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FAQ's about Teaching at Boston College

FAQs about Teaching at Boston College

 

Here are answers to some of the teaching-related questions we hear most frequently.  For more information on these topics or for other questions related to teaching, you are welcome to contact Sue Barrett (barretsc@bc.edu or 552-0835).

Questions about BC policies

Is class attendance required?

As a matter of policy, students are expected to attend class, but handling the specifics of that are up to you. It’s a good idea to have an attendance policy of your own, but it’s also good to know that the college catalogue explicitly states that attendance is required. If a student has to miss several classes because of illness or other exceptional circumstances, the student or the family should communicate with the appropriate associate dean, who will notify you that the student needs special consideration. Absences for religious reasons are also excused.

Faculty sometimes have questions about students missing classes because of involvement on varsity sports teams. These absences are legitimate, and you should receive an official travel letter telling you which dates the student will be unable to attend class. The student-athletes will be responsible for making up all work.  If you have any questions, please call Learning Resources for Student-Athletes at 552-8533.

What are the policies on academic integrity?

You can find BC’s policy at:  www.bc.edu/integrity  In addition to defining cheating, plagiarism and collusion, it outlines the roles of community members, including students, deans and faculty, in promoting academic integrity and goes through the procedures to deal with violations.

The policy gives faculty responsibility for creating an atmosphere that encourages academic integrity.  The policy goes far beyond making sure nobody cheats on exams.  Specifically, it states that faculty should discuss academic integrity at the beginning of every semester to make sure that students understand the concept in the context of the class. Faculty should also provide a written syllabus that clearly outlines course requirements and due dates, if possible, as well as a statement on academic integrity. Exams and assignments should be new each semester or, if not, all students should have equal access to old exams. Exams and assignments should be carefully designed to minimize the possibility of dishonesty. Proctors should be present at exams. Faculty must respect students’ intellectual property and confidentiality. Finally, grades should be awarded in a manner that is fair to all students.

If, in spite of your efforts, students violate academic integrity, it’s important to hold them accountable. Your first step is to discuss the suspected violation with the student. If you decide to impose a grade penalty, you are expected to send a letter to the student’s class dean, describing what has occurred. The student will receive formal notification of the charge and have an opportunity to respond. First offenses typically receive only a warning. The case will eventually come before the Committee on Academic Integrity for the student’s school, as described at the web site given above.

How are teaching evaluations handled?

Students fill out course evaluations online.  This has several advantages for faculty, including immediate reports as soon as your course is completed.  The online survey contains several standard response questions and 4 open-ended ones.  Faculty can also add up their own customized questions.  You can easily access your evaluations through Agora. Quantitative data from the evaluations are available to all members of the BC community through the agora portal.  Students are encouraged to use this information when registering for classes.

There is also an on-line evaluation system run by the undergraduate student government where interested students can submit comments about teachers.  It is quite unofficial and inconsistent in that students at either extreme tend to submit comments—those that loved or hated a class—and the others usually don’t bother. Although most faculty do not take these reviews seriously, many students check them before signing up for classes.

You may also want to get some feedback on your teaching without waiting for the end of the semester. There are many methods of getting mid-semester feedback, including just asking your students how the class is going for them. This has the advantage of simplicity, but the disadvantage of not allowing them to answer anonymously. One way around this is to invite someone else in to gather information for you. You might have a department colleague visit your class mid-way in the semester and ask the students to write short answers to three questions: what does this teacher do that helps you learn? What does the teacher do that does not help you learn? And what one or two specific things could this teacher do that would help you learn more in this class? Your colleague can then type up the answers, to protect anonymity, and give you the feedback.  (This is a service provided by The Connors Family Learning Center.)

Questions about supporting students

What should I do when I have a student with a disability?

BC serves students with many types of disabilities, including learning disabilities, chronic illnesses or vision or hearing impairments, and some of these students may require accommodations in your course.  Possible accommodations include signers, note takers, adaptive software and alternative testing arrangements.  Faculty can be very helpful by choosing books and other course materials well ahead of time so that any adaptations can be arranged in time for all students.  All of these students are able to complete academic work successfully and they deserve and have a legal right to reasonable accommodations. 

Accommodations for students with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder are coordinated through The Connors Family Learning Center.  Students with other disabilities receive accommodations through the Office of Disability Services.

Is there support for teaching students for whom English is not the first language?

BC has a large number of international students and also some students who come from U.S. backgrounds where English is the second language. When students are having trouble with English, they may sometimes seem to be having trouble mastering course material.  This may or may not be the case. They may understand the material perfectly well but have difficulty demonstrating mastery.   There is always a question of fairness—should they have extra time to do work? Should you try to overlook grammar and style errors and evaluate them only on their knowledge? Or do you think that all students should be able to demonstrate mastery of English as well as of your subject matter? There is no policy that will answer the question for you. There are ESL courses available to these students, but they may still have difficulty even after taking the courses. You may decide that it would be fair to allow such a student extra time to complete assignments or in-class work.  You can encourage him or her to join a study group or to come to your office hours.  Make sure the student knows that the Connors Center offers free tutoring in English for Foreign Students, as well as in specific course materials.  If you have questions or concerns regarding international students, contact the Office of International Students and Scholars at 552-8005.

 

What can I do if I have concerns about a student’s academic performance?

If a student is doing poorly in your course, it could be for a number of reasons.  The student might actually find the subject matter too difficult or have problems outside the classroom.  Or he or she might really not be working hard enough.  You can definitely recommend the free tutoring in the Connors Family Learning Center.  However, if you are concerned about a student and have not been able to reach the student personally—maybe because he or she has stopped coming to class--it’s a good idea to get in touch with the class dean.  The dean can reach out to the student to see if there is a serious problem, such as an illness at home.   If you have to give the student a final grade before the situation has been resolved, try to avoid giving “Incompletes”; it’s better to give a grade and then change it later if the situation warrants. 

What am I expected to do for student-athletes?

Varsity athletes at BC meet the same academic standards as everyone else, despite their demanding practice and game schedules.  BC has an excellent record in terms of athletes' graduation rates, and LRSA is one of the reasons for this success.  The LRSA staff will notify you if you have a varsity athlete in your class, and they will follow up to make sure that student is managing to keep up with his or her work. 

What is AHANA?

AHANA is BC's acronym for African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American students.  The Office of AHANA Student Programs (OASP)has several programs that support AHANA students on campus, including counseling, academic advisement, and career counseling.  The OASP also offers a summer program, Options Through Education, which prepares 40-50 pre-freshmen to enter BC each year.  If you have any questions about AHANA, or if you have a student who might benefit from getting in touch with them, call 552-3358.

AHANA also sponsors the Benjamin E. Mays Mentoring Program which pairs faculty and staff with AHANA students who want a mentor. Becoming a Mays Mentor is an excellent way to get to know students as well as other faculty around campus. It doesn’t require a huge time commitment but it is very enjoyable. Call Ines Maturana if you are interested (552-4806).

Questions about campus resources

Can someone show me how to use the technology in my classroom?

Media Technology Services ( /offices/its/support/mts.html) will be happy to show you how to use the various resources in your room function and lend you a key if needed.  They also provide a wide array of supports for teaching, conferencing and research.

Who can help me with using technology in my teaching?

Instructional Design and eTeaching Services (IDeS) can help with everything from designing great PowerPoint presentations to using course management software.  The best way to get an idea of their services is to go to their website: (/content/bc/offices/ides.html) They offer workshops, consultations and even office visits.

How do the libraries support teaching?

You can get an overview of library services through their website (www.bc.edu/libraries/).   Two that are especially useful for teaching are course reserves and classroom visits.  Consider putting your textbooks on reserve to make them available to all students, including those who may not be able to afford to buy them.   On a classroom visit, a librarian will introduce students to resources useful for your specific course.