Sections 6-8

 

SECTION 6. TERM TESTS  

6.1 Administration of Tests
The administration of tests during term is the responsibility of the instructor, the Course Coordinator or the academic unit, depending on the unit and/or course. The administration of final examinations is the responsibility of the Office of the Faculty Registrar. (There is one exception: final exams given in June at the end of F courses in the Summer are handled by instructors and academic units; speak to your UG Administrator if this is your situation.) 

6.2 Testing Space
Most term tests take place in your regular class space. If your regular classroom is inadequate for tests, e.g. it may have tiered seating or not allow sufficient spacing between students to prevent cheating, you may request additional or alternative space through your Undergraduate Administrator or Associate Chair, who can make arrangements with the Office of the Faculty Registrar.  Another option is to consider alternative ways of giving the test to achieve appropriate security and avoid the possible confusion for students assigned to a different venue than usual:  if your test is multiple choice, you may wish to generate sets of tests that present the questions in a different order with a key to allow you to mark each version accordingly.

6.3 Scheduling Tests Outside Class Hours
To the extent possible, you should schedule term tests your during normally-scheduled class hours to prevent conflicts with students’ other obligations and other colleagues’ courses.  The Dean’s Office considers legitimate only two reasons for holding tests outside regular class hours (other than make-up tests):  i) a multi-sectioned course requires a common testing time to administer a common test; ii) the regularly scheduled classroom is not an adequate testing space and no other suitable room is available at that time.

If necessity requires you to schedule your test outside the normal meeting hours of one or all of your course’s sections, you may request classroom or testing space through your Undergraduate Administrator or Associate Chair, who can make the arrangements with the OFR.

The Faculty has a number of rules for scheduling term tests outside your normally-scheduled class hours:

  • You must announce such test dates and times at the beginning of the course to allow a student to make arrangements to accommodate this extra obligation.
  • If a student has a conflict between a course holding a test outside its normal class hours and a test or required obligation for a class regularly scheduled into that hour, the regularly-scheduled academic obligation has precedence. The course with the irregularly-scheduled test must accommodate the student in some appropriate way.

The student may be given access to a test make-up opportunity, as relevant. Or the instructor with the irregularly-scheduled test may allow the student to start early or finish late to accommodate the regularly-scheduled test, or the instructors in the two courses may work out a reasonable compromise by staggering the start and end times of both tests to allow the student to go directly from one to the other and not lose the full time needed for both tests. In a multi-party arrangement, it is important that all parties be aware of any agreement between instructors and the student. Note: The instructor with the irregularly-scheduled test should be responsible for negotiating any arrangement that includes the instructor of the regularly-scheduled course; this should not be left to the student.

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6.4 Contingencies for Emergencies
If you are conducting a formal test in your course, prudence suggests you prepare in advance for some possible emergencies, so at least you will know how to handle them and what to tell the class, especially if your class is large and TAs are invigilating. Some contingencies to consider are: a fire alarm, a disruptive or ill student, a temporary external disruption, a power failure. The aim is to handle the emergency in an orderly way by minimizing the opportunities for collusion or copying, so you don’t have to discard the test.

6.5 Conduct During Tests
How you conduct your term tests is left to your discretion. The protocols used by the Exams Office for final examinations may provide you with some useful guidance. They have been developed through long experience and your students may already be used to them:

  • No unauthorized aids in the exam room, including – or especially – cell phones.
  • Exception: electronic devices may be turned off and “quarantined” in a bag (ziplock or paper) under the desk.
  • All books, bags and backpacks to be left to the side of the room or under desks, not in or on desks.
  • No unaccompanied washroom breaks.
  • Disruptions from invigilators moving about or chatting kept to a minimum.
  • No leaving the exam room during the interval before the end of the exam.
  • No writing beyond the signal to stop.
  • Clear instructions about bringing tests forward or waiting to have them picked up.

A calm, orderly, secure testing room is the best environment for all concerned. Clear, definite instructions, sensibly enforced, are one of the best ways to ensure that this occurs.

You should also warn students about securing their personal effects during tests, such as purses, wallets and laptops. Such things have been stolen from test and exam rooms in the past, and so some reasonable protocol is advised that allows the students to protect their property but ensures no access to unauthorized aids, for example placing personal effects face down under the seat.

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SECTION 7: MISSED TERM WORK OR TESTS

7.1 Accommodating Legitimate Absences
Managing your courses will be much easier if you have a clear, well-thought-out policy on excusable absences and any relevant documentation required of students, policies that you communicate clearly to your students in your syllabus. You should apply these consistently and fairly; however, this does not mean you are not able to make exceptions in individual cases for legitimately exceptional circumstances. There are some limits to the range of your own course policies, as will be explained below.

It is the Faculty’s policy that students who miss classes, for legitimate reasons or otherwise, are responsible for making up the missed material. They should not expect you or your TAs to re-teach them the material.

7.2 Timelines
A student who misses a test, lab or assignment deadline should come forward to the appropriate person in the course as soon as possible, and no later than one week after
returning to class. Normally this means within one week of the test, lab or deadline; however, the student’s reason for absence may extend beyond one week, and so the student is expected to come forward as soon as possible. Prudence suggests the student should notify the instructor by email if the absence is extended in this way.

If the student does not come forward with one week, the instructor or the academic unit may consider a request to extend the deadline, but is under no obligation to do so.

7.3 Documentation
You may require documentation of absences from class for medical, personal, family or other unavoidable reasons. You should publish your expectations in your syllabus. You should not expect to receive or give students the impression they must reveal personal medical information such as diagnoses, treatments, etc.  If you require verification of illness, injury or other relevant personal issues, you should accept any of the 4 types of medical documentation deemed “official” by the Faculty:

    • UofT Verification of Illness or Injury Form: This form, available to students online, is restricted to a select group of medical practitioners and provides responses to the relevant questions about the absence.
    • Student Health or Disability Related Certificate: A streamlined variant of the UofT Verification of Illness or Injury Form provided by our own internal doctors who can vouch for health problems without so many details.
    • A College Registrar’s Letter:  This is a letter that only senior College Registrarial staff are authorized to write. It should identify itself as a “College Registrar’s Letter.” You should trust it as equivalent to the UofT Verification of Illness or Injury Form, reflecting the judgement and experience of the senior staff whom we designate for this purpose. Such a letter is likely when the student has extensive personal difficulties or when a situation or condition affects a number of courses. If you receive such a letter about a student, you should accept it as sufficient documentation and not expect to see further specific information.
    • Accessibility Services Letter: This sort of letter may address needed accommodations or document on-going disability issues that have made absence or lateness unavoidable. Instructors should assume students presenting such a letter are being advised by AccServ staff on managing their workload appropriately. (See Section 13)

The Faculty does not insist you require medical documentation for absences; that is left to you as part of your course management. Any policy you articulate should at least cover the range of problems and circumstances any group of decently conscientious students might be expected to encounter, and you are entitled to expect your students to behave responsibly, especially if you tell them what you expect. The standard of “reasonableness” for any rule or practice you institute will be that your UG Chair or Program Director, or perhaps eventually the Dean’s Office, thinks it reasonable and fair when a student appeals. But there is no one practice that is mandated for all.

Important Note: If you do require and collect documentation, remember that these contain sensitive personal information collected under FIPPA rules, and so must be treated as containing confidential information, stored securely for one year and then destroyed in a secure manner.

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7.4 Make-up Tests
Pedagogical best practice suggests that regular assessment and meaningful feedback are conducive to learning, and so a situation where too much of a student’s final mark is based on the final exam is to be avoided. Where possible, an opportunity to write a make-up test should be provided to students who miss a term test for legitimate reasons.

As the Faculty expects these best practices to inform most situations, it has formulated its make-up test rules in the form of general principles with specific exceptions:

General Principles:

  • If a student misses a test for reasons acceptable to the instructor, where practicable a make-up opportunity should be offered to the student.
  • Where either the student’s circumstances or the instructor’s difficulty in composing an effective test makes a make-up test unreasonable, the instructor may allocate the percentage weight of the test to any combination of the remaining term work and/or the final exam.
  • If the student misses the remaining term work/tests for acceptable reasons, the full percentage weight of the missed work may be allocated to the final exam.
  • No student is automatically entitled to a second make-up test opportunity.

Exceptions:

  • If a missed term test is the only marked work in the course aside from the final exam, an initial make-up opportunity normally must be given, regardless of the difficulties in creating a make-up test.
  • As an initial accommodation for a legitimate absence, the weight of a final exam in a 100-series course may not be increased beyond 80%. However, if the student misses the make-up opportunity or subsequent test that was re-weighted to accommodate the first missed test, then the weight of the final exam may be increased beyond 80%.
  • If the weight of a final exam in any course is increased beyond 80%, the instructor should ensure the student is advised about appropriate strategies for handling such a heavily-weighted exam, either by the instructor, a TA, or the student’s College Registrar.

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7.5 Religious Obligations
The University has a general policy on accommodating absences for reasons of religious obligation, strongly articulated on the Provost’s webpage:

“Please note that the obligation not to discriminate on the basis of religion (“creed”) is a statutory duty arising from the Ontario Human Rights Code. It carries with it the obligation to accommodate religious requirements where doing so does not cause undue hardship to the University. For example, accommodation normally requires that scheduled graded term work or tests conflicting with religious requirements be adjusted by providing similar evaluation on alternate dates. ” 

The policy does not differentiate among religions or single out particular dates as the only ones to accommodate, although some commonly-observed dates are given as examples on the Provost’s site. As noted above, since it is based on the Human Rights Code, the standard for reasonable accommodation is higher in these cases than with other absences such as medical ones, for which one might shift the weight of the test to another assessment under the usual principle of “academic reasonableness.” (In fact the standard of “undue hardship” generally means that the University would go bankrupt if it complied – a difficult position to maintain.) A student may accept a lesser accommodation, but cannot be required to accept less than the Code obliges us to provide.

Students are expected and may be required to give reasonable advanced notice of their absence, since the dates for observances are usually predictable. Instructors may handle the accommodation by providing the same test or a different test at a time that does not conflict with the obligatory absence. The standard likely to be applied to the timing is what is “fair and reasonable.”

SECTION 8:   EXTENSIONS & LATE TERM WORK

8.1 Late Penalties
Of course, instructors are not obliged to accept late work, except where there are legitimate, documented reasons beyond a student’s control, such as medical issues. In such cases, a late penalty is normally not appropriate. However, many instructors are willing to accept late work provided a penalty is applied to the mark. If this is your intention, you must publish your late penalty policy in your syllabus so students can guide themselves accordingly.

A clear extension/late penalty policy appropriate to the course, communicated to students on the syllabus and consistently applied, is a best practice. You are allowed wide latitude in how you handle this, subject only to the usual academic appeal standard of “fair, equitable and reasonable.” 

Students will be expecting to hear your rules and expectations on late work, penalties, absolute deadlines, etc. You will find it helpful later if you can connect these to your pedagogical objectives in the explanations you provide at the beginning of the course. This is particularly the case should you have an absolute deadline beyond which you will not accept work, even with a penalty.

8.2 Exceptions & Consistency
You may certainly make exceptions to your own rules, i.e. you needn’t be inflexible or rigidly consistent for lateness you think is justified or excusable, particularly for lateness beyond a student’s control. However, fairness to students usually includes appropriate consideration for those other students who have exerted themselves to meet your deadline. Also, multiple extensions tend to create a pile-up of outstanding work for a student, and so may not be as helpful as the student thinks. A student encountering trouble completing assignments may benefit from some advising from a College Registrar or from the Academic Success Centre. Feel free to make a referral if the student appears not to be handling things well.

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8.3 Extensions for Term Work after Classes End
Instructors have available to them an “informal extension period” they may use to grant individual students extensions beyond the last day of classes. You should normally limit such informal extensions to a date that allows you to still mark the work and submit your final course marks on time. In extraordinary circumstances, you may grant an informal extension up to five (5) business days after the end of the Final Exam Period.  (When a term ends in December, the five-day count begins starting the first day the University re-opens in January.) Extensions beyond the end of the Final Exam Period must be requested by a formal petition (as below in 8.4).

When you are submitting all your other course marks in cases where you have granted an informal extension beyond that point but before the end of the Exam Period, you should submit the student’s course mark with a 0%  mark factored in for the missing piece. When you have later graded the work, you submit an amended mark reflecting the marked assignment using the Amended Marks function of the e-Marks system. Consult your UG Administrator about this procedure for this, if necessary.

Note that instructors are under no obligation to grant such informal extensions. They are simply authorized to do so if they think an informal extension is warranted. If an instructor refuses an informal extension, the student may appeal by filing a petition for a formal extension.

8.4 Extensions for Term Work after "Informal Extension Period"
If a student requires an extension beyond the five (5) business days after the end of the Final Examination Period, he or she MUST submit a formal petition through their College Registrar.  Instructors do not have the authority to grant extensions beyond this deadline, but you may make a recommendation to your UG Coordinator about the petition if you so choose.  Keep in mind there may be dimensions to a student's problems that are not known to an instructor but which may come out in a petition or appeal.  The most stress-free approach to petitions for extensions, when you have denied an informal one, is to assume those deciding the request or appeal may have received more or different information from the student than information you have seen, and just accept their decision in that light. 

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