Guide For New Teachers

Department of Linguistics

This guide gives information about teaching in the UCLA Linguistics Department, with emphasis on the mechanics of course materials and other practical issues. Most of the information is geared to undergraduate courses, but generally applies to graduate courses as well.

I. Before classes start

1. The Front Office Coordinator will ask for your textbook order early in the previous quarter, and will also deal with subsequent problems with textbooks. Be sure to put your text(s) on reserve in the library (see next para), since it is quite possible that there will not be enough copies in the bookstore (textbook orders look at the official enrollment cap, not at the history of how many students typically take a course).

This is also the time to request materials to be put on reserve in Powell Library.  Requests are submitted online (they say allow 3 months in case the Library has to purchase materials).  Putting any required or optional texts on reserve is a courtesy to students who want to save money by not buying their books.  It also is a way of preventing any important books from "disappearing" from the library during the quarter - reserve books are kept in the Reserve section on the second floor of Powell.  For that reason, the Linguistics 103 faculty keep a standing reserve order that covers many phonologies and grammars of individual languages that are often used by students for their term projects.  If the library does not own and cannot acquire a copy of something you'd like to have on reserve, you can bring a xerox to Powell, and they will scan the item and put the pdf file on e-reserve.  For copyright reasons, these files can only be put on reserve one quarter at a time, so you will have to request it anew each time you teach the course, just like a book.

At about week 6 of the previous quarter, the Front Office Coordinator will also announce that enrollment is about to open, and will urge you to check that the online listing for your course is correct: day and time, enrollment cap, and assigned classroom.  This may be the first chance you have to check whether the assigned classroom has the audio-visual equipment that you will need.  You can check how any classroom is equipped .  If you know you will have special needs, it's a good idea to communicate them to the Front Office Coordinator early in the previous quarter, before you are asked to check what has already been done.  If your classroom does not have a computer projector, contact the Front Office Coordinator to reserve one of the department's projectors, which you will have to carry to and from the department office for each class.  If your classroom doesn't have something else you need (e.g. a DVD player), contact the Front Office Coordinator about reserving one in advance for the day you need it.  This is also about the time when reservations open for computer classrooms in Powell (the "CLICC") or in Humanities ("Center for Digital Humanities"); both facilities use an on-line reservation form. A computer classroom is a good idea if you want every student to have a chance to practice using some application, for example.

In the registrar's listing for your course, you (and students) have links to the course webpage (which is generated automatically), the time during exam week assigned for the final exam (if any), the catalog description of the course, and information about what (if any) prerequisites are "enforced", that is, automatically checked by the enrollment system when a student tries to enroll.  If a student's UCLA record does not include the prerequisites, the student will need to ask you for a "PTE", or Permission to Enroll code. Valid reasons for needing a PTE are, for example, if the student is currently enrolled in a prerequisite course (and so has not yet passed it), or if the equivalent course was taken at another institution. Students will also ask for PTEs if the course has filled up before they could register; see #4 below for more on this.

Once enrollment starts, the registrar's page will show current enrollment and waitlist for the lecture and each of the sections (if any) for your course.

2. You are supposed to appear by the official beginning of the quarter, so that students can find you before classes begin. However, if this is your first time teaching a particular course, it would be wise to come earlier, or at least have been in extensive contact with someone about the course. It takes time to get settled, plan out a course, and prepare the first class's lecture and materials.

3. The university has a web-based system, called MyUCLA, for keeping track of enrollments and grades.  In order to use this website, you need to have a Bruin Online logon ID and password, which you can get from Bruin Online.  Once logged in, you will see your own MyUCLA page, where each of your scheduled courses will appear in a list.  However, if you have not yet been listed as the instructor for a course (e.g. if it is still listed as "The Staff"), then you will not see the course in your MyUCLA list.  Contact the Front Office Coordinator for help.

If you are being newly hired, we will try to get you a UCLA logon as soon as we can, but may hit bureaucratic snags. We'll do the best we can; feel free to ask from time to time if you don't yet have your logon.

Your MyUCLA listing for a course:

  • Tells you how many students you've got (enrolled, waitlisted) and who they are, e.g. their year and major.
  • Permits you to email your students, either en masse or one by one.
  • Has a utility for recording and filing grades (the Gradebook).  Filing final grades electronically using the Gradebook is required.  Using the Gradebook to record scores and calculate final grades is optional. This use of the Gradebook takes little while to set up, but the instructions are pretty clear and in the long run it saves time, I think.  A big advantage is that students check that all their scores have been recorded correctly, so that any clerical errors are usually caught before final grades are calculated, rather than after as used to be the case.

4. The enrollment limit for a course is set by you during the previous quarter; or by default is carried over from a previous offering of the course.  If a course is full, students will ask you to let them in. It is your privilege to get "permission-to-enroll" (PTE) numbers from the MyUCLA site and give them to students you want to let in above the enrollment limit. However, we recommend that you defer such decisions to the Department's undergraduate Student Affairs Officer; (s)he knows more than you about who needs most to get in. The department also has an interest in maintaining fair workloads for its temporary and junior ladder faculty; local floods of overenrollment are considered to be department-level problem, not the junior teacher's problem. 

Should you wish to admit extra students on your own authority, do remember the interests of your TA, who is limited by contract to 20 hours of work per week, averaged.  You might also If your course enrollment is high (or your waiting list is full) consult the Chair as early as possible about getting an extra TA or a reader.

5. It sometimes happens that no one tells you who your TA's are. If you need to know, ask the Front Office Coordinator or the Student Affairs Officer; or the Director of Graduate Studies, who actually assigns TAs to courses.

6. Occasionally a TA will come to ask if they can take a course that meets during your course, i.e. not attend your lectures. This is up to you, but it is always better for students if TA's attend lectures. Sometimes TA's will want to switch their assigned courses for this reason; consult the DGS.

7. Orders for movies, etc. must be placed at least one working day before each class, preferably earlier. You have to pick up movies yourself (or ask your TA) from the Instructional Media Library in Powell.  See the Front Office Coordinator to place any orders. The full listing of UCLA's film and video holdings can be viewed on-line through the catalog of the Instructional Media Library. They have quite a lot of stuff.

8. You can apply for money for guest speakers or other unusual course expenses ("minigrants")--currently up to $750.  The application is made online to the Office of Instructional Development. OID's response time is typically fast, but ideally you should apply by the beginning of the quarter to be sure of funding.

9. Course readers: Some organized instructors have all their class handouts bound in advance. You can have things (including out-of-print texts or sets of readings) xeroxed in advance and sold in the bookstore, but there is a long lead time on this, they never print enough copies, and you must have written permission for copyright materials. Commercial copy centers in Westwood that also prepare course readers will advertise, incessantly, directly to you. [See VI-1, "Graduate Readings" below for graduate customs.]  Many instructors now put all their materials online (see below for more), but student opinion about online vs. hardcopy varies.  One disadvantage of online materials is that the charge to students for printing on campus can be high, so if they end up making hardcopies of everything, it would have been cheaper to let a copy center do it.  Note that if there are Powerpoint slides posted before class, many students will print them out and bring them to class to take notes on.


II. The first day of classes

1. Classes start on the hour and end at 10 minutes before the hour. Students get upset if you consistently run over because they often have to travel long distances between their classes. Two-hour classes have a 10 minute break in the middle.

2. It's pretty much a rule that you have a syllabus, including information about requirements for the course and the basis for the final grade. Even if you have already posted your syllabus online, it is best to hand out hard copies and go over it during the first class. Minimally, students want some idea of the topics to be covered and how the workload will be distributed. A schedule of readings, assignments, quizzes, etc. will be welcome but is not necessary. If you expect students to attend a scheduled final exam, make it clear in the first week that this is part of the course requirement.  The official class schedule will tell you when the official time for your final is. Spell out, in the syllabus or early in the course, your policy on late assignments, make-ups for tests and exams, and penalties for cheating. Generally, students want to avoid surprises, and they are fairly easy-going about accepting your workload, policies, etc. as long as they are forewarned.

3. If possible, the syllabus should also list your (and your TA's) office hours. Two hours per week is the minimum, but three is better for undergraduate courses, and four is a good idea if you are teaching two undergraduate courses.  Your office hours should also be listed on a "door card", which you will given at the beginning of each quarter; tape it to your office door.

4. There is a booklet called "The Teacher's Guide" from the UCLA Office of Instructional Development which gives more info about university  policies etc. for undergraduate instruction, including syllabi and a variety of topics. The booklet is currently being revised. The office is in 60 Powell Library, phone 310 825-9149. (This office also offers advice and consultation about teaching skills, course policies, etc.)

5. It is OK to jump right in with substantive material, and even an assignment, in the first class, but be aware that new students may well show up for the second class.  This is their problem, though they will appreciate your making copies of the old handouts available (online, or hardcopy).

6.  Regular class handouts are xeroxed in the department office (by a work-study student with 24 hours' notice, by you otherwise).  The Front Office Coordinator will give you a copier code for your course.



1. There are rules set by three bodies, union, university and department, about what a TA can and cannot be asked to do. Generally, they cannot be forced to give lectures, they cannot make up tests or exams on their own, and they cannot assign final grades. If in doubt, consult the Student Affairs Office or Director of Graduate Studies, or in Spring, the graduate student employed as the current TA Training teacher for the department. This student  is a valuable source on the university's TA policies and practices.  Regular TA's are expected to work not more than 20 hours per week; "half-TA's" 10.

2. Unless you have just one TA who is very experienced with the course, you should have a weekly meeting with the TA(s). Decide at the beginning of the quarter what grading the TA's are expected to do, especially for the end of the quarter. (Individual courses may have traditions on the division of labor.) Establish who will decide the content of the sections. (Some TA's like to do this themselves, others don't.) Make clear whether you expect TA's to attend lectures; if they don't, establish some way that they will know what version of the truth the course is setting up for the students, so that the TA's do not contradict you in sections.

3. It is a good idea to visit a section at least once during a quarter. If nothing else, it gives you something to say in your final evaluation of the TA, if you choose to provide one.

4. Readers may occasionally be assigned to courses with large enrollments but no TA, or in addition to a TA -- even after the quarter begins, if your enrollment is unusually high. The reader is not paid to attend lectures or otherwise learn the material, and so it is often hard to find someone already qualified to grade your assignments. The burden to find someone qualified often falls on the professor, and the only mechanisms may be email and "asking around". Since a reader typically works about 1 hour per student (per quarter), this amounts to grading less than the total work for the quarter. For example, you could have the reader grade a midterm and maybe part of the final, but no assignments or papers. So think ahead about how to best use this limited resource.


IV. Tests and grades

1. There is wide variation across courses and teachers as to the number of graded assignments and quizzes, whether there is a mid-term, a final, and/or a term paper. (Some courses have strong traditions.) Have a general plan in advance, even if you are not sure of the details. For example, it is fine to adjust the dates of quizzes or assignments slightly, with some advance notice, but it is not a good idea to decide a few weeks into the quarter that there will be a term paper. Keep in mind that students want some kind of graded work within the first 4 weeks or so, so that they can gauge how they are doing.

2. On graded assignments, make clear whether students can work together, etc. As a default, students will assume that they can collaborate freely, and will often copy assignment answers without thinking it is wrong. In advanced courses students are often asked to work in groups, but they are usually asked to write up their work individually.

3. Students will ask in advance whether grading is on a curve. Some of them will also freely challenge individual and final grades. The best defense is to state in advance how you will determine grades, and be able to show any student how their grade was arrived at. You can discourage grade challenges and pleas by making clear on the syllabus that you do not change grades. At the same time, you should be concerned and ready to help any student who is having problems and really wants to do better. That is, you can be firm about grades without being mean or cold. I find that simply opening the spreadsheet for grades and explaining the student's grade can persuade a student to go away without feelings of bitterness. In contrast, expressing harsh or negative thoughts to a grade-complainer can result an extremely aggrieved person, and experience indicates that they are not without resources at UCLA for should they with to plot bureaucratic revenge against you.

4. On your MyUCLA listing for each course, you will also see a link for Turnitin.com. This is a commercial service that UCLA subscribes to, which attempts to detect plagiarism in students' written work.  Using it is entirely at your discretion; you can read about it here.  Few people in Linguistics uses it, though plagiarism is not unknown.  See also the Library's website on ways to prevent (as opposed to detect) plagiarism.

5. Cheating. It pays to restrict your prosecutorial efforts to clear cases, with "smoking gun" proof. Opinions differ, but I think it best to do this: write up a careful, evidence-based prosecutorial letter and send it off to the Dean of Students. The Dean's staff are experienced experts, and know best how to deal with cheaters (they also know if the cheaters have a previous record).  When doing this, file the grade "DR" (Delayed Report) and await and follow the Dean's instructions. At start of quarter, make sure your syllabus explains what cheating is, and what your policy is.

6. Post-hoc grade changes (e.g. from bureaucratic error) are done, to this day, on paper. Get a form from the Front Office Coordinator.




V. Course evaluations

It's generally expected that you will have your students fill out course evaluations for you.  (TA's also do evaluations in their own sections.)

Currently (2016) UCLA has pretty much phased out paper evaluations forms, meaning you have to figure out how to get reasonable compliance rates without them.  Here are some ways:  (1) allocate class time, asking your students to bring a laptop or smart phone; (2) (sounds wild, but it's been done) tell your students that you will release the study guide for the final exam as soon as 80% (or whatever) of the evaluations have been submitted.

Online evaluations are released to you as soon as you have submitted your final grades. 

If you are temp faculty and would like to have a letter written for you summarizing your evaluations for purposes of job applications, the Chair or someone designated by him/her can do this for you. If you need such a summary letter, the department can scan the hard-copy forms before sending them off to the official scanning office.


VI. University procedures

1. Students may routinely drop classes through the second week, and in later weeks with a notation placed on their transcript.  They appreciate some kind of assignment or quiz before then to help them decide. After the drop date, they need permission to drop, though not from you. Sometimes they will withdraw from the quarter (i.e. drop all their courses). Though it may be frustrating to see a student pay no academic penalty for doing nothing all quarter, there does not seem to be anything you can do about this.

2. There are clear legal protections of students' privacy. It is illegal to post grades, even by student number, without students' explicit permission. It is illegal to leave assignments in a pile (e.g. in class, or on your door) for students to look through to find their own, unless they are in separate envelopes. You cannot give one student another's assignment (even a friend's) without written permission. You cannot show a student other students' grades by name (e.g. in justifying that student's grade).

3. Exams and papers should be saved until the end of the following quarter. Though exams are not usually returned to students, some students will want to look at theirs briefly in your office (usually to understand their grade). You can give exams back to students, but you should understand that the risk is that a student will then change answers on the exam and return to you claiming to have found mistakes in your grading.

If you are leaving UCLA, please hand over your final exams to the Front Office Coordinator so that students may inspect their exam during the following quarter. Your participation in grade disputes after you leave is, of course, voluntary.


VII. For Graduate Courses

1. Readings. You can order textbooks and put things on reserve in the Grad Reserves in the usual way, but in our department it is common practice to post pdf's on line or email them to the students. Our Department Xerox machine is also a scanner and makes PDF's quite rapidly. If you would like a UCLA course webpage, from which you can dispense PDF's, see below.

2. The proseminars (25x-level courses) can be enrolled in for 2 or 4 units.  Ask the Student Affairs Officer to learn what the units mean, what grades are possible, etc.. It is up to you whether to require any assignments or presentations from 2-unit enrollees.

3. Typical requirements for a proseminar are class presentation of an article and/or class presentation of term paper, and the term paper. Final grades are in practice not due until a week after exam week is over, so it is usual to accept final papers at the end of exam week, though this is up to you.

4. In our department Incompletes in graduate courses are given essentially on request. However, you have every right to refuse or to place conditions (e.g. a due date)--some faculty do this, announcing it as a general policy in advance. Also, if a student gets too many Incompletes, it supposedly hurts them when applying for Graduate Division fellowships.  An alternative to an incomplete is for you to postpone submitting your final grades for a few days and give the student an extension. To remove an Incomplete for a student, you need a special form that you get from, and return to, the Front Office Coordinator. (The same is true for undergraduates, but they are less likely to ask for Incompletes.)

5. If you are regular ladder faculty, you will likely have graduate students to advise. All first year graduate students are advised by the Director of Graduate Studies, but after that they sign on with one or more faculty advisors, who sign off on quarterly study lists and help make sure that degree requirements are being met. The Graduate Division provides a manual of university rules and regulations; the department's Graduate Program Advising Page is thorough but not always quite current (it includes a second-year checklist that is helpful to faculty as well as students planning their second year); the catalog is the official record of requirements for degrees; our new students have an orientation, the contents of which are generally taken from the Graduate Program Advising Page; the occasional faculty meeting and miscellaneous emails clarify various questions. Otherwise you are basically on your own. When in doubt, ask the Director of Graduate Studies or the Student Affairs Officer for guidance on advising students about the program.


VIII. Web Stuff

1. The University will automatically provide you with a course Web site for each undergraduate course, and it's a requirement that your syllabus be posted on this site (the sanctions for noncompliance fall not on you, but at higher levels, with possible trickle-down effects). Department and Humanities staffers may ask for your syllabus if you don't put it up yourself.

Access to your automatic course website can be obtained at the "E-Campus" Home Page, or from the Registrar's listing for your course.  The Ecampus login is different from the MyUCLA login - for Ecampus the password defaults to your 9-digit university ID number, while for MyUCLA it's your BruinOnline login.

Graduate courses can also have a website, by request.

2. If your only use of a course webpage would be to post course materials and links, it's ok to use your own Department Web page (click here to learn how to get one).  But there is a possible advantage of using the University's official Web pages even for this basic purpose:   they provide a kind of "outer foyer" and "inner sanctum".  The foyer is visible to all UCLA students (e.g. those looking for a course to take) and the sanctum is enterable only by students who've signed up for your course.  So if you have private or copyrighted material, this is a good option to take.

But there are other functions offered by the course websites that your personal webpage will not provide.  These include a Discussion board (very useful for asking students to post answers to reading questions, or as a Virtual Office Hours), an Announcement tool, a course calendar tool, a chat room (useful in large classes when students are working on an assignment the night before it's due), a way for students to post course materials to be shared, and a project page ("Presentations") where students can build and view online term project presentations.


IX. Honors Contracts and Independent Studies

1. A student in your undergraduate class may ask you if they can do an "honors contract" with you.  This is an extra research project done as part of the course, for which the student gets Honors credit.  Only students in the Honors program at UCLA can do this.  For further information, go to UCLA's page on College Honors, or you can call the Honors Programs office directly for more info.:  (310) 825-1553.  For the lower division courses, it is common to offer an Honors section, which you teach (rather than the TA), and which only Honors students can enroll in, again for Honors credit. You are not under any obligation to offer contracts or sections, which after all are extra work for you.  The benefit is increased contact with bright students.

2. Undergraduates can enroll in Independent Study courses by filling out (in consultation with you) a contract form which you then sign.  The department offers several course numbers for independent study; consult the catalog descriptions to see which would be most appropriate in any given case.


X. Life in General

Department resources:  You have access to the Reading Room stacks. You can use the department's computers. You can attend the colloquium and the social hour that usually follows.  You can attend the weekly seminar in your research area, as well as regular courses. You can get office supplies from the main office (Campbell 3125). You can mail things out (ask the Front Office Coordinator for what mail code you should put on the envelopes).

You can get an email address, from the Front Office Coordinator.

You can use email to contact department members en masse.  There are lists to send email to:  (a) everybody; (b) ladder faculty only;  (c) all faculty; (d) all graduate students. To keep these lists out of the hands of spammers, the addresses for the lists are not listed here; however, they are members-only lists, so that only members can send mail to the list. Ask the Front Office Coordinator to give the addresses to you, or you will see them in your Outlook listings under Linguistics.  Be sure to ask the FOC to subscribe you if for some reason you have been left off.  (Keep in mind that you can only send mail from the address you've been subscribed under; if you use a different address your message will bounce back to the list administrator for approval.)


Comments and Feedback

If you used this page and thought of something that should be included here, please let us know.  You can address your comment to a member of the department's Web Site Committee, who will appropriately forward it.