There are many practical questions that need to be answered before teaching a course. If you have a question that is not answered here, please ask the staff in the Mathematics Undergraduate Office (MUO), in Mathematics & Computing Building (MC) room 4022.
There are many practical questions that need to be answered before teaching a course. If you have a question that is not answered here, please ask the staff in the MUO, MC 4022.
Is there anyone who can give me advice about how to teach?
The Faculty is filled with excellent instructors who are happy to give advice and mentoring to beginning instructors. Please contact Brian Forrest, the Faculty's Teaching Fellow or your home department/school chair, or the associate dean for undergraduate studies, for guidance in this regard.
In addition, the Centre for Teaching Excellence provides numerous services and courses to help improve teaching skills, and its staff is generally very happy to give advice and mentoring to beginning instructors.
What material should I cover?
The best way to find out what material to cover is to find out what material was covered before, in earlier offerings of the course.
If you are teaching a MATH course, then your first stop should be the MUO, in MC 4022. The MUO staff can give you copies of a previous syllabus for the course, and can tell you which instructors have most recently taught the course. This can lead you to the next step, which is to contact previous instructors for information about what they taught in previous terms.
What information should be on my course outline?
The University of Waterloo has adopted some general guidelines for what should be contained in a course outline. (And yes, you have to have a course outline, and you have to make it available to students by the first day of lectures, either in hardcopy, online, or both.) A LaTeX course outline template (TEX) and a Word course outline template can be downloaded, but if you prefer to make your own, you should include:
- Name of instructor, office number, and office hours
- Outline of general content and objectives of the course
- An approximate schedule for the course, including dates of any midterm exams. If you are teaching a MATH course, your midterm dates may be scheduled by the MUO – please check with the MUO for this information. The date of the final exam will be determined by the Registrar’s Office, and will typically be unavailable until the middle of the term.
- An explanation of how the final grade will be determined, including the contribution of assignments, quizzes, midterm tests, and the final exam. You should also include any other important information. For example, some instructors require students to pass the final exam to pass the course; if this applies to you, then this must be communicated clearly to your students.
- A clear explanation of how much collaboration is permitted on assignments. Typically, MATH courses allow some degree of collaboration on assignments, provided that the collaborating students clearly indicate on their assignments who their collaborators were.
- By University policy, all course outlines must contain the following text:
Academic Integrity: In order to maintain a culture of academic integrity, members of the University of Waterloo community are expected to promote honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility.
Grievance: A student who believes that a decision affecting some aspect of his/her university life has been unfair or unreasonable may have grounds for initiating a grievance (Policy 70). When in doubt please be certain to contact the department/school’s administrative assistant who will provide further assistance.
Discipline: A student is expected to know what constitutes academic integrity to avoid committing academic offenses and to take responsibility for his/her actions. A student who is unsure whether an action constitutes an offense, or who needs help in learning how to avoid offenses (e.g., plagiarism, cheating) or about ”rules” for group work/collaboration should seek guidance from the course professor, academic advisor, or the undergraduate associate dean. For information on categories of offenses and types of penalties, students should refer to Policy 71.
For typical penalties check Guidelines for the Assessment of Penalties.
Appeals: A decision made or penalty imposed under Policy 70, Student Petitions and Grievances (other than a petition) or Policy 71, Student Discipline may be appealed if there is a ground. A student who believes he/she has a ground for an appeal should refer to Policy 72, Student Appeals.
Note for students with disabilities: AccessAbility Services, located in Needles Hall, Room 1132, collaborates with all academic departments/schools to arrange appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities without compromising the academic integrity of the curriculum. If you require academic accommodations to lessen the impact of your disability, please register with AccessAbility Services at the beginning of each academic term.
How do I choose my textbook?
If you’re teaching a MATH course, then you don’t choose a textbook. The MUO staff will be able to tell you the textbook for your course, and give you a copy of it.
If you’re teaching any other course, then you should consult the relevant department/school for guidance on choosing a textbook.
A growing number of the Faculty courses are offered online as well. The online sections are offered independently and so have different assessments and a different date for the final examination. Coordinators should check with the instructor of the corresponding online section to make sure that the depth and coverage of content and assessments are comparable.
What do I do if I am sick or away?
It is your responsibility as the instructor to find someone to cover any lecture that you will miss. In a coordinated course, start by contacting other members of the teaching team because they will be most familiar with what is being taught. If that fails, or if you are teaching a single section, contact colleagues in your unit or exceptionally capable graduate TAs who are already assigned to your course.
Which days during the term are holidays? What are the start and end date of lectures?
All this information – and much, much more! – can be found in the University Calendar.
On the University Calendar website, click on “Calendar of Events and Academic Deadlines”, on the left side of the page. Follow the links, and you will soon find a complete list of important dates during the term.
What is LEARN? Do I have to use it? How do I get access?
Courses in MATH normally use LEARN (learning management system) for distributing information to students. Consult Paul Kates in MC 6473 for help with this system.
What is Crowdmark?
Crowdmark is an online grading platform that can be used to mark assignments, midterms and/or final exams. Scanned images of student work are viewed in a web browser by a group of graders. Comments, mathematical notation and scores can be annotated on the pages of the assessment. Graded assessments are returned to the students electronically and scores can be easily exported. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to get set up.
One way of managing Crowdmark for large courses is listed below.
- One graduate TA provides technical support and assistance with Crowdmark. This includes the management of users, posting of assignments, returning of assignments, extraction of marks into LEARN, and general troubleshooting.
- One TA manages the marking of assignments. This task involves assigning markers to questions to balance workload, monitoring markers’ progress, and compiling summaries of feedback from markers.
- The remaining TAs are assigned to work in the Tutorial Centre two hours per week during the term and four hours during the exam period. These TAs will report to the Tutorial Centre Coordinator who will schedule their times. Each TA will also be assigned one of the following two responsibilities averaging two hours per week.
- Acting as the chief marker for one assignment question which involves some initial marking and answering questions from the undergraduate markers.
- Actively monitoring the online discussion forum answering students’ questions on a timely basis.
Crowdmark makes it administratively simple to distribute electronic copies of marked final examinations to students. In the case of a single instructor of a course, the instructor may choose to do this at their own discretion. In the case of a course with multiple instructors, the coordinator may distribute electronic copies of marked final examinations to all students in the course through Crowdmark only with the explicit, unanimous consent of all instructors assigned to the course. Section-specific decisions are not permitted unless that section has a materially different examination as might be the case with MATH 137 for Physics.
Where do I do my photocopying? Laser printing? Extra chalk? Whiteboard markers? Office supplies?
If you’re associated with a department in Math, then you should get all of these things from your home department/school.
If you’re not associated with a department/school in Math, then contact the MUO staff for help.
I plan to be away during the term. What do I need to do?
First, ensure that you have the permission of your Chair, supervisor, or the Associate Dean as appropriate. Then contact the course co-ordinator to ensure that your obligations can be fulfilled. Since you are expected to invigilate and mark final exams and to provide office hours in advance of the final exams, do not make travel arrangements until the final exam schedule is released unless prior approval has been provided by your Chair, supervisor, or the Associate Dean.
If you have any questions, consult with the Associate Dean.
Graduate and Undergraduate Teaching Assistants
How much work can I expect from my graduate Teaching Assistant (TA) and undergraduate markers?
Grad TAs are expected to work five hours per week, on average, for the full term (four months), for a total of 80 hours during the term. Seven hours are to be reserved for proctor pool duties so the maximum number available to the course course is 73 hours. The work is usually not uniformly distributed throughout the term.
Seven of the 80 hours are reserved for proctor pool duties and so, as an instructor, you have access to 73 hours of TA time.
Undergraduate markers are expected to work three hours per week (marking 45 assignments) on average, from the first day of lectures to the last day of lectures. In particular, note that undergraduate markers are not expected to work after the last day of lectures. This may have an impact on the marking of the last homework assignment. Also, undergraduate markers are only hired to mark homework assignments - they should not be asked to mark midterm, final exams or enter grades on LEARN.
In MATH courses, grad TAs are normally expected to lead the tutorial(s), mark exams, manage the undergraduate markers, spend some time in the Tutorial Centre, and is some instances mark assignments (30 assignments in one hour). A grad TA is normally required to mark assignments if the tutorial they are covering is only one hour in length and the enrolment in the course is under 60. In this instance, you would be assigned an undergraduate marker to mark 45 papers and the grad TA would be expected to mark the remaining papers. If you have questions about the Tutorial Centre, please contact Robert André (MC 5421), who manages the Tutorial Centre.
It is very helpful to be as explicit as possible about your expectations of the TA. A written document that identifies which work must be done when will reduce conflicts over expectations and will allow the graduate student to plan their term more carefully. It will also help you be more realistic about managing the workload for a course.
Requests for additional marking or TA support are granted only in exceptional circumstances such as extended illness of someone on the teaching team.
Assignments, workload, etc
How do Crowdmark assignments work?
Because of recent changes and improvements, questions about Crowdmark should be directed to email@example.com.
How much work can I expect from my students?
This is, of course, not a question with an easy answer. However, it is important to know that students at Waterloo Mathematics typically take five courses per term, so it’s not reasonable to expect them to work more than eight-nine hours per week on your course. Three of those hours are probably spent in lecture. One or two more may be spent in tutorial. That only leaves three-five hours for homework and studying.
How do homework assignments work?
If the course you are teaching is not a MATH course, then you should consult your home department/ school about homework policies and procedures.
If you are teaching a MATH course, then students in your class normally hand in their assignments to a set of drop boxes outside MC 4066, which is the Tutorial Centre. The procedure is as follows.
- In the first week of term, if your course is to be assigned a drop box, then the MUO will tell you which drop box to use, and the combination to the lock on your drop boxes. In any case, the MUO will also tell you who your graduate Teaching Assistant (“grad TA”) is, and who your undergraduate markers are.
- If your course has been assigned drop boxes, you then tell the students which drop box to use, and tell only your graduate TA what the combination is. (If your course has not been assigned a drop box and you would like to use one, please contact the MUO to see if this is possible.)
- For every assignment, your grad TA will be responsible for collecting the assignments from the drop box, and distributing them to the undergraduate markers for marking. The undergraduate markers should not find out the combination to the drop box lock. If you have no drop box, or if you are not using the drop boxes, then you should arrange with your grad TA some other method of collecting the assignments and distributing assignments to the undergraduate markers. After the markers have marked the assignments, they should return the assignments to the grad TA, who should record the assignment marks.
- The grad TA is responsible for managing the undergraduate markers. (S)he is also responsible for recording assignment marks, and reporting these marks to you when you need them. Once assignments are marked, your grad TA will return them to you so you can give them back to the students.
How do I return assignments to students?
First Day of Class
What room is my class in? When is it scheduled?
How do I get a class list?
Class lists, in Comma-Separated Values (CSV) format, can be obtained from Quest.
To access Quest, you will need a WatIAM ID and password. This, in turn, requires an employee ID, which you get from Human Resources when they sign you up to begin your employment here. If you have any questions about this process, you should consult the staff in your home department/school. If you have no home department/school, consult the associate dean for undergraduate studies, in MC 4024.
Forms students might ask you to complete or questions they might ask you
A student has asked me to sign an override form for them, so they can get into my class. What should I do?
If you are not teaching a Mathematics (MATH) course, then you should consult your home department/school about what to do with an override form.
The rest of this answer will relate to MATH courses. If you’re unsure of what to do, don’t sign the override form, and send the student to the MUO. But here are some general guidelines.
You should find out what the student is seeking to override before signing:
Some students want to sign up for your class despite the fact that one of your course components is held at the same time as some component of another course. For example, your tutorial time might conflict with another course’s lecture time. You should decide whether or not it is acceptable to you to have a student miss the designated component of your class, and if it is, check “override time conflict” on the form and sign it.
Any student asking you to override a course limit should be directed to the MUO, even if there is obviously space in your class for that student. Do not check “override course limit”, “override permission”, or “override reserve cap” on any override form for a MATH class – the MUO will deal with all such requests.
Some students want to get into your course without the appropriate prerequisites. If you are teaching a core course (MATH 135, MATH 136, MATH 137, MATH 138, MATH 235, MATH 237, or MATH 239), do not check “override requisites” on the form. Instead, direct students to the MUO, MC 4022, so their situation can be dealt with there.
If you are teaching a math course for Engineering students, you should consult the appropriate contact person in Engineering before signing any override forms.
If you are teaching any course other than those listed above, then you should make your own decision about whether or not it is appropriate to override the requisite. If you decide it is, check “override requisites” and sign the form.
A student has just told me they're dropping down from an advanced section class into my class. What do I do?
This only applies to instructors teaching MATH 135, MATH 136, MATH 137, MATH 138, MATH 235, MATH 237, or MATH 239. If you are in this situation in any other MATH course, then refer the student to his or her advisor, because there’s something weird going on. For any non-MATH course, please consult the relevant school or department for guidance.
A student who drops down from MATH 14x or 24x to the corresponding MATH 13x or 23x course is automatically exempted from all the requirements for the 13x or 23x course that happened before the student dropped down, and is marked based only on any exams or assignments that take place after the student drops down. In particular, none of their marks from MATH 14x or 24x follow them down – they’re all forgiven and forgotten. This means that they will need a different weighting of marks than a typical student in your class. This weighting should be assigned in any reasonable manner; consult the course coordinator if you’re in any doubt as to what to do. Students can drop-down until the WD deadline.
On the other hand, these students are responsible for all the material in your course, starting from day one, and it is not your responsibility to provide them with any particular extra help to do this. Normally this isn’t a problem, because the students are usually quite strong, and will have learned most of the material in the higher level course anyway.
The reason for this policy is to encourage uncertain students to try the advanced section courses, by giving them a pain-free escape route if the experiment doesn’t work out. If we hung their advanced section marks around their necks, they’d all drown – they don’t drop out because they’re doing great!
Where do I direct a student who wants or needs advice?
If a student needs advice about their academic plan or about calendar regulations or about their courses, direct them to their academic advisor.
If a student needs to improve their study skills or exam writing strategies direct them to the Student Success Office.
If a student has a disability direct them to AccessAbility Services. The Univerisity has a long standing commitment to support participation in the life of the University by persons with disabilities.
If a student needs guidance or support on managing the challenges and demands of university or their personal lives direct them to Counselling Services.
What do I do with a student in distress?
Listen carefully, then say "Let me get some help". If the student is in a state of crisis, urgent appointments can be made at Counselling Services. Phone Counselling Services at x32655, identify yourself and say that you will be directing the student to Counseling Services immediately. In some cases, it is best to walk over with the student.
In important but not urgent cases refer the student to Counselling Services, their academic advisor or the MUO.
A student has brought me a form from the AccessAbility Office. What do I do?
The form alerts you to an accommodation that will be provided to the student. The AccessAbility Office will already have completed an assessment and ascertained what accommodation is needed. Your signature on the form indicates that you are aware of the accommodation and will provide source material (tests or assignments) as needed.
Midterm Tests and Final Examinations
How do I schedule a midterm test?
If you are teaching a course with multiple sections, then there will be a coordinator for the course. No need to worry about midterm scheduling – your coordinator will do that.
If you are teaching the only section of a MATH course or the only section of STAT 230 or STAT 231, check with the MUO in case the midterm has already been scheduled. For first and second year CS courses check with the Instructional Support Group.
If you will be scheduling your own midterm test, then you need to choose a date and time, and make sure it is included on your course outline. In particular, this means that you must schedule it before the beginning of term. University policy forbids any tests in the last two weeks of term unless they are worth less than 25% of the final grade. Also, if you schedule an exam outside of scheduled lecture or tutorial time, then you must be prepared to accommodate students who have a conflict with your exam. This does not apply to midterms that are scheduled by the MUO.
How do I schedule a final exam?
You will receive a form from the MUO at the beginning of term asking you to indicate how you would like your final examination scheduled and administered. The Faculty's standard practice is a 2.5 hour exam, common to all sections, scheduled and administered by the Registrar's Office (RO).
How do I create my midterm using Crowdmark?
How do I create my final exam using Crowdmark?
Because of recent changes and improvements, questions about Crowdmark should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do I have to invigilate my midterm test and final examination?
Instructors are expected to be present when their midterm tests and final exams are written. Though other jurisdictions arrange invigilation that is independent of the instructors, at Waterloo instructors invigilate midterms and exams in their courses.
What should my final exam look like, and when will it be?
Final exams at Waterloo are 2.5 hours long, and scheduled by the Registrar’s Office. The final exam schedule is generally not known until the middle of term, so you should make sure that you are available during the entire exam period until you know when your final exam will be.
Also, the Registrar’s Office will photocopy your final exam for you, which means that they set deadlines for when exams must be submitted to them. These deadlines are sometimes even before the last day of lectures, so please have your final exam ready well in advance of the examination date.
How long do I need to keep old exams and assignments?
Course work (not including final exam papers) that the instructor attempts to return but remains unclaimed when term grades become official in Quest may be destroyed earlier than one year provided the students have been so advised on the course outline.
Request for INC grades
A student just asked me to give him an incomplete (INC). What should I do?
Normally, a student will be granted a grade of INC if they have been performing well during the course for all or most of the term, but for reasons beyond their control (usually illness) are unable to write the final exam. “Performing well” is up to you to define, but it should at least mean “passing the course so far”, and should also include “has some chance of passing the course”. If your standard for granting an INC is going to be significantly harsher than the minimum standards described in the previous sentence, please contact the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies well before the end of term.
If a student’s performance in your course has been affected by factors beyond their control for more than a brief period – for example, if (s)he became seriously ill, or if a close family member died during the term – then (s)he should be directed to their academic advisor for advice as to how to proceed. A grade of INC is often not the best solution for students in such serious predicaments.
If you do decide to grant an INC to a student, you should contact the MUO in MC 4022, to fill out the required paperwork. This should include a description of how to calculate the student’s mark when they have finally completed course requirements. Normally, the student will take the final exam for the course the next time it is offered.
It therefore may happen that a student will make up a grade of INC by writing your final exam. In such a case, the student should inform you before the day of your exam that they intends to write your exam. The MUO should provide you with a list of students who may make up an INC grade with your exam – you should consult this list to ensure that any student claiming to be making up an INC is on this list.
After the exam, you should write clearly on the student’s exam that they are making up an INC grade, and mark the exam. You should then send the exam to the student’s original instructor. If that instructor has left the University, or is otherwise unavailable, you should contact the chair of the home department/school of the original instructor. If there is no such department/school, contact the MUO, MC 4022.
What kind of grades should I assign at the end of the term?
If you are teaching any course other than a MATH course, then you should consult your department/school for guidance about how to assign final grades.
For MATH or MTHEL courses, final grades are normally assigned with a class average between 65% and 75%. If you are teaching a MATH course and you find that your class average is likely to fall outside that range, you should contact the associate dean for undergraduate studies in MC 4024 to discuss your grades.
In the Mathematics faculty, 50% is a minimal passing grade. In some courses, though, 60% and 70% are important thresholds for students, because of prerequisites in the sequel courses. In these cases, when you assign your final grades, you should be careful to make sure you can defend your decisions to award grades just below those thresholds. The following is a table of which thresholds are relevant for which courses:
|Course||Relevant thresholds (excluding 50%)|
|MATH 106, MATH 127, MATH 128||70%|
|MATH 135, MATH 136, MATH 137, MATH 138||60%|
If your course does not appear in this table, then 50% is the only relevant mark threshold.
End of Term
It’s the end of term. What special end-of-term things do I need to do?
First, make sure you submit your final grades. Students need their grades to do all kinds of important things, like get co-op jobs, satisfy prerequisites, and graduate, so please make sure you submit your final grades by the deadline.
Students may contact you asking to find out their grades. Faculty policy forbids instructors from releasing final grade information until after the end of the exam period, at which point students will be able to check their final grades on Quest.
Some students may ask to see their final exam. Instructors are expected to accommodate reasonable requests for exam viewing, provided that the requests come within a month of fully graded date (roughly two months from the date of the final exam). Students are not permitted to keep their final exams; they are the property of the Faculty. If you will be unavailable to meet with students during the months after the final exam, please contact your home department/school chair (or associate dean if you have no home department/school).
If you will be away from Waterloo in the following term, then you should ensure that final course materials, exams, assignments and grades etc. are secured with your course coordinator or your department/school chair prior to your departure from campus for the term.
Your final exams may be brought to the MUO in MC 4022 for storage. Please inform your course coordinator or department/school chair if you choose this option. If you don’t have a home department/school or coordinator, inform the associate dean for Undergraduate Studies.