Canadian Mathematical Society
Canadian Mathematical Society
  location:  Education

Informal University Teaching Reports (1995)

Queen's University -- Simon Fraser University -- University of Calgary -- Mt Allison University -- University of Manitoba -- University of Ottawa -- McGill University -- Brock University -- University of Halifax -- University of Victoria -- University of British Columbia -- Université de Montréal
Queen's University

The average teaching load is almost exactly two full courses per year. This means that the average faculty member teaches six hours per week, plus often at least one scheduled tutorial hour. The average teaching load used to be higher, about two and a half rather than two, as little as five years ago. To achieve this reduction we have decreased the number of sections in elementary courses and (to some extent) decreased the number of third and fourth year course. One of our elementary courses is taught to a section of 420 students. The size of our first year sections is in some cases limited by the unavailability of large lecture theatres rather than pedagogical concern.

To run courses with sections that large, we have a much more elaborate support system than we used to provide. Assignments and exams in our big first year calculus course for sciences students are prepared by an instructor who coordinates the course but does none of the teaching. Other faculty members as well as graduate students provide office hours and tutorials and participate in the marking of exams, again without necessarily being involved in the teaching. We estimate the weight of their involvement, and count it as part of their teaching load. This work is therefore included in the teaching load estimate given above. Our move to very large sections is also supported by the involvement of the Univesity's instructional development centre. We are currently experimenting with different ways of handling regular assignments, with tests that examine a student's mastery of technical material, and with "interactive class notes". The latter consists of class notes with unanswered questions.

Our teaching load is differentially distributed. A few faculty members, who are not active in research, teach three courses year 'round. In some cases, for particularly active people with several graduate student, the load is down to one and a half course per year ( one course one term, two the other ). In one case the teaching load has been put at one. Of course those involved in a lot of administrative work also teach less than the normal load. When I review the Dean's reports in the early spring, I also receive from the chair of undergraduate studies an estimate of the number of person-sections we will need for the coming year. I them assign tentative course loads and give them to the chair of undergraduate studies, who uses them as a basis for course assignments.

I hope this information is useful to you.

Leo Jonker

Simon Fraser University

Class sizes: Our class sizes vary from under 10 to around 400. We do not teach multiple sections. We have recently agreed that first and second year courses with less than about 15 students will usually be cancelled, that 300 and 400 with less than about 10 will be cancelled and grad courses with less than about 5 will be cancelled. I have so far cancelled only one course. At the same time we have moved to a 2-year course schedule so that students will be able to plan their course needs around the program. I am optimistic that we will have no more cancellations. One of our difficulties is that in course planning we must allow for three trimesters, a strong co-op program, an evening program, and a very flexible program (students are accustomed to having a large variety of course-semester options) all of which means that we have few cohort groups of students and students. It's difficult as courses offerings have decreased but hopefully the 2-year schedule will make-up for any itinial loss of flexibilty.

Teaching assignemnts: Even though class sizes vary so much this is not taken into much account when making the assignments other than to try and share the large courses amongst as many people as possible. Rather we address the class size by the level of teaching support for the instructor. For all of the very large first and second year classes (about 40 of these a year) there is a workshop available to support the students and each workshop (there are four regular workshops each having 3 or 4 courses assigned to it each semester and one specifically for computer instruction support) has a full-time lab instructor who gives enormous student support and takes care of most administrative duties associated with the course. There are also many teaching assistants for these course and most of their training and supervision is carried out by the LI. We are also still able to provide graders and/or teaching assistants for tutorials for all courses of at least 20 students (40 for TA lad tutorials). The end result is that for faculty there is not too much difference in workload between courses. (Workload, asalways, is more a factor of how much the faculty member puts into the course.)

The initial assignments are done as follows. Faculty receive a questionnaire on which they indicate their preferences. The Departmental Assistant and I then make an assigment which is sent to faculty members for approval and then after a little rearranging we are done. In making the assignment we count contact hours. Most courses are 3 hours (grad courses are 4 - and we offer between 15 and 20 grad courses each year) and if a faculty member teaches the tutorial that also counts as an hour. It is assumed that each faculty member has a commitment of 6 hours in each of two trimester (our courses are all one trimester=13 weeks long) and if the assignment made is above or below 6 hours the faculty member's "account" either decreases or increases. (We are working to get all accounts in the range from -4 (dept owes faculty member) to +2 (faculty member owesdepartment).) There are other ways for faculty members to earn credits: there is one hour for each graduated graduate student at the time he/she graduates, there are 2 hours each for chairing graduate and under- graduate studies cttee (in many depts these tasks are done by associate chairs - of which we have none), there are 6 hours for the department chair (ie I have a half teaching load), up to 6 hours can be distributed annually for "special research and administrative responsibilities (eg. NSERC cttee work), and another 6 hours for curriculum design etc. (The chair decides on how these additional hours wil be distributed.) Some of these hours, at the faculty members discretion (and availability of funds), could be "traded" for small research grants. It is an open system and all information on how the assignments are made is available to everyone. We have just started this system and my guess is that the average number of cantact hours per faculty member will be between 9.5 and 10. Previously it was between 9.3 and 9.6. (If I recall correctly this average was only taken over faculty actually teahcing (eg not counting those on leave or sabbatical).) By the way, we do give lesser assignemnts to new faculty (6 hours in first year and 9 in second -although this could vary based on contractual agreements in recruiting or if the individual held a special appointment eg Shrum Chair).

We are trying to create an environment where each person contributes in the way best suited and we recognise a variety of contributions as valuable to the deprtment (outreach activities, working closely with students, teaching, research, administrative duties, consulting).

University of Calgary

Here is some indication of the nature of teaching assignments and teaching loads at Calgary.

Class Sizes:

The large first year courses are split into several sections which are in the range of 90-120 students. There are also a couple of smaller first year courses. One is a numeracy course which may be adopted for students training as elementary school teachers, and another is a remedial course offered by the Faculty of Continuing Education on a cost recovery basis. In second year typical enrollments for core courses are 40-70 students. Some second year service courses have sections as large as for first year. A number of more specialized second year courses run with about 20 students. Senior classes typically see smaller enrollments with 10-20 in third year and some honours/graduate courses offered in the past to a minimum of 3 students.

Budget cuts that will result in downsizing of the Department will force the large first year class sizes up, but this is to some extent limited by the availability of large lecture theatres. In future more courses will be scheduled on a two or three year cycle. (It is already not uncommon to have a faculty member offer a senior course extra-to-load as a reading course.) The department is in the middle of a review of its course offerings and a number of courses in some specialities may have to be dropped, or the minimum number of students for which a course will be run raised.

Instructors in the larger first and second year courses have some assistance from graduate students and senior undergraduate students hired to lead some of the tutorials (which are kept to about 30 students) and to mark assignments and quizzes. The standard practice is for instructors to take at least one tutorial (with the attached marking). All marking of term tests and final exams has been done by the instructors of the course. The large first year courses have an assigned coordinator who prepares information sheets, some suggested assignments, and is responsible for preparing the common final examinations in consultation with the other instructors. There is also an open tutorial drop in center which is staffed by faculty, graduate and undergraduate tutors. The length of time the center for a given course is open is a function of the course enrollment as well as the budget situation for a given term.

The description above holds for the Fall and Winter terms (14 weeks each) when most of the instruction is done. There also exist Spring (May-June) and Summer (July-August) Sessions where a limited number of courses are offered through the Faculty of Continuing Education. This operation is not viewed as part of the normal teaching function of the department, but we retain control of who is appointed to instruct mathematics and statistics courses, and our faculty may teach there for extra remuneration or (with permission) as a part of the normal teaching requirement.

Teaching Assignments:

The normal load for regular faculty is 4 half-courses per year. We have some full-time instructors for whom the normal load is 7 half-courses (3 in each of Fall and Winter and 1 in Spring-Summer). A very small number of the 45 regular faculty, whose rate of scholarly publication is in decline, have undertaken an increased load (6 half courses). A number of people carry a reduced load because of administrative and service commitments to the department. (The head carries a 1/2 load, the three division chairpersons and the director of Graduate Studies a 3/4 load, and the Assistant Head, who handles the details of course scheduling, hiring of graders and tutors, transfer credit, etc. carries a 1/2 load.) In the past course coordinators for large multisectioned courses have had a half course teaching credit, but this is likely to end because of the budget cuts and a move to less structured coordination. No teaching credit is given as recognition for graduate student supervision, research status, or service on committees. Sometimes we are able to give release time from a tutorial or to provide extra marking in recognition of significant contributions. Unless a reduction is stipulated by an external granting agency, no reduction in teaching load is given to new faculty members. (However, they are not asked to carry out service on committees, etc. in the first years here.) We are given no funds to hire sabbatical replacements. This means that there is variation in flexibility when planning the teaching schedule. Several times in the past we have been able to we can provide some teaching release to faculty members who are involved in special projects such as curriculum development.

A half-course normally consists of 3-4 hours of lecture plus one or more tutorial hours. The assistant head polls the department members to find out their preferances, and then draws up a tentative schedule in consulation with the division chairs and the head. It is understood that normally each faculty member is given a section of a large first year course each term, and these usually involve extra tutorial responsibilities, so the normal number of contact hours per term is 9-10.

Mt Allison University

Average teaching load in our dept is exactly 2 and a half courses (5 one semester courses)-- our contract equates teaching load with work load and specifies that all faculty within a dept must have the same average workload. In fact, nonresearchers in the university usually contribute in other ways and so workloads (at least in our dept ) are not wildly uneven.

Our dean is hinting that our teaching load will increase to 3 full courses for everyone.

Faculty are normally assigned both lower and upper level courses. The rationale is that lower level courses often require less preparation (not always of course) but involve office hours with many more students coming for help, and exam and test marking is a big task. Upper level courses are more fun to teach, can require a lot of preparation, assignment marking can be time consuming, but exam marking is not such a tremendous task. The only sectioned courses are first year calculus (sections of about 120) and finite math (about 100). First year computer science courses have labs which are run by the course instructor. Our largest class is an intro cs course which we cut off at 200. Upper level courses can be run with as few as 5 or 6 honours students, although in recent years, course offerings have been cut back as we lose faculty and so these numbers have increased. Actually this is quite a problem, since a course which is intended for an honours audience may now include students who are far from honours students and both halves of the audience suffer.

University of Manitoba

Applied Math at U of Manitoba has small courses, large (over 100) courses, and a few medium courses. This year I have managed to give four halves to everyone but two persons not doing research and especially good teachers, who got five. I tried to give everyone a mix of large and small mostly in accordance with their requests.

University of Ottawa

1. Class sizes: They range from under 10 to 350. In 93-94 we had 9 over 20 and 17 between 100 and 200. We offer courses in 3 sessions (we have a Coop program) with a total of 7500 registrations. All first and second year classes are given in English and in French. A student must be able to complete all has or her compulsory courses in the language of his or her choice.

Our classes ar enot divided into smaller sections, the size is limited by the unavailibility of large classrooms. Some fourth-year classes with an enrollment smaller than 3 are cancelled.

2. Support: We have a Help Center for all first year Calculus and Linear Algebra sections, the Center is staffed by bilingual graduate or upper level undergrads. All first-year classes have a weekly multiple choice test. Support for marking assignments is very limited in other courses.

3. Teaching loads: Courses = 3h a week per term (one or 2 are 4h a week). - The teaching load is 4 courses a year if professor has "demonstrable" research activity usually thru grants from NSERC or SSHRC. Others and term appointees have 5 courses a year. This latter group = less than one third of dept.

- There is no teaching relief for large classes or graduate supervision or Committee work. However all these factors are taken into account in assigning courses.. e.g. in assigning what is known here as "plum courses"... - Chair, Undergrad. Chair, Grad Chair: half load - if there are several sabbaticals at reduced salsries: sometimes the Dean would give the Dept. part of the salary for sessionals. (For sabbaticals: professors can take 6 month or 12 month sabb. and each year of service gives a credit of 12.5% of sabbatical: after 6 years one can get a 75% salary sabb; after 8 years a 100% salary sabb.)

- One can decide group teaching in any 2 of the 3 terms.

4. How are courses assigned?

In January, the Undergrad Chair and Chair meet with students with a preliminary list of courses for the following year. The students have 2 weeks to make any additions or suggestions. At the beginning of February, professors are given a list and timetable and asked to give their preferences: 1st choice, 2nd choice and "if I must". It is understood that everyone must include a few of the large sections -- service courses.

The Chairman then arrive at some assignment after several iterations and meetings with each individual. In May, the Dean sends a letter to each professor informing him or her of his or her teaching a load and admin. duties with a complete list of the loads of colleagues in the Dept.

McGill University

In our deparment at McGill the average teaching load is about 2 courses per term. However individual teaching loads may be as low as 1 and 1 (for the chair) or as high as 3 and 3 for individuals who are not involved in research or substantial scholarly activity and also do not have major administrative tasks. The Chairmanship of a major Committee (in particular the Committee on Undergraduate Affairs and the the Committee on Graduate Affairs) involvement in Grant Selection Committees or other major administrative tasks bring a reduction of the course load of 1 course. Particularly heavy involvement in thesis supervision also may bring a load reduction. One tries to be fair and rotate this around. Loads are of course subject to the constraint of the total number of courses which we need to, or want to, teach.

The assignment of courses involves many steps: meetings between interested staff in different areas, letters to the chair concerning "wishes", individual consultation, and many iterations of assignments and reassignments. The course assignments ultimately are done by the Chair and take quite a lot of time.

Class sizes vary from 2 or 3 to 350. Our single variable calculus is taught in classes of 200 on average, with tutorials of 30-35 run by graduate student tutors. Many other service courses are run in classes of 70 (with the help of "Conference leaders" in the Engineering courses.) We try to keep undergraduate courses above 10 (preferably well above that number). This means that we are alternating more courses from one year to the next and in some cases run dual major\honours courses with the same lectures but parallel assignments and exams. Graduate courses may have smaller enrolments (below 5 in some cases). Some of the more advanced courses may have a small number of enrolled students but attract colleagues and postdocs as well; this is regarded very favourably. There has in recent years been a conscious and sometimes successful effort to coordinate the offerings at different Universities in the City to avoid duplication and offer greater variety.

Brock University

Most of our courses are 4 hours per week. The larger couses, among the service couses would have 200-400 students in the classrooms, we run tutorials, say 50 per section. We have faculty members who have much smaller classes to do those tutorials. A faculty member would teach two couses + 1 tutorial, i.e. 9 hours per week for each. I teach one course + 1 tutorial. If too many sections of tutorials, we would hire some math major seniors to do the markings and tutorials. Some service courses have computer labs, we generally have some senior students to do those. These extra hirings are under the part-time budget, which approved by our Dean. Years ago we were talking about graduate study in Math. Our subcommittee still not quite reaches their conclusion as yet. Even they do, I don't see it will receive favourable consideration by the provincial graduate council at the present time. I hope I have cover every thing. Tough times will meet with poorer services, i.e. some summer and evening offerings have to be cut.

University of Halifax

We have a workload of 4 half classes per academic year. This translates to 3 teaching hrs/week for most classes and 4 for first year classes (the fourth hour is a tutorial). There are no teaching reductions for any of the other duties in the department except for Chair or Director. We have managed to keep this workload level for about a decade. Before that the teaching load was 5 half classes but then there were 3 tutorial hrs for the first year classes and they counted as an extra class. Also many duties carried a half course reduction in the teaching load.

We have many classes taugh by none permanent faculty (approx 16 half classes out of 75) but the dean has allowed us to hire 3 Post Docs each year (for the last 4 years and for the forseeable future) so as to have cheap teaching but at the same time add new research blood to the Division.

The number of classes taught by part-time people has been decreasing (slowly). We hired one person last year and will be hiring one person this july. [The Dean forced to choose that person last year and have him here as a Post Doc this year.]

University of Victoria

I. Teaching Evaluation Procedures

Evidence of satisfactory teaching must be provided by each faculty member on an annual basis. The method need not be by Student Evaluation, but most faculty members choose that method.

Student Evaluation of Teaching is done on a form available to all faculty (form attached). The results of the three questions are provided to instructors on the Summary form. All evaluations are looked over by the Chair. No attempt is made to provide an analysis of the comments. The original forms along with the Summary are returned to instructors.

Student Evaluation of teaching is usually done about a week before the end of classes. In each class, a student is appointed to distribute and collect the forms (in the absence of the instructor) and return them to the Chair.

The Summaries are used for recommendations for salary adjustments. For merit increases, the weighting of research/teaching/other contributions is about 40%/40%/20%. Merit increases, and even Basic Adjustments can be withheld (all or in part) based on poor teaching evaluations.

II. Teaching Assignment Procedures

There is a three-tier teaching load based on the following criteria:

Category                                Load                 Number
(i) NSERC grant holder            4 semester courses            16
(ii) No NSERC grant but doing     5 semester courses            10
research and publishing
(iii) Not publishing                  6 semester courses           2

Total - 28
The Chair has a 2-semester course load and the Graduate Advisor has a one semester course load reduction.

Class Sizes

In 1993-94, there were 120 course sections taught by the Department.

Class Size   -   No.   -   Percent
9 or less - 16 - 13.3
10-19  -  8  -  6.7
20-29  -  14  -  11.7
30-39  -  12  -  10.0
40-49  -  16  -  13.3
50-59  -  23  -  19.2
60-69  -  21  -  17.5
70-79  -   6  -   5.0
80-99  -   1  -   0.8
100-149 -  1  -   0.8
150-199 -  2  -   1.7
The average class size in 1993-94 was 44.
University of British Columbia

At UBC teaching loads: 2 courses per term (6 hours/week, 7 if one course is first year calculus) with relief for major administrative work, e.g. undergrad and grad chairs

class size: first year - 90 to 100 except 2 classes - 250, 2 classes - 160,
				  TA sections - 30
    second year - 40 to 60
    third year - 15 - 40 with a few exceptions
    fourth year - 5 to 48 averaging about 15
    grad courses - 3 to 11
budget cuts at this point means loss of positions.
Université de Montréal

Operation of the math and stat dept at the Universite de Montreal:

The regular teaching load is four semester courses. I am deciding the assignment of courses (after consultation with the colleagues)

Our department has the equivalent of six positions (4 courses each at CRM) and the equivalent of two positions for the consulting unit in statistics. I call for proposals for courses, for research projects at CRM and for release to the consulting unit. People usually go at the CRM for 1/4 or 1/2 of their time, meaning that they are released of one or two courses. Similarly for the consulting unit. Apart from that six professors have a release of one course for being responsible

  • of the undergraduate program
  • of the graduate program in maths
  • of the graduate program in stat
  • of the actuarial program
  • one is director of the Seminaire de mathematiques superieures
  • one is responsible of the proceedings of the seminar.
As a chair, I teach one or two courses depending of years. In the Quebec's system our bachelor degree consists of three years.

Although we do not teach to engineers nearly half of our teaching is service courses (not in number of courses but sum of the number of students in courses) There is no official minimum number of students in a course, but we try to keep an acceptable mean. First year courses have from 50 to 70 students and service courses from 30 to 100. A few third year courses have between 5 and 10 students. In recent years the number of undergraduate students went down and we now have a mean number of 42.26 students/course at undergraduate level and a mean number of 6.28 students/course at graduate level (around 30 courses offered yearly).

The choice of graduate courses offered is decided jointly with other math depts in Montreal inside the Institut des Sciences Mathematiques. The principle is that basic courses are offered in each dept, while duplications of advanced courses in Montreal are avoided.

Up to now we had very little cuts but 1995-96 is the first year of severe cuts. In particular 10% of the current budget will be cut and we are asked to make efforts to cut an extra 5%. Half of it is money of the TA. TA is for me a priority and I will try not to cut there, since we are really not competitive on the Canadian level as far as financing of graduate students is concerned. This means a cut of at least 20% on the other items. The main cuts will then affect the numbers of "charges de cours" (I do not know what is the English word for that!). Up to now I used to have around 30 "charges de cours" for a typical year (5-6 sabbatical). In 1995-96 I will have only 12. Considering sabbaticals, teaching relief and pre-retirement agrements the mean teaching load is around 9 credits (3 semester courses). The faculty wants the mean teaching load to increase up to 12 credits. Around 4 charges de cours are assumed by professional actuaries which can testimony of their experience on the market. I would not be surprised that these would remain my only charges de cours in 1996-97 and that all other service courses would have to be assumed by professors, through an increase in the teaching load.

The number of undergraduate students in maths and stat is decreasing for the last five years (from 600 to 400). This is part of a similar phenomenon in Quebec for all natural sciences except biology. The number of graduate students is stable around 110. 80% of the Ph.D. students in maths come from abroad. Financing them is always a problem since we pay much less for TA and we have few scholarships. Students which are not fluent in French when they arrive cannot be given TA for the first year(s).


© Canadian Mathematical Society, 2014 :