errors or problems. If there is a “take-home message”, it can be delivered here.
Say everything that needs to be said, and then conclude the talk. By this time your students will be eager to get to work.
B. Subsequent Sessions
Do not allow any significant work to begin until the pre-lab talk is finished. Your students may collect necessary glassware and equipment, but do not allow them to begin to prepare reaction mixtures.
Start on time and get their attention before beginning (as in step #3 above).
It may be necessary to give latecomers a gentle reminder about punctuality.
Appendix II in this Resource Manual contains several checklists to help you self-evaluate your in-lab teaching activities.
C. On Nervousness: Some Thoughts and Strategies
© Center for Teaching and Learning, Stanford University
Expect to feel a bit nervous. Your anxiety indicates that you care about what you are undertaking and want it to go well. Students may also be nervous, so do not worry if the students are quiet during the first session.
Breathe deeply and speak slowly.
Prepare thoroughly. This is unquestionably the best way to improve your confidence and performance.
Act confident. Concentrate on the ideas you want to get through, not on your own nervousness. Think about your students’ needs, not you own.
Visualize and practice. Rehearse your first section by visualizing how it well go, or try out your opening introduction with a friend.
Do not feel that you have to know all the answers. If you do not know, do not hedge your response; it is obvious that you do not know what you are talking about. Admit you do not know, and then promise to find out the answer, suggest a reference, refer the question back to the class, or ask the student to find out and report back the next week.
Keep your spirits high. Humour helps; a grim atmosphere will not make anyone feel better.
5.3 Some Teaching Tips
1. Teach as you would like to be taught. You won’t be the ideal TA for everyone in the room but as long as you are fair, prepared and approachable to all, you will do a good job.
2. Try to make your presentations entertaining. Speak to the students, don't talk to the blackboard.
3. For the sake of the back row, make your handwriting clear and large enough. Speak loudly so that all students can hear you over equipment noises.
4. Pause and ask the class provocative questions from time to time. This is often useful for diffusing distracting behaviours as well.
5. Demonstrate enthusiasm about teaching and the material. If you really enjoy teaching, chances are good that the students will enjoy learning from you.
6. Make sure you have used the equipment, or have learned the technique ahead of time. It is embarrassing to have the unwanted surprise of not knowing what you are doing in the middle of a lab presentation.
7. Practise effective listening: focus on the other person rather than your private concerns; pay attention to body language and other non-verbal messages; listen for the essence of the person’s message and imagine how you would feel in their circumstances. Ask questions to make sure you understand what they have said and demonstrate that your interest.
8. Encourage students to ask questions. Whether or not you believe a question is worth your consideration, treat it as though it is a worthwhile question.
9. Appearance is important. Arrive looking clean and professional. Do not wear T-shirts with obscene or abusive messages on them. Make sure your breath and body odour are not unpleasant.
The most important piece of advice about teaching is probably the Boy Scouts' motto "Be Prepared". Be prepared for the amount of work involved and be prepared for your assignment. If you don't know your material inside out, the students will discover this quickly. When in doubt, review the material before giving an answer (or get back to them at the next session) - never bluff.
5.4 Answering Student Questions: How to Determine the Problem
1. Encourage the student to ask clear, specific questions. "I don't understand anything" or "I don't know where to start" do not qualify.
2. Find out what has been done on the assignment. If the student is on the right track, a key question from you can be enlightening and point out the right direction. If the approach is headed down a dead-end trail, again a few key questions can be quite useful.
3. If you do not know the answer to a question, use the opportunity to outline to the students the plan of attack you would use. Your method and style of thinking can be as useful as an answer. If you remain stumped, you may be able to suggest references to look up. Another approach is to suggest that the student come back after you have had time to obtain the background information.
5.5 Sharing the Load with Your TA Partner
In most cases there will be two TAs assigned to each lab and 1 TA for each tutorial section. The ideal situation is for the workload in the course to be shared equally between the two TAs. In most situations the workload is designed to be equal but there may be instances in which there is a difference in the range of their assignments. These exceptions aside, the day-to-day duties within the lab or tutorial should be shared equally. And efforts should be made by both TAs to share the duties outside the class.
Occasionally one TA may feel that (s)he is doing most of the work. This may be evident in the case of office hours and accessibility. The students may tend to ask a graduate student TA for help because they know where to find them. It would be best to discuss the workload with your TA partner at the beginning of the term. If later in the term you feel things are not working out, try to talk about how to fix the situation, rather than letting resentment build.
5.6 Safety in Laboratory Training
As a TA, you are considered an employee of the University. All employees are required by the Employment Standards Act to be adequately and properly trained in Workplace Safety. As an undergraduate, you would have received WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) training. As an employee, you need to learn how your safety responsibilities may have changed. With this in mind, the University has developed a number of safety training courses (online) that must be successfully completed by all employees of the University.
On this site, you will find listings for safety courses that should be taken based on the type of work that you will be doing on campus. For TA’s working in laboratory or tutorial courses, such as those in Biology, five courses are REQUIRED:
- Employee Safety Orientation
- Workplace Violence Awareness
- WHMIS for Employees
- Laboratory Safety
All of these courses must be successfully completed to ensure that you are adequately and properly trained to lead students in laboratory exercises. If you do not complete these courses, you will not be allowed to attend the TA workshop or hold a TA position that term. You must bring evidence of completion of your online safety training to the TA workshop.
NOTE: It is also possible that for some undergraduate and graduate students additional safety courses are required, again depending on your field of study (for e.g. – Radiation Safety training). Your need to take these courses should be discussed with your Supervisor(s).
Safety is an extremely important part of laboratory teaching and should be of as much concern to the TAs as the academic work. The goals here are to prevent injuries to anyone in the laboratory and to teach students safety habits that should be used later in their scientific careers. Also, TAs should be aware that they, as well as the course instructors, may be held liable for problems that arise from failure to enforce safety procedures.
Required safety procedures will be reviewed by the course instructors at TA meetings. These safety procedures range from instructing students in the safe handling of hazardous chemicals and equipment to ensuring that students wear appropriate safety equipment such as goggles or gloves.
Chemical companies, which produce and sell chemical products, write descriptive documents called
Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) or Safety Data Sheets (SDSs; from 2015) for each of these chemical products. SDSs are sent to users such as hospitals and universities when the chemicals are shipped. You could search some of the following websites before each lab section to check the safety issues for all chemicals used in that particular lab, or go to the suppliers web site to search for the specific chemical.
In courses for which there is no lab Instructor supervising the laboratory program, TAs should consult directly with the course instructor teaching the course to ensure that the laboratory exercise can be conducted safely. If a question arises about a problem in safety that cannot be resolved through the Department Safety Officer, Dr. Simon Chuong (32929), then call UW Director of Safety (35814).
All undergraduate students are now required to take WHMIS 000, a short course in general laboratory safety and in handling of hazardous materials, before attending laboratories in Biology. A certificate will be issued when WHMIS 000 is completed, and students should be able to print it and show it to the TAs. It is the responsibility of the TAs to check the certificates before the students begin the first laboratory exercise. It is also the responsibility of TAs to ensure that students follow safety procedures whenever they are in the laboratory.
All TAs must know how to handle an emergency. Every TA is required to have successfully completed their safety training BEFORE they attend their first lab session as a TA. Become familiar with the location and operation of the fire extinguishers, fire blanket, first aid shower and wash and first aid kit in the laboratory. Know the location of the nearest fire alarm and telephone.
In the case of an accident or injury, NO MATTER HOW MINOR, please report the incident to your instructor. Also refer the Emergency Procedures at the end of this manual.
5.7 Contracts for Expectations of Student Behaviour in Labs
A number of courses in Biology (eg. 110, 240L, 301) now require that students sign a “contract” prior to the start of lab exercises (see Appendix IV for an example). This contract outlines the expectations for student conduct in the lab: specfically our expectations for student behaviour in the lab, and specific behaviours that could be considered as grounds for a student to be removed from a particular lab session, or even permanently from a course. Courses with a contract will require that student’s signature before they can be permitted to begin the lab. TAs must ensure that this contract is signed and collect the completed form.
While the contract details may differ from course to course, it is important that TAs are aware of those expectations, and that TAs understand that they are expected to enforce the restrictions imposed by the contract. Students who “break” the contract must be cautioned/disciplined in the lab by TAs, and reported to course instructors for follow up and disciplinary action. TAs who fail to maintain the standards outlined in the contract are at risk of being held accountable should student misbehaviour result in injury or personal harm.
The marking of assignments and laboratory reports is one way of assessing the progress of students in your course. These submissions also provide the best opportunity for you as a TA to help them learn or perfect the vital skill of communicating ideas in a written form. Your feedback can inform them of exactly what they must do to improve, and encourage them so that the next assignments they submit will be of better quality. The marking is also a tool that will enable you to assess your own teaching and help you develop and improve your own teaching skills.
There are five equally important steps in the marking process:
- Giving the assignment
- Grading each submission based on the marking scheme
- Evaluating each submission for evidence of plagiarism or other Policy 71 offenses and reporting these incidences
- Recording the marks
- Returning marked assignments
6.1 Giving the assignment
Giving the assignment to students is the first step in the marking process. Instructors are responsible for developing assignments and activities, but will often request input and feedback from TAs. Before giving an assignment to your students you should meet with your TA partner and instructor to define the expectations and go through the detailed marking scheme. It is the instructor’s responsibility to provided a reasonable level of detail directing marking. This does not require prescriptive marking keys to the level of single marks. Most instructors recognize that TAs need some level of flexibility in order to use their best judgement. If in doubt, ask your instructor.
Your job is to clearly explain to students the goals of the assignment, your expectations and the general marking standards that will be applied. Keep in mind students want to know how to get a good mark and your job is to provide clear guidelines. Although it may be tempting to “help” students by giving all the details of the marking key, you should never provide this without the explicit permission of your instructor. Similarly, you should never communicate online to your entire course section(s) of students without permission from the instructor. Most instructors will expect you to at least convey general information of marking guidelines, such as use of proper formatting, organization, level of detail, spelling, referencing, etc. Your students will be much more accepting of their grades if they recognize that they were well informed from the start. The marking standards differ from course to course and you need to clarify with the course instructor if you have any questions.
Students are encouraged to work together in the lab in collecting the data. They may also plan together how to organize the report, as well as consult other relevant sources of information, which may help to produce a better report. However, it is imperative that the actual production of a report is an individual’s action, that is, the student is supposed to write the report alone, using his/her own words, drawing his/her own diagrams, or composing the tables of data. Make sure students understand that something they perceive as collaboration could be considered cheating.
Each laboratory manual has guidelines for writing laboratory reports; in the section regarding originality (last page of the guidelines), the rules and expectations are presented. Most manuals also have a section on academic and non-academic offenses and guidelines for academic discipline in our Department (see below). You will reduce misunderstandings of what is and what is not acceptable by recommending to the students in your section that they read these guidelines carefully before they write their first laboratory report.
You should also remind them how to properly reference the sources they use (including the importance of in-text citations) and also the value of references, in general. Please remind students that proper referencing has multiple purposes:
- Citations indicate to the reader that the stated information originated from another source.
- Citations provide a resource the reader can consult to evaluate the validity of the associated statement. It may even force the reader to accept a fact that they would have otherwise dismissed.
- Citations indicate where the reader can learn more about the topic.
When giving the assignment it is important to explain the consequences of omitting citations or copying text word-for-word from other sources (including another student’s report) (see Appendix III). The current proposed guidelines for plagiarism are being revised to take the level of the student’s experience, the proportion of the text that is copied and whether the copied text was appropriately cited.
It is very important to inform students about additional resources that may help them (e.g., Writing Centre online lab report guidelines http://writeonline.ca/labreport.php?content=intro or Waterloo Writing Works provided in LEARN) and to explain any late penalties. It is important that they are aware of possibility and consequences of handing in their submission late. This may help to avoid resorting to plagiarism or cheating, if they start their assignment late.
Students often suspect that marking standards are inconsistent between TA partners in a single laboratory or tutorial section or between different sections of the same course. This suspicion can be a major source of complaint and may be true if TAs for one course do not consult each other in developing the marking scheme. It is therefore very important to be as consistent as possible in both giving the assignment and marking.
In some courses markers are provided with a marking scheme or a “key” (or a “master”), and grades are assigned according to how closely each assignment corresponds to this ideal. In other courses, especially those in which students prepare a report on a laboratory exercise or experiment, the "key" might not be provided; there are often so many different ways to write a good report that it is not possible to make up a single version that is perfect. In this case, you will have to rely to some extent on your own background and knowledge of the subject. Naturally, the course instructor will have a good idea whether a certain report is worthy of an A or a C. If you are unsure as to the proper grades for the reports you are marking, please consult the course instructor, and the sooner the better.
Keep in mind that the security of a marking scheme is your responsibility. Do not leave a marking scheme where it can be stolen or copied. Also, do not show to students, write on a board or post a marking scheme.
6.2.1 Marking Issues
The most important issues, which you should always keep in mind when you are marking, are:
- to be fair and consistent
- to leave comments, which will help your students learn from their mistakes
- to look for and report cheating and plagiarizing
Here are some suggestions on how to accomplish the above roles:
- To avoid inconsistency in marking in a single laboratory/tutorial section you will have to collaborate with your TA partner before you start the actual grading. This will help to eliminate the suspicion that the marking standards were inconsistent between TA partners. If you are not provided with a marking scheme, you and your TA partner will have to make one together. If you are provided with a marking scheme by the course instructor, you and your TA partner can discuss it, and possibly even re-adjust it, depending on how you explained the goals of the assignment. For example, if students have to write a laboratory report, a marking scheme might be changed/adjusted depending on how successful the experiment was that students have to write about.
- Do not look at the names of students until you start recording the marks. You might have a preconceived bad or good opinion about a student, which could influence your marking.
- The comments you write on the assignments are the most important feedback the students will get. Your remarks tell what is good in students’ work, and what needs improvement. Although the grade is usually the first thing a student looks at when the assignment is returned, it is the comments that will be of the greatest benefit. In order for the comments to carry a clear message about how you view the assignment, what you write on it and the grade you give should support one another; for example, it is not a good idea to use a final comment such as "Very well done!" on a report you have graded at 55%.
- Make sure that what you write is clear and comprehensible. If your handwriting is small or difficult to read, consider printing your comments, or using large letters. Do not use terms, symbols or abbreviations that may be incomprehensible to your students. Finally, take pains to avoid errors in what you write. If you are not sure of the correct word to use, or of its spelling, look it up. Nothing undermines your credibility more effectively than illiterate comments.
Stay away from comments that can be perceived as sarcastic, even if you intend them to be humorous. It is too easy for someone to misunderstand completely a written comment that was meant to be amusing. N other words, you should write the kinds of comments you would like to read on your own marked papers.
If many students in your section make the same mistake, you have an indication that some vital point may have been missed or misunderstood in lecture, or that the students did not read the pages in their textbook where important information is to be found. Another possibility is that you did not clearly explain to students the goals of the assignment and the marking standards. In any case you need to mention this situation to your TA partner and to your course instructor.
6.2.2 Marking hints
If you are marking your very first set of reports and you feel unsure about how to proceed, here is a suggested technique for grading. First, select a few reports at random, and read through each one carefully, writing comments on it where they are warranted. Give each section of the report a tentative mark, but write the marks on a separate piece of paper, not on the report itself. After you have read through several reports this way, you will be able to put them in order, from the best to the worst, and you will begin to have an idea of what is an average report. Now you can continue to read the reports and place each one into your sequence according to the mark you assign; eventually you will become familiar enough with the relative merits of the reports you read that you can start to assign the marks in earnest by writing them on the reports themselves. On the other hand, if you still do not feel confident enough about your own judgement, you may decide to read through the entire set of reports without establishing your marking standards in a final form, but simply writing comments and putting them into the sequence. If you still do not feel confident enough, show a few of the reports to the course's course instructor, and let that person assign them marks. From this point it is a relatively simple matter for you to go back and adjust your tentative marks so that they harmonize with those given by the course instructor.
However, you want to optimize the use of your time while providing a fair evaluation of the students' work. You can take several steps to make this easier and more effective.
- Mark the same section of all of your assignments at one sitting if possible. This will help ensure consistency, decrease marking time, and help keep your mind from being cluttered with details from other parts of the assignment.
- Sign the grade you assign at the end of the report. In fact, it is a good practice to initial each page of the paper you are marking.
- If two TAs are marking the same assignment, first discuss how you are going to divide the work. For example, you and your partner may each mark the reports from half of your section, or one TA will mark all of the reports one week, and the other TA the next. Determine how your arrangement will impact on your ability to detect cheating as well as on marking consistency.
- Take a break from your marking often enough that you do not get tired or bored. It is hard enough to mark assignments without having to deal with your decreasing tolerance for common mistakes and your wandering concentration. Try changing the pen colour or using stickers; it might be helpful and students like it.
- From the time the assignments are submitted to you, it is your responsibility to keep them secure. It is a good idea for students to sign their names on a class list upon submission. Do not leave assignments where they can be seen, copied or stolen, especially after they have been marked. It is an unfortunate commonplace that the reports with the best marks will disappear if they are left in an accessible location. It is now University policy for the papers to be personally returned to students; thus it is easiest to return students’ assignments during the actual tutorial/laboratory section. If this is not feasible, arrange with the students from your section a place and time to return their marked assignments.
6.3 Evaluating submissions for Policy 71 infractions
When evaluating reports of students, for plagiarism or excessive collaboration it is important to recognize that most first-year students will not have written a lab report before and may make unintended errors with no intention of cheating. Or, they may discuss their results and ideas with their lab partner to the point that they use identical wording in their reports. The guidelines for penalties for plagiarism are being revised to take these situations into account and are likely to be formalized by July 2017. The Faculty of Science will adopt these guidelines starting in September 2017 because they are in the best interest of our students.
These are the principles of the new guidelines:
- “The student’s associate dean has the authority to assess instances of plagiarism and the resultant penalties. An instructor can propose a grade penalty to the associate dean, who will decide whether to accept the penalty or initiate a formal inquiry.
- Students sometimes make submissions* that contain material that is the work of others. When this material is properly cited, initial submissions should not be considered an academic integrity violation. The student’s mark should reflect the amount of the student’s own writing. For example, if the submission contains a disproportionate quantity of cited materials, such that the student has contributed very little original material to the submission, then the student’s mark should reflect that limited level of contribution. Students who make these submissions have the responsibility to address this type of writing error and will be directed to campus resources that support improved writing.
- Repeat instances of writing errors described in principle 2 may be treated as academic integrity violations and may lead to a penalty that includes disciplinary probation to recognize the failure of the student to address the issue. The severity of the penalty associated with the plagiarism depends on both the quantity of plagiarized content and the extent to which the student failed to attribute the plagiarized materials.”
*“Submission” refers to any work provided by a student in order to obtain credit in a course and includes (but is not limited to) essays, assignments, reports, proposals, lab reports, and presentations.
6.3.1 Your roles enforcing Policy 71
As a TA you have several responsibilities relating to maintaining the standards outline in Policy 71:
- Make sure you do your best to inform students how to work and collaborate honestly when giving the assignment. Inform them of the assignment deadline and any possibilities to submit at a later date with a penalty. Seek out students who may be shy or weak communicators and make sure they understand the rules.
- Inform yourself throughly on the guidelines for penalties so that you can be a knowledgable resource for your students. Please see the APPENDIX III for the copy of the information on academic offenses that is contained in the laboratory manuals of many Biology courses
- Once you begin marking, be consistent in enforcing the standards.
- When you find questionable writing, whether copied from another source or another student’s report, grade the report completely, document your observations directly on the paper (while avoiding the addition of critical comments) and pass the report along to the course instructor along with your marking scheme. Do not put any notation in LEARN but record the earned grade on your grade spreadsheet.
There are several ways you may notice plagiarism or cheating. In some courses students will have to submit their papers electronically through the LEARN dropbox system in order to be assessed by Turnitin plagiarism detection software. Turnitin compares the content of submitted assignments to all of the other papers and documents submitted to its database (e.g., journals, websites or submissions from other students in the class), calculates the similarity index (percentage of the written material taken from different sources) and highlights similarities between a student's submission and existing documents; the program reveals the matching sources as well. Instructors who are using Turnitin software in their courses will give you more detailed instructions on how to interpret the results of a similarity analysis when you start grading assignments. It is critical that you examine each Turnitin report rather than relying on the per cent similiarity to identify those with plagiarized text; a report with a 15% similiarity score may well contain plagiarized text. Note that Turnitin software does not identify statements that lack citations, and it does not identify matching amongst students in the class in every case.
Another way to detect excessive collaboration or plagiarism in written reports is to look for:
- reports that have answers which are incorrect in a same way
- a sudden change in a writing style, font or tone
- incomplete or incorrect referencing.
It is not necessary for you to decide if the situation is in fact cheating or plagiarism. If you have any evidence related to cheating or plagiarism, talk to your course instructor as soon as possible. If they think the academic integrity is compromized, they will take the assignment(s) to the Associate Dean, Student Realations, who will determine whether an investigation is warranted. It is always best to bring anything unusual to your instructor. You are doing a service to your student by grading vigilantly because they will be able to adopt strong writing skills early and not flounder in higher-value assignments in later courses.
6.3.2 Communicating with a student about a misconduct allegation
Students often become aware that there may be problem with one of their assignment submission because their grade does not appear in LEARN as expected. In this case, they will often approach you to inquire if the missed grade is an oversight. The best way to deal with this situation is to tell them that their submission was flagged for review because some aspect of the report caused the TA grading it to have concerns. If you are the grader you can describe the problems; if your TA partner graded the report, refer the student to them for more detailed information. But in the meantime, stress that no decision has been made and they are assumed to be innocent pending the outcome of the review. Students are understandably often become stressed by this news, in which case it is important to explain:
- the outcome of the review may be to dismiss the allegation completely
- they will be given an opportunity to explain their submission before any disciplinary decision is made
- the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies has the authority to reduce the penalites outlined the Policy 71 guidelines
- the entire process is confidential.
This is not a personal judgement but rather evidence that Waterloo takes academic integrity seriously and their report indicated they need guidance.
The Faculty of Science maintains a website which outlines the process that will be followed to investigate their submission. You should point the student to this site for additional information while making it clear that the allegation does not change how you view them as a person and they should continue to interact normally with you. You are not going to be part of the investigation nor will the results be made known to you, so you and the student can maintain a normal relationship.
Appendix IV is a summary of resources that you can use to help students needing support with their writing. Don’t just give them the document but instead schedule a time to meet the student to review what resources might help them most. Remember, they are trying to do their best given their circumstances. One purpose of the meeting with Dr. Moffatt is to learn how they prepared their report and what factors may have caused them to make errors in judgement. View this process as another part of teaching rather than being a disciplinarian.
6.3.3 Verification of Illness
When an examination, laboratory session or assignment is missed due to illness, the student should be prepared to provide a verification of illness. This information will be used to determine if the student is eligible for consideration.
Students need to submit the University of Waterloo’s Verification of Illness form (VIF). Any UW student can go to UW Health Services to get examined there and obtain the VIF, or to get their health care provider’s medical note transferred into the University of Waterloo’s VIF. The completed VIF should be submitted to the Science Undergraduate Office for processing. The Science Undergraduate Office personnel will inform the student’s instructors that a completed Verification of Illness Form is on record. The dates affected and degree of incapacitation will be used to determine follow-up action. Students should ensure that their health care provider indicates this type of information on the medical certificate as it will be copied into the University of Waterloo’s VIF and subsequently into the record sent to the course instructor(s).
6.4 Recording the marks
It is extremely important to record marks promptly and accurately. Please see section 4.2 in this manual for key information on keeping accurate, complete records of student grades. Remember, do not record grades in LEARN for submissions that you forwarded to your instructor for evaluation of academic misconduct.
6.5 Returning Marked Assignments
Timing is an extremely important issue in returning marked assignments. It is often a good idea to return them at the end of the laboratory/tutorial section. Students are very interested in their marks and if you return their marked assignments at the beginning of the session they will waste precious laboratory/tutorial time trying to figure out why they did not get the marks they desired. Some of them could be upset. If they try to discuss their mark with you immediately, they will not listen to the new material presented to them, or they will not start their experiments on time. Please read about how to deal with the unsatisfied students in the next section of this manual.
Do not remark on anything that is marked by another TA. Advise a student to talk to the TA who originally marked the assignment. If a student remains unsatisfied after talking to the TA who marked the assignment, advise them to email the course instructor. The instructor will most likely set up an appointment with both the student and the TA who marked the assignment.
When modifying marks, change only those due to addition errors or omissions. Initial any change you approve on the student's paper and inform the course instructor.
7. Contact with Students
Without being too casual with your students, you should try to be friendly, open, and approachable. Introduce yourself in the first lab, providing some background on your experience and perhaps on your research project. Show that you are interested in teaching them and are prepared. This will give you some credibility with the students as well as help you to develop some rapport with them. Try to learn the students' names. If you have a class of 32 students, you may not get to know everyone, but make an effort. A seating plan, filled in during the first session, will help.
It is important that you not show any favouritism to a specific student or group of students. Instead try to move around the room continuously so that you interact with everyone. Some students will be too shy to ask for help although they may need it. By a friendly, “How is it going?” or “Do you need any assistance?” you may cause them to open up a bit to you. On the other hand, some students may be very demanding of your time, perhaps because they are ill-prepared for the lab or are hoping for an advantage on an assignment. Be firm with these individuals, and make sure you do not ignore the rest of the class for the sake of a few. Importantly, you cannot tutor your students for pay. This is a conflict of interest.
It is important that you set the standards in the class early and apply the rules you set consistently. Do not “pre-read” assignment submissions or allow some students to hand assignments in late, just to be friendly. You must provide consistent learning opportunities to all your students. Thus, if you are not going to offer to pre-mark every student’s report, you cannot do this for one individual. Keep in mind that some students will be taking the course because it is required for their program while others may have chosen it because they love the subject. On top of this, not all students learn in the same way: some may learn graphically while others may learn better by listening to an explanation. Others may do well reading on their own. Thus, you need to interact with your students individually, taking into consideration their differences in personality, commitment, and learning styles.
Sometimes you will arrive prepared and find the class anxious about a recent test or upcoming assignment, unrelated to your course. While their lack of focus may be frustrating, just try to do your best with the situation; keep in mind that they are trying to do their best as well and you are not aware of all the issues that they may be dealing with.
In some instances a student may become emotional when speaking with you. Sometimes these situations are just due to fatigue or are personal mechanisms for dealing with stress and do not require special consideration from you; but others may be truly serious. It is not possible to guess by appearances. So remain open, and listen carefully to what they have to say before passing judgement.
You might find yourself in a situation where a student is questioning your marking or challenging your authority in the classroom/lab, in front of other students. Your appropriate behaviour in those stressful situations will help neutralize and resolve potential conflict. You can find very useful strategies that will help you both prevent and manage potential conflict situations on the Centre for Teaching excellence website.
It is well worth your time to read this over prior to the start of term and again before any scheduled “difficult conversation” with a student. Anticipating these situations and how they would best be handled is helpful. So many TAs report at the end of term that they wished they had read their manual more carefully before the term started because one they were in challenging situation, there was no time.
For students in distress: please read over the material from Counselling Services so that you know what to do when the situation presents itself. Although this happens rarely, it is important to be able to deal with it appropriately. Students need to know that asking for assistance is not unusual. There are now two counsellors for Science students. Their office (ESC 254B) is near the Science Undergrad Office. Sue Fraser and another dedicated councellor can be reached at the extension 37149. If the student is in a serious situation you need to walk them over to Student Services in Needles Hall or call the UW Police who are well equipped to handle these situations; if it is after hours there is a 24 hr crisis clinic at KW hospital. The contact information for these resources is in the front of your manual. In all cases, you should stress that UW Counselling Services are absolutely confidential and free for all students.
Finally, remember that you can direct any problems or queries to the course instructor; they recognize that this can be a challenging job and are there to back you up.
7.1 Strategies for Helping Students
Sometimes the best way to learn how to become an effective TA is to listen to the students. They will be very honest with you and will give you signs as to what they like and don't like. While different TAs will have different styles, it is equally true that different students will respond to different approaches. In all cases, try to guide students to recognize that their success in the course is a function of their initiative and effort.
If students trust and respect you, they may also pour out their feelings about the other TAs, the course instructor, and other students. Treat this as confidential material and deal with it in a professional manner.
If a student seems depressed, very lonely, or to be having other problems, you should suggest a visit to the Counselling Services Centre in Needles Hall Room 2080 or Health Services to discuss his or her difficulties confidentially. Don't try to be a counsellor yourself. However, if you feel that a student is in crisis, you should walk with them to Counselling Services (NH 2080) or they can call Counselling Services (ext. 32655) to set up an appointment. In all cases, you should stress that UW Counselling Services are absolutely confidential and free for all students. If the situation arises outside their office hours (9 am – 5 pm), you should have the student contact the K-W Crisis Clinic which provides 24 hour support for emotional or behavioural problems (6-519-749-4300, ask for Crisis Team) and no appointment is necessary. Often it is not clear whether a student would benefit from counselling services. If you do this gently and out of honest concern, you can trust that your suggestion will likely be taken well and you will not regret taking this initiative. It is helpful to let your instructor know if you become aware of student who is in serious difficulty.
8. TA Evaluations
8.1 Performance Evaluations
Your TA performance will be evaluated by the course instructor to which you have been assigned, as well as the students in your lab section(s). You are evaluated in the following areas: presentations, preparation, knowledge of the subject area, effectiveness, marking, responsibility, ability to assist students, communication skills and an overall rating. TA performances are evaluated each term, toward the end of the term.
When there is concern about inadequate performance (low results on both student and instructor evaluations), a Graduate Officer and the course instructor will meet with the TA to address the issues and decide how improvements can be made. In addition, the student’s thesis supervisor and the Associate Chair will be informed of their performance. If a TA receives a very low score again, the TA, a Graduate Officer, the course instructor, the Associate Chair and thesis supervisor will meet to discuss the continuing poor performance. This second offence may result in the loss of one TA section for the following term. A third poor performance will result in automatic loss of TA support for the following term.
In summary, a TA whose performance has been unsatisfactory may not receive additional TA assignments from the Department. Another factor which affects the assignment of TAs is academic standing – a TA must maintain a good academic standing in order to receive TA assignments.
Please see below the questions used for TA evaluations. Each of the questions is answered using the response A, B, C, D or E, where
A = Always or Excellent,
B = Often or Very Good,
C = Sometimes or Adequate,
D = Seldom or Poor,
E = Never or Unacceptable
8.2 Student Evaluation of Laboratory TA Performance
- Did the laboratory sessions start on time and proceed without unnecessary delay when this T.A. was starting the session?
- Was the T.A. well organized?
- Were the T.A.’s pre-lab talks clear and comprehensible?
- Did the T.A. effectively demonstrate the necessary techniques and use of equipment?
- Did the T.A. provide assistance and guidance that helped you to sucessfully complete lab exercise and learn the material?
- Did your T.A. treat you with respect?
- Did your T.A. mark assignments consistently and impartially?
- Did your T.A. write constructive comments on your assignments that helped you with your next submission?
- Did the TA mark and return the marked assignments promptly?
- Did the T.A. provide feedback on common problems or misconceptions that were discovered when assignments were marked?
- Was the T.A. accessible outside of the lab?
- Was (s)he approachable in the lab?
- Did the T.A. work well with her/his partner?
- Did the TA display an enthusiasm for, and an interest in, the content of the laboratory sessions?
8.3 Student Evaluation of Tutorial TA Performance
- The TA started the class on time.
- The TA was always organized and prepared.
- The TA maintained a professional atmosphere in the classroom that aided learning by all participants.
- The TA was informed about general course information (scheduling of tests etc).
- The TA spoke clearly and concisely.
- The TA’s visual aids (e.g. blackboard writing, overhead, powerpoints) were clear and helpful to my learning.
- The TA demonstrated a comfortable familiarity with the course material.
- The TA responded to questions well.
- The TA was helpful in guiding me to solutions to my questions.
- The TA followed up effectively on questions that could not be answered in class.
- The TA interacted with the students during the tutorial.
- The TA maintained high academic standards during quizzes or assignments done in class (i.e. made sure all students were working independently and not talking).
- The TA marked consistently and impartially.
- The TA returned marked assignments promptly.
- The TA provided useful feedback/comments on my answers for assignments.
- The TA did not favour particular students.
- The TA demonstrated a positive attitude about the course material.
8.4 Instructor Evaluation of TA Performance
- Pre-lab meetings: 1-20. TAs’ attendance, punctuality and attentiveness.
- Marking: 1-20. Marked properly, returned on time, maintain records, marks submitted on time.
- Instructor communication: 1-20. Did TAs follow directions, respond to emails, report problems, offer feedback.
- Student communication: 1-20. Did TAs respond to student emails, make themselves available, appropriate communications to students
- Relationships: 1-20. did TAs maintain good TA-student, TA-TA, and TA-Instructor/Faculty relationships.
8.5 Instructor Evaluation of Tutorial TA Performance
- Pre-tutorial meetings: 1-20. TAs’ attendance, punctuality and attentiveness.
- Marking: 1-20. Marked properly, returned on time, maintain records, marks submitted on time.
- Instructor communication: 1-20. Did TAs follow directions, respond to emails, report problems, offer feedback.
- Student communication: 1-20. Did TAs respond to student emails, make themselves available, appropriate communications to students
- Relationships: 1-20. did TAs maintain good TA-student, and TA-Instructor/Faculty relationships.
8.6 Teaching Assistant Award of Excellence
In conjunction with the evaluation process described above, the Biology Department has established a Teaching Assistant Award of Excellence. Awards are assigned on performance over the academic year and will include more than one TA assignment. A gift certificate from UW Shops is awarded in recognition of contributions made to undergraduate instruction in the Department by the highest ranked TAs in the "undergraduate TA” and “graduate TA” categories. Honourable mention is given to other noteworthy TAs, and an official letter is placed in their files. TAs can obtain the results of each evaluation period by contacting the Department of Biology’s Undergraduate Co-ordinator, Sue Whyte.
8.7 Center for Teaching Excellence
Location: Environment 1, Office 325
Phone: 519-888-4567 x33353
The Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE) provides a wide array of services to assist faculty, staff and graduate students at UWaterloo. The full suite of services can be seen at their website. One of the most valuable for teaching assistants is the collection of “teaching tips” which cover topics such as conflict management and presentation skills as well as specific teaching issues.
The services offered by CTE include a library, teaching workshops, teaching tips handouts, teaching awards and a Certificate in University Teaching (CUT) for PhD students. Their services are available mostly to graduate students, however, some are available for undergraduate students as well. The website contains valuable links to printouts on such areas as TA development, strategies for effective tutorials, holding office hours, and being an international TA in a Canadian classroom. Feel free to consult these pages to pick up tips on how to improve your TA performance.
The CUT is available for both masters and doctoral students and will require approximately 2 years (part-time) to complete. The requirements include participation in 8 teaching workshops (and writing response papers about your experiences at the workshops), an education research essay (written and presented), preparation of a teaching dossier, as well as 3 teaching events during which you are observed and given formal feedback on your performance. This is a useful program for graduate students who plan to teach after their degree and are looking for an inside track and valuable experience.
This program is completely separate from your degree, is not at all affiliated with the Biology Department, and is completely voluntary. The course requirements will appear on your transcript, but do not count towards your degree. If you wish to pursue this, visit the website or talk to the CTE office.
9. Additional Information
9.1 Assistance in the Library
The Davis Centre Library contains the resource material for science courses. Tours of the library are available to familiarize users with its layout and facilities. The librarian for Life Sciences, Laura Brehal, can be contacted at ext. 38538 for assistance in finding specific material for a course and for suggestions for new acquisitions for the library. She has collated links for resources for Biology courses and general search tools at the Biology Subject Guides page <subjectguides.uwaterloo.ca/biology> as a handy resource for you and your students. You should encourage students to listen to the online tutorials offered by the library, which will explain its resources; these will really help students access scholarly literature there more effectively.
9.2 Writing Centre
You can also direct the students to the Writing and Communication Centre. The Writing Centre is a teaching and resource centre for all undergraduate and graduate students. They help develop writing skills through one-on-one consultations, tutorials and drop-in sessions. The tutorials are interactive and students generally find them very useful.
Please contact The Writing and Communication Centre if you feel you need extra help grading students’ assignments.
The Manchester Academic Phrasebank is another resource for students. It contains numerous examples of sentence constructions to describe various situations (e.g., defining trends, compare and contrast). This is the type of resource that you could remind students of when assigning written course elements.
9.3 Some useful websites regarding different aspects of teaching
You might find the following marking websites interesting and useful (Also, check the resources listed in APPENDIX IV):
- Writing at the University of Toronto: Teaching Resources
- Grading papers, essays, and exams
- Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, University of Michigan: Best Practices for Grading Laboratory Reports
Also, the general UWaterloo TA manual (PDF). This contains an updated list of policies as well as useful information for international graduate Teaching Assistants.
9.4 Help with English Proficiency
Both ESL credit and non-credit courses at the English Language Institute (at the Renison University College) are open to University of Waterloo students for whom English is a second language. Courses are offered in the fall, winter and spring terms. You might encounter students who could benefit from those courses. Please encourage them to consult the English Language Institute website.
Appendix I - General Rules for Proctoring and Conduct for all Final Exams
Instructors should normally proctor their own final examinations. If this is not possible, the Department Chair should appoint an alternate who is familiar with the subject of the examination.
For examinations administered by the Registrar, the Department Chair shall assign individual faculty members to proctor and preside at specified examinations as requested by the Registrar's Office. The proctor-student ratio shall be 1:50; however, the minimum number of proctors required for each examination location/room is two. Examination Centre for Extended Learning courses shall be proctored according to established guidelines.
At least one female proctor should be present in each examination location/room where women are candidates and at least one male proctor where men are candidates.
If an examination is scheduled and administered by the Registrar and written in the Physical Activities Complex (PAC), proctors must arrive at the front of the gym at least 30 minutes prior to the start of the examination.
If proctors for a given exam have not arrived before the start of the examination period, students will be allowed into the gymnasium and informed that the proctors have not arrived. If Registrar staff are in possession of the examination papers, students will be allowed to write the examination without the benefit of knowledgeable proctors and the Department Chair of the department offering the course will be notified. If Registrar staff are not in possession of the examination papers, an announcement will be made after students are allowed into the gymnasium that the instructor/proctors have not arrived with the examination papers and that they are required to remain in their seats until 30 minutes have elapsed. If the instructor/proctors arrive within the 30-minute period, the examination will proceed with additional time allowed compensating for the late start. If the instructor/proctors have not arrived after 30 minutes, the students will be dismissed and asked to leave the gymnasium quietly. The Department Chair of the department offering the course will be notified of the situation and it is then the responsibility of the instructor to reschedule the examination and communicate the information to the students involved. Note: For courses not associated with a department, the Associate Dean will be notified.
If an examination is scheduled and administered by the Registrar and written in an RCH room and the examination has been printed by the Registrar's Office, proctors must pick up the examinations and supplies in RCH 208 at least 30 minutes prior to the start of the examination. Examinations are not delivered to exam rooms in RCH.
If an examination is scheduled and administered by the Registrar and written in an MC or DC room and the examination has been printed by the Registrar's Office, proctors must pick up the examinations and supplies in MC 4043 at least 30 minutes prior to the start of the examination. Examinations are not delivered to exam rooms in MC or DC.
If a proctor has not arrived to pick up the exams before the start of the exam period, Registrar staff will deliver the exam papers to the assigned room, allowing students to write the exam without the benefit of knowledgeable proctors. The Department Chair will be notified of the situation.
Where an examination is administered by the department/instructor, students are expected to remain in the examination room for 30 minutes if the instructor/proctors do not arrive by the scheduled start time of the examination.
Each Faculty shall establish a pool of graduate students who are available to assist in the proctoring of examinations in those cases where a department has insufficient staff to proctor its own examinations.
The Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs or delegate shall, at the request of the department Chair, be responsible for assigning students from this pool. The selection of proctors shall be entirely at the discretion of the department Chair.
If, during an examination, a candidate gives assistance to or receives assistance from another candidate, or has unauthorized aids, such individuals will be liable to disciplinary action.
If an instructor or proctor has reasonable grounds to believe that a violation of academic regulations has occurred, that person shall collect all of the evidence available. What follows is advice to presiding officers and proctors regarding confiscating material if cheating is suspected during mid-term tests or final examinations.
- Only those items authorized for use in the examination are to be on the desk
- bags, purses, knapsacks, etc., are to be closed and placed under the desk;
- all hats/caps must be removed and placed under the desk;
- wireless or electronic devices (e.g., cell phone, Blackberry, earphones) must be turned off before the test or examination commences.
- no food or drinks are allowed with the exception of water in a clear bottle with no label. A student may request a brief nutrition break, accompanied by a proctooutside the exam venue if necessary. If a student needs to consume food or drinks regularly during a final exam, the student must register for special accommodations with AccessAbility Services and must submit appropriate documentation from recognized professional at least two weeks prior to the start of the final examination period.
- Where there are reasonable grounds for believing a violation of exam protocol has occurred, the presiding officer or proctor has authority to:
- remove anything on the desk not authorized for use in the test/examination and keep it until the student has completed the test/examination and handed in the booklet, etc., as required.
- look into knapsacks, bags, purses, pencil cases, etc; remove any "evidence" (this to be done in the presence of the student and another proctor); and return the knapsack, bag, purse, pencil case, etc., to be put under the student's desk. Note: if the student requires a copy of such evidence, a copy is to be provided with the original to be retained by the presiding officer or proctor.
- require the student to move to a seat where the presiding officer or proctor can more easily monitor the student.
- ask a student to adduce "evidence" where the presiding officer or proctor believes that student has hidden it on his/her person. Note: if the student refuses, under no circumstances should the alleged offender be touched.
- remove answer book(s) and replace them with new ones; in all cases, student(s) are to be allowed to finish writing the test or examination.
As soon as possible following the conclusion of the test/examination, the presiding officer or proctor is expected to: make a note of the time and details (e.g., refusal to cooperate); explain to the alleged offender that the status of her/his paper is in question; identify the paper and set it aside; inform the course instructor of the circumstances, and turn over all of the evidence available. In the event that the instructor is not available, the presiding officer or proctor will inform the appropriate Associate Dean.
Candidates must remove earphones and portable tape or disc players during the writing of examinations. Devices such as pagers and portable telephones must be turned off. Candidates must present their Student ID card at each examination. If a student does not have a student ID card, the instructor/proctor may accept another form of photo identification instead. If ID acceptable to the instructor/proctor is not provided, the candidate must complete an Interim Identification Form (IIF) and sign each examination booklet and/or each answer card(s).
After the examination has begun, all candidates must remain for the first hour. Candidates who arrive more than one hour late for an examination may be barred from writing the examination if students have already completed the examination and left the examination room. The decision to allow a candidate to write the examination is at the discretion of the proctor. If the candidate is allowed to write the examination, the proctor will mark the time of entry clearly on all of the answer booklets. There shall be no extension of time for candidates who are allowed to sit the examination after arriving late.
A candidate may, with the permission of the instructor or proctor, leave the examination room briefly only if accompanied by an assigned proctor.
At ten minutes before the conclusion of the examination period, the instructor or proctor shall announce the time remaining. Candidates may not leave their seats in the examination room after this time until all papers have been collected.
At the conclusion of the examination, all candidates shall cease writing and proctors shall collect the examination booklets.
The Registrar's Office will have someone on call to provide rapid assistance in the case of work disturbances, power failures, etc. That person shall, in consultation with the examination proctors, have the authority to extend the examination time allotted to compensate for time lost.
In accordance with fire regulations, and University of Waterloo Policy 29, smoking will not be permitted in an examination room at any time.
Specific Procedures for Examinations Held in the Physical Activities Complex (PAC)
For examinations held in the PAC, the General Rules for Proctoring and Conduct for All Final Examinations apply but are also subject to the following procedures and regulations:
A "Presiding Officer" for each examination period is designated in advance, at the request of the Registrar, by a department whose examination is scheduled to occupy an area at the front of the examination hall. The Chief Presiding Officer, or chief proctor for examinations written in the PAC, must hold a permanent teaching appointment or an ongoing staff appointment that includes teaching, or lab management (e.g., senior lab demonstrator) and must be familiar with the examination and disciplinary policies of the University.
The Presiding Officer in the PAC shall be in charge of the examinations in the absence of representatives from the Registrar's Office. Any contravention of a ruling made by the Presiding Officer shall be considered a violation of the examination regulations and shall be treated accordingly.
The President, or delegate, will decide, in consultation with the Registrar, or delegate, whether to proceed with or to postpone examinations in the event of extreme weather conditions or any other general emergency which occurs when final examinations are in session.
If the decision is made to proceed with examinations as scheduled, the Registrar's Office will be responsible for the conduct of all centrally administered examinations; individuals responsible for instructor-administered examinations scheduled in Faculty or departmental locations will follow procedures determined by the Dean of their Faculty for handling such examinations in emergency situations.
If the decision is made to postpone examinations, the postponement will apply to all examinations scheduled for a particular day or part thereof. Rescheduled examinations will be held at the same time and location as originally scheduled. The date chosen will be the next available day, including Sunday, on which examinations have not been scheduled. Examinations could be rescheduled for times prior to that date by mutual agreement of the instructor and the students in the class. If this occurs, students must be given the option of writing on the official alternative date.
|Scheduling Office||32742 / 32743||Mon-Fri 8:30am-4:30pm|
|Charlene Schumm||32711 (Cell 519-274-0209) (Home 519-272-2996)||Days and Evenings|
|Plant Operations||33973 (32518 is available 24 hrs)|
|UW Police||22222||available 24/7|
|Campus Response Team||31000||5pm-10:30pm during exam period|
|Disable Student Services||35082|
Appendix III - Student Misconduct Procedures
ACADEMIC and NON-ACADEMIC OFFENSES include but are not limited to:
Cheating (meaning trying to gain unfair advantage without individual effort) on examinations, assignments, work term reports, or any other work used to judge student performance, including:
- Copying from another student's work, or allowing another student to copy from your work;
- Excessive collaboration or collusion;
- Fabrication of data;
- Consultation with any unauthorized person during an examination or test;
- Possession, use of, or intent to use unauthorized aids (e.g., book, calculator, computer, cell phone, apple watch or other smart watches etc.) during an examination or test;
- Violation of examination regulations.
Plagiarism is the act of presenting the ideas, words, or intellectual property of another as one's own. The use of other people's work must be properly acknowledged and referenced in all written and orally presented material (e.g., take-home examinations, essays, lab reports, presentations, design projects, statistical data, computer programs and research results).
- Submitting an essay, report, or assignment when a major portion has been previously submitted for another course without the express permission of the instructors involved.
- Obtaining by improper means examination papers, tests or similar materials; using or distributing such materials to others.
- Misuse of resources, including computer usage and e-mail.
- Impersonating another student or entering into an arrangement with another person to be impersonated (e.g., for the purposes of taking examinations or tests, or carrying out labs or other assignments).
False or misleading representation, oral or written, which may have an effect on registration or academic evaluations, including: failure to disclose prior academic records required for admission decisions or other academic purpose; obtaining medical or other certificates under false pretences; altering documents or certificates, including health claims, tests, examinations; and submitting false credentials for any purpose.
Disruptive or threatening behaviour (including intimidation, vandalism and disruptions in classes, laboratories, examinations, on-campus residences, housing, and common areas) which infringes on the rights of other members of the University community.
Unethical Behaviour (e.g., harassment, discrimination; Ref: Policy 33 )
Violation of safety regulations (classrooms, labs, field trips, etc.).
Contravention of statutes, including: the Copyright Act, UW Cancopy License, and the Criminal Code of Canada (e.g., forgery, fraud).
For further information, refer to Policy #71 on “Student Academic Discipline" in the Undergraduate Calendar.
Guidelines for Academic Discipline - Department of Biology
What is an Academic Offense?
Categories of offenses and types of penalties are outlined in Policy #71 as provided in the UW Undergraduate calendar (pg. 1:10). Offenses include cheating on exams or tests, plagiarism, double submission of material, allowing your work to be copied, and fraudulent use of medical certificates. Contact your course instructor or Undergraduate Advisor for clarification or guidance related to this policy. All students are expected to know what constitutes an academic offense, to avoid committing academic offenses and to take responsibility for their academic actions.
Unless otherwise indicated, any work submitted will be assumed to be the work of the individual student. When there is an expectation of a group or team submission, this will be clearly indicated by the course instructor. The only materials permitted during an examination will be the exam paper and a pen or pencil (no cases etc.). If additional materials such as calculators are required, students should be prepared to have them examined by proctors. Students should recognize that being honest and ensuring the appearance of honesty are both essential in these situations.
What Happens in Response to an Allegation of Academic Misconduct?
- TAs will bring all cases (suspected or otherwise) of academic infractions to the attention of the instructor. It is helpful to provide the marking scheme used in the case of written assignments.
- For written assignments, the material will not be handed back to student.
- The students might be asked to meet with the instructor to discuss the infraction.
- The instructor will notify the Associate Dean for Student Relations of the infraction and submit all supporting evidence including the course syllabus.
- The Associate Dean will contact the student and arrange a meeting to discuss the evidence.
- Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies will decide on any penalty if warranted.
Missed Tests, Assignments or Examinations
Students who encounter serious or on-going problems that may affect their performance are strongly encouraged to speak with their course instructors as soon as possible so that all parties can respond effectively and fairly to the situation.
1. If a student misses a test, examination or assignment deadline, it is his or her responsibility to contact the appropriate course instructor as soon as possible, preferably the same day.
2. Although illness may constitute a valid reason for missing an examination, it does not automatically entitle a student to an alternate examination. If an alternate time is provided, it is expected that it will be as soon as possible after a student returns to class. In some instances, students may be asked to write the examination the next time the course is offered.
Appendix IV - Sources for Answering Biology Laboratory Questions
Students are strongly encouraged to consider the root cause of their writing errors and use one or more of the following resources, workshops and/or courses to learn how to successfully gather, summarize and cite published information, write in their own words and avoid allegations of plagiarism under Policy 71 - Student Discipline:
Unsure how to write in own words or organize ideas
Stress and time management skills
Struggling with workload stress, sufficient time for course work and/or how to approach large assignments
Referencing and research skills
Unsure how to find good sources, cite sources and/or quote ideas
Motivation and interest
Not motivated about or interested in material; not seeing the relevance of material
Unsure of policies regarding plagiarism or its consequences
Needing practice writing and integrating research in
a supported and scaffolded setting
In the Davis Centre Library students could find a selective list of sources which may help them complete their laboratory reports. Fr example, technical dictionaries could provide explanations of terms, concepts, and methods discussed in the lab, and can serve as a useful starting point into the journal literature or other texts. If you have any questions about these or other information in the library, feel free to contact the Biology Librarian: Laura Bredahl, extension 38538).
Please refer your students to the Biology Subject Guide, maintained by the Biology Librarian:
Biology Subject Guide provides links to top research databases for Biology (incl. PubMed and Web of Science), search tips, lab protocols, citation styles, free databases for storing references and creating bibliographies etc. Please make yourself familiar with it; this will enable you to answer students’ questions and help them successfully wtite lab reports.
Appendix V - Best Practices for Securing Electronic Information
Policy 8 dictates that the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies is responsible for the security of student information controlled by faculty, Instructors, sessionals and teaching assistants. This information may be student names, IDs, grades etc. Personal information gathered as part of a research study (where applicable) must also be securely maintained. The following guidelines are provided to meet the spirit of this policy.
Protection of Excel spreadsheets and other Office Documents: The minimum level of security is to password protect Excel spreadsheets or Word documents that contain student IDs and grades. Note that only .xls and .xlsx formats can be password protected; .csv formatted spreadsheets cannot be encrypted and should only be used temporarily (e.g. for uploading final grades).
Protection of laptop hard drives, USB keys: Laptops and USB keys can be lost or stolen. It is essential that information on such devices be fully encrypted. There are several solutions.
1. TrueCrypt can create special encrypted passwordLprotected files which behave like internal USB drives once opened. TrueCrypt download information and documentation can be found at the ist download site. The IST CHIP can provide support.
2. Full disk encryption is available for
a. Windows via SecureDoc, free from IST. Call the CHIP x84357 to book an appointment.
b. Mac users can easily encrypt all or parts of their hard drives with “Vault” which is part of the operating system.
Protection of handheld devices (Blackberry, Smart phones etc.): Keep in mind that any devices that read mail may also contain attachments that contain confidential information. These devices must be password protected. This is easily done using the device’s operating system.
Sharepoint and D2L: Ideally all grades should be maintained in D2L to completely avoid maintaining files on your own laptop or computer. Spreadsheets and documents can be archived in a departmental Sharepoint site that can be set up with assistance by Science computing staff.
Guidance for Teaching Assistants: Where possible the TAs should be given access to the D2L gradebook so that they can maintain grades for their students online or given access to a Sharepoint site for the class. We will work with D2L to get a system whereby each TA will only see the grades of their own section(s). TAs should not have copies of grades on USB sticks unless these are encrypted. Any files containing student information that are transferred via email to instructors should be password protected.
Appendix VII - Emergency Telephone Numbers and Emergency Procedures
Note: When using a campus telephone to call an outside line you have to dial 6 first.
|Ambulance, Fire, Police||6-911|
|Health and Safety (UW)||33541|
|Health Services (UW)||33544|
|Security (UW Police)||22222|
|Campus Response Team||31000|
|Crisis Clinic at Grand River Hospital||6-519-742-3611|
|Mobile Crisis Team (24/7)||6-519-744-1813|
|Poisoning Control Centre||6-519-749-4220|
|UW Police - calling from on campus||22222|
|UW Police - calling from off campus||519-888-4911|
When telephones or elevator telephones are not available, use fire alarms. In case of fire, pull fire alarm.
1. An INJURY/INCIDENT report form must be completed for any injury. Contact the instructor for the course as soon as possible and complete a form. Forms are available in the Department of Biology Office (ESC-350) or on-line: http://www.safetyoffice.uwaterloo.ca/hse/posters/InjuryReportFeb2010.pdf
The completed form should be given to the instructor. It will eventually be sent to the Health & Safety Office by the course instructor.
First Aid: In addition to first aid materials in the teaching labs, the main office of the Department of Biology (ESC-350) is the departmental first aid station and a supply of first aid materials is there. Individuals who are trained to give first aid are Karen Miinch (ext. 32375) or Susan Whyte (ext. 36394).
Chemical Spills: Materials or kits for control of spills are located in each lab.
2. Serious Injury: If there is any doubt about how to handle the injury, call an ambulance.
Ambulance: call 6-911 -give your exact location, i.e. the university, building, floor and room number. Remind the ambulance dispatcher to call UW security who will meet the ambulance at the university entrance and lead it to your building. The ambulance will be directed to the South entrance, first floor, Biology 1.
Call Security and tell them your location and that an ambulance is on the way.
Emergency Services (no ambulance): If any injury requires medical attention but you do not think an ambulance is appropriate (such as stitches for a deep cut) the following options are available.
- Health Services (33541) - during the day, before 5:00 PM.
- Campus Response Team (31000) - 10 AM-4 PM, 5 PM-10:30 PM during exam period.
- Urgent Care Walk-In Clinic (6-519-745-2273), 751 Victoria St.; corner of Westmount and Victoria behind the Pizza Hut; or ER in one of the hospitals - at night, after 5:00 PM.
How to get student to the clinic: Call security (6-911 or 22222). Give the exact location, i.e. building, floor and room number of the laboratory, and the nature of the injury. Security will send someone over to look after the student and take the student if necessary.