What you need to know:
- Syllabi must specify methods of evaluation
- Flexible and transparent contingency plans may be included
- Communication with students is essential
With continuing uncertainty about the duration of the UAW strike, questions arise about how to plan for beginning Winter quarter instruction under strike conditions. As noted in previous communications, the Academic Senate and faculty are not involved in the negotiations between the UAW and the University of California administration. Faculty possess customary discretion and autonomy to adapt courses to strike circumstances while honoring Academic Senate regulations and departmental policies. While we cannot offer one-size-fits-all guidance, we write today to clarify options related to Winter quarter syllabus planning. (For questions related to Fall quarter grading and grade submission, please see our earlier message.)
Senate regulations require instructors to announce their methods of evaluation at the beginning of the quarter in the course syllabus. These regulations aim to give students a clear understanding of what to expect. But for many courses, logistics and evaluation methods will vary depending on the extent of TA support. Instructors can reconcile the need to communicate expectations to students with uncertainty about strike duration in various ways:
- A syllabus could specify evaluation methods based on normal expectations, but note explicitly that implementation will depend on factors including available labor. For example, the course grade could be based partly on a major writing assignment due on a specific date, but with details about the nature of the assignment (page length, etc.) to be specified later.
- Alternatively, a syllabus could specify more than one evaluation plan, contingent on when full TA support becomes available. For example, discussion section participation could be included as part of the final grade if (say) the strike ends before the fourth week of the quarter.
- The course and evaluation methods could be structured in ways robust to the presence or absence of TA support. For example, instructor-led sessions could be repurposed for active learning, using the “flipped classroom” model in which students view pre-recorded lectures on their own, and use class time to divide into small groups for discussion or problem solving. Or students could be asked to comment and offer feedback on each other’s work, either asynchronously via Bruin Learn or in small groups in class.
- Some instructors have been advised to prepare two syllabi, detailing expectations with and without TA support. While this may be useful as a preliminary planning exercise, students should ultimately be given a single syllabus, with appropriate flexibility as noted above. In assessing where flexibility is needed, instructors should bear in mind the complexities that may arise from a mid-quarter settlement and from having some but not all TAs working during the strike.
Instructors should choose the approach that is best for their specific course, in alignment with departmental policies – this is likely to differ across fields. In all cases, students must be evaluated based on their mastery of course material, and instructors should communicate methods of evaluation as clearly as possible. Senate Regulation A-332 requires that “(e)valuation methods must be of reasonable duration and difficulty, and must be in accord with applicable department policies.” Finally, it is important to treat all students equitably. For example, students assigned to a TA who is on strike should not be evaluated differently, or have different learning opportunities, than students whose TA is not on strike.
Instruction in the Absence of TA Support
Instructors may adjust coursework and assessments, subject to department guidance and policy. The impact of the strike is particularly challenging in large classes, classes in which TA-led discussion sections offer the primary opportunities for student engagement, and classes where TA feedback allows students to assess their own learning. Strategies instructors may consider include:
- Moving discussion sections to remote may allow more student access. For undergraduate classes, a hybrid format with remote lab/studio/discussion sections may be continued post-strike as long as there is at least 1 hour of pedagogically significant in-person contact with the instructor of record each week, not including office hours or time spent in exams, per the Undergraduate Fully Online Course Approval Policy (PDF).
- Undergraduate or other workers may be hired as course assistants to help with grading (see APM-420). Appropriate consideration should be given to qualifications and necessary monitoring.
While we emphasize options here, we recognize that instructors likely hold a range of views about the appropriateness of various measures in relation to the strike.
Communication is Key
Even with the best advance planning, communication with students remains essential. As they expressed during the Fall Quarter, undergraduate students may be balancing values they experience as competing, such as commitment to their own education and support for graduate student welfare. Ongoing communication will benefit instructors and students alike, particularly about any changes to course expectations or procedures. Communicating through multiple channels may be optimal: announcing issues related to expectations in class allows students to ask questions; making the same announcement via Bruin Learn makes it available to all students for ongoing reference. The benefits of clarity will likely outweigh the costs of redundancy.
As noted in previous campus communications and the systemwide update (PDF), most faculty have the right to honor strikes, and instructors may decline to pick up struck work. We also have the obligation and commitment to further the University of California’s educational mission. Individual instructors will continue to find themselves weighing these considerations in different ways. We as Academic Senate leaders cannot tell you what decisions are best for your particular class. We hope clarification of these options will support your professional judgment in determining how to best to support the education of your students and the mission of UCLA.
Chair, Undergraduate Council
Chair, Graduate Council
Chair, UCLA Academic Senate
Vice Chair/Chair-Elect, Academic Senate
Immediate Past Chair, Academic Senate
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