Teaching a Math Course at Western

August 23, 2021

This page is intended to help with the administrative aspects of teaching for the Math Department at Western and is aimed at first-time instructors. It is not intended to express Math Department policy. Others will be familiar with this material but may find that some of the links help them to avoid hunting through the Academic Policies web pages.

Questions, comments and especially corrections (including broken links) may be sent to Gord Sinnamon. Questions about teaching that are not covered in this page should be directed to your course coordinator or to the Associate Chair.

TO DO

The appropriate level for your course: Consult Western's Academic Calendar or the Ontario Mathematics Curriculum for information about topics covered in the prerequisites for your course. Contacting previous instructors is an excellent way to determine the appropriate level for your course.

Timetable, classroom, important dates: The official time and room for your class can be found from the registrar's web site. Note that classes end 10 minutes before the End Time listed there. Check the Classroom Technology Group for information about your classroom or to obtain a key to the audio-visual equipment. This list of academic dates includes Add/Drop dates, official holidays and final exam periods.

Textbooks: In a multi-section course, consult with the course coordinator before selecting a textbook. Normally, all sections use the same text. You may wish to include your selection in the campus bookstore's textbook list, especially if you have ordered the book from the bookstore. 

Course outline: Your course requires an outline written in accordance with Senate regulations. Contact the Associate Chair for an up-to-date template. Regulations on Evaluation of Academic Performance must be observed when preparing your outline. Multi-section courses normally share an outline prepared by the course coordinator. 

Test and exams: You must submit test and exam information for approval using the Exam Central tab on the extranet. Be aware of the regulations governing the timing of exams and exam proctoring.

OWL: Your course should be set up in Western's learning management system. It provides a way to submit final course grades, have them approved by the department, and transmit them to the registrar's office. OWL is also the only approved method of posting interim student marks. Other methods conflict with privacy regulations. OWL offers a wide variety of teaching support functions and includes a help page called Getting Started - Instructors.

Class lists: The extranet provides class lists and student photos. Since your course OWL page includes a list of current students, there may be no need for a separate class list. 

Teaching assistants: If your course is assigned one or more teaching assistants you will be asked by the Associate Chair to assign their duties early in the term. In multi-section courses this is normally done through the course coordinator. Employment of Graduate Teaching Assistants is governed by the GTA collective agreement.

Office hours: You are expected to be available for student consultation outside of classroom hours. A regular schedule of two or three office hours per week is typical.

Printing and copying midterm exams: Photocopying and/or printing of all midterms and quizzes will be done in house by the instructor or a GTA. 

Printing and copying final exams: Your final exam papers may be copied by the registrar's office at no cost to the department. This is recommended, particularly for large classes. When the deadline for submitting final exams for printing is known it will be forwarded to instructors.

Submitting marks: Course marks are integers between 0 and 100. A mark less than 50 is a failure and a mark less than 60 may affect a student's progress towards an honors degree. For this reason, it is unusual to award course marks just less than 50 or just less than 60. Marks must be submitted within seven days of the final examination.

TO KNOW

Math 1225, 1228, 1229: These are intended as courses for students in the social sciences who require very basic mathematics, and often come with very weak backgrounds. The courses should be aimed at that audience despite the often large numbers of very capable students enrolled.

Math 0110: This is for students who do not have high school calculus but expect to be taking university calculus. Students vary widely in ability and preparation. A high standard must be maintained; the object of the course is to prepare students for Calc 1000.

Calculus: Calc 1000, 1301, and 2302 are for non-math science students but Calc 1500, 1501 and 2502 are for future math students. The level of abstraction, in particular, should be adjusted accordingly.

Upper year and graduate courses: Math 2xxx courses develop reading and writing of proofs in addition to covering the course material. Math 3xxx and 4xxx are entirely proof-based and students are required to read and write mathematics at a high level. When a course is cross-listed as both an undergraduate and graduate course, graduate students should be assigned more work than the undergraduates.

Instructional support: Western Technology Services provides instructional support by maintaining student computer labs, online access to licensed applications, and more. Gradescope is an online grading service.

Students with disabilities: The need for accommodation is assessed and often provided by Acccessible Education. Instructors will be consulted/informed by email and via the Accessible Education tab on the extranet. The most common accommodation is extra time on tests and examinations.

Missed assignments, tests and midterm exams: The Academic Policies pages give information on student absences as well as on medical and religious accommodation for missed term work. When possible, make-up exams are the department's preferred accommodation. Other possibilities include re-weighting other components of the course grade. Instructors are permitted to grant permission for a student to miss or re-schedule an assignment, test or midterm exam that is worth less than ten percent of the course grade; this should be done in a fair and consistent manner. Consistency across sections should be maintained in a multi-section course; consult the course coordinator. For those worth ten percent or more of the course grade, students seeking accommodation for missed work should consult a counsellor in their home faculty.

Returning assignments, tests and midterm exams: Privacy regulations apply to all papers containing students' personal information, including name and ID number. In particular, they prohibit leaving assignment, test or examination papers for unsupervised pickup, or returning papers in a way that may give any student access to another's personal information.

Missed final exams: Course instructors are not permitted to grant permission for a student to miss or re-schedule a final examination. This includes students with exam conflicts. Students who have missed or plan to miss a final examination should be directed to contact a counsellor from their home faculty. 

Review and retention of final exam papers: Final exams are not to be returned to students. Instructors should be prepared to supervise students who wish to review their final exam; student requests to review their own final exams must be accommodated but only under supervision. Final exam papers must be retained in the department for at least one year from the date of the examination. Instructors who will not remain in the department for the year following the final exam should contact the course coordinator or the Associate Chair to arrange for the exam papers to be stored and for supervision of student review. Review and retention regulations apply to other student records as well as final exams.

Confidential information: Privacy regulations govern required retention, accessibility, communication, and proper disposal of students' personal information in any form. Confidential information should not released to anyone (including students' parents) without permission of the student. 

Disposal of confidential information: Once the required retention period has passed, documents containing personal information, including examination papers, should be placed in the departmental disposal bin for shredding.

Instructors' responsibilities: Course instructors have responsibilities involving conflict of interest, scholastic discipline, and academic appeals. If any of these situations arises, the Associate Chair should be contacted without delay.

Room booking: Departmental rooms, MC 104, MC 105C, MC 106, MC 107, MC 108, MC 204, and MC 15A, may be reserved by writing to smss-bookroom@uwo.ca

Students who need non-math help: The Academic Support and Engagement provides a variety of services including crisis counselling, evaluation of disabilities, studying help, writing workshops and much more.

Finding people and departments: See the Western Directory. In particular, this can be useful for helping students to contact faculty counsellors.

Information about Western: Institutional Planning and Budgeting provides a variety of information. Student evaluations are available with a valid Western login.