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FAQ: Teaching at McGill

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Where can I get help in using IT tools in teaching, e.g., myCourses, Student Response Systems or clickers, classroom recording tools)?

Call the ICS Service Desk at 514-398-3398 for any urgent issues or email itsupport [at] mcgill [dot] ca to schedule an appointment. You can schedule an individual consultation with a member of the Educational Technologies group at Content and Collaboration Solutions.

In the event of disruptions resulting from a possible pandemic or other emergency situation, where can I find information and guidelines relating to alternative instructional and assessment strategies?

A website has been created to provide instructors with resources which might help minimize disruptions owing to student and/or instructor absenteeism in the event of a large-scale pandemic. Issues addressed include online delivery of course materials, and alternative strategies for assessing student work. More information

Where can I get ideas for enhancing my students' learning?

Teaching and Learning Services offers workshops, individual consultations and other resources to help instructors create adaptable and innovative learning environments. More information

How do I design a course?

Read more about the Introduction to Course Design and Teaching Workshop More information

What are the requirements for course outlines?

Browse our helpful tips and download McGill's course outline creation guide. More information

Where do I get information about course evaluation policies and procedures?

The TLS website features policies, procedures and other information about course evaluations. More information

How do I prepare a teaching portfolio?

Learn how to prepare a teaching portfolio when applying for reappointment, tenure or promotion to full professor. More information

Where can I get support on implementing new technologies in my teaching?

Educational Technologies, Content and Collaboration Solutions, supports faculty members' implementations of new technologies in their teaching. More information

How do I find out about using myCourses to enhance my teaching?

The myCourses site provides all the information you need to begin as an instructor or course designer. More information

How can I get emergency help with technology in the classroom?

Press the Audiovisual Systems Help button on the classroom telephone. On the Macdonald Campus - dial local 7896. More information

Where do I go to get help with students with special needs?

The Office for Students with Disabilities offers a host of information on writing exams, student rights, services and other topics. More information

How do I find out about exam regulations and protocols?

Find information about exam regulations, invigilation, conflicts and dates, as well as your responsibilities as an instructor. More information

Are there grading policies or guidelines at McGill which address, for example, the allocation of grades for "attendance" or "participation"?

McGill's policies on grading and assessment of student work are currently under review. Guidelines will be disseminated as appropriate.

For the moment, apart from the regulations governing exams, which have some implications for grading, and in some cases policies or regulations relevant to individual faculties which may be available on those faculties' websites, there are not as yet any distinct regulations or guidelines for McGill as a whole which pertain to assigning grades for student participation, or for attendance.

Following are some guidelines which professors may find useful in the interim.

Providing a grade for student participation can help encourage active engagement and motivate students to come prepared to each class, ready to contribute. As with any learning outcome, the criteria used to assess and grade students’ participation should be clearly identified. For example, a grade for "participation" might take into consideration student behaviour such as asking helpful questions, having cases and pre-readings prepared, playing an active and constructive role in discussions and discussion monitoring, making worthwhile contributions to the solution of problems, effectively presenting the results of a project, and so on.

Whatever criteria are identified or whatever “grading rubric” may be used, tracking the participation of individual students in a reliable manner is difficult, and subject to the influences (on the instructor) of other grades students have achieved for their written work, or simply non-relevant, personality-related affinities or discords. It is also not easy to defend a grade assigned for “participation” if this is challenged after the fact, since no concrete evidence remains available for examination.

Hence, instructors might want to reflect carefully before assigning more than 10 or at most 15 percent of students’ overall grade for “participation”. Whether or not to actually assign a grade for “attendance” requires even more careful consideration of what the professor wants to identify and reward as the important learning goals or outcomes of their course. “Being present in the room” may be pre-condition and as such pragmatically related to “quality participation” as defined by the instructor, but it may have questionable merit as a legitimate “measure of learning” to be tracked and graded in and of itself.

Allocating a portion of students' grades for "participation" may have particular value and meaning in courses for which "public speaking" or effectively articulating one's ideas verbally is perceived to be a valid learning outcome for that specific course (for example this may often be the case in professional faculties, such as Law, Management, Education, Social Work, Engineering, Medicine and so on.)

The following articles provide some perspectives on and practical suggestions for promoting and assessing student participation in class.

Bean, J., Peterson, D. (1998). “Grading classroom participation”. New Directions for Teaching and Learning 74, pp. 33-40.
link to article [with McGill VPN]

Maznevski, Martha L. (1996) “Grading Class Participation” in Teaching Concerns: a newsletter for faculty and teaching assistants. Teaching Resource Center, University of Virginia.
link to article

How do I create links to online library resources?

Learn how to create persistent, direct links to online documents listed in course syllabi or reading lists within myCourses. More information

How do I view my teaching schedule?

Learn how to use Minerva to access information related to your classes and teaching schedules, view the results of course evaluations and enter final grades. More information

Where can I get support as a graduate student instructor/TA?

This page outlines the many resources available to graduate student instructors in areas such as teaching, facilitation and presentation skills. More information

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