Guidelines for instructors

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.

About teaching

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 Diana Skrzydlo, 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.

Getting started

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. Three and a half hours are to be reserved for proctor pool duties so the maximum number available to the course is 76.5 hours. The work is usually not uniformly distributed throughout the term.

Since three and a half of the 80 hours are reserved for proctor pool duties and so, as an instructor, you have access to 76.5 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 in 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 Math Tutoring Centre, please contact Jordan Hamilton (MC 6504), who manages the Math Tutoring 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.

First day of class

Expandable text.

Questions students might ask you

AccessAbility Services

I have received a Faculty Notification Letter by email from AccessAbility. What do I do?

The Faculty Notification Letter specifies the name and accommodation needs of the student and provides you with a link to complete the Testing Agreement. The AccessAbility Office will already have completed an assessment and ascertained what accommodation is needed.

Midterm tests and final examinations

Verification of Illness (VIF)

A student has missed a course assessment. What should I do?

The Mathematics Faculty has joined the Faculty of Science's practice of collecting Verification of Illness Forms (VIFs) in one common database. The procedure for the student will be as follows:

  1. Math students bring their original VIF(s) directly to the Mathematics Undergraduate Office (MUO). The submitted form will be date stamped by the MUO and an electronic copy will be emailed to students.
  2. If the VIF is for your course then the student should contact you so you can discuss how this will be handled.
  3. After the form has been added to the database, you will then receive an email from the system stating a VIF has been received. Email notifications will be sent out to all instructors teaching any Mathematics or Science course that the student is registered in for the term.
  4. If you notice anything odd in how this VIF relates to your course or if you want to view the original VIF, please contact the Math Undergrad Office.

The instructor is still the one responsible for determining the impact the VIF will have on the course grade. Furthermore, if the VIF is for a final exam the procedure by which you determine whether to give an INC is identical to before. If you have any questions about the new procedure please contact the Associate Dean, Undergraduate Studies.

Request for INC grade

A student just asked me to give them an incomplete (INC). What should I do?

The purpose of an INC grade is to allow a student to complete any outstanding course elements in a future term. Typically, this is used when a student has been performing well in a course, but for reasons beyond their control is unable to write the final exam at the scheduled time. The student will normally be expected to write the exam no later than the end of the next term in which (a) the course is offered and (b) the student is on campus. An exam may be written earlier than that if the instructor and student agree to such an arrangement (instructors are encouraged — but not expected — to pursue this option).

You have some discretion in deciding whether or not to grant a request for an INC, but the following principles should apply:

  • If the student is physically incapacitated (in the opinion of a medical professional, documented by a Verification of Illness form or communicated to you through AccessAbility Services, or for other verifiable reasons beyond the student’s control), and they have a reasonable chance of passing the course, then the INC should be given.
  • If the student does not have a realistic chance of passing the course, so that the granting of the request would simply postpone an inevitable failure, then the request should be denied. The student should receive their earned grade for the course (that is, using a grade of zero for the exam). Alternatively, if the earned grade is below 32, a grade of DNW may be used.

Unless truly incapacitated, students should normally be expected to write their exams at the scheduled time, but you may elect to make exceptions. It might, for example, be reasonable to grant an INC request to a student with a less severe but contagious illness, in the interest of the community.

Determining whether a student has a “reasonable chance” of success is up to you, but you are encouraged to give them the benefit of the doubt. After all, in entering a grade of DNW you are declaring them to have failed the course, whereas the INC merely postpones the calculation of the grade. If you lack evidence on which to base your assessment of the student’s chances (eg if they also missed the only midterm exam in your course), then it is reasonable to deny the request. In such a case it might be wise to direct the student to an academic advisor; if their academic performance has been affected by circumstances beyond their control for an extended period then they might be better served by the petition process than by the granting of an INC.

If you do decide to grant an INC to a student, you must complete and submit the online INC Grade Form no later than the grade submission deadline for the course. The Registrar's Office outlines the university process for INCs.

It may, of course, happen that a student will write your final exam to resolve an INC granted by an instructor in a previous term. In such a case, the student should inform you before the day of your exam that they intend to write your exam. You should provide them access to your current course materials, so that they can take notice of any differences in the delivery of the course (if you are using LEARN, you can simply send an e-mail to, asking that the student be given access). 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 students contacting you about INCs are actually included on it.

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.

Final grades

End of term

It's the end of the 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. Students may request an informal review of a final examination (both the questions and the examination responses) up to one year from the date that the examination was written or until the date indicated in the course outline.

If students wish to challenge their grade on the final examination, the request must be made within one month of notification of the grade. Policy 70 dictates the challenge process.

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.


What are the university's policies on privacy?

The University’s guidance on privacy can be found at:

The University’s records management system WatCLASS and retention schedules can be found at:

Retention schedules of interest to Faculty members with regards to student information are found under Teaching and Learning:

Policy for records storage and disposal for both hard copy and electronic files can be found at:

Instructors, including sessionals, must use their assigned University of Waterloo email when:

  • Communicating with a student
  • Communicating with any University of Waterloo employee pertaining to a student

For help with privacy protection issues and questions, contact the University Privacy Officer.

For help with records management issues and questions, the University Records Manager is Chris Halonen.