Course and Curriculum Planning

An Informal Summary of University Policies, Procedures, and Resources for Undergraduate Instruction

OID: Faculty Consultation

Course and Curriculum Planning

Designing an undergraduate course: aligning course objectives, assignments, and assesment

Setting course objectives and goals that align with course assignments and assessment tools is critical to successful course design. Instructors are well advised to develop a concrete set of objectives defining what they expect students to accomplish during their 10 weeks of study. When creating these objectives, instructors should ask themselves what they believe students should know coming into the course, as well as what they should know once the course is completed. For instance, will incoming students be expected to have prior knowledge of the subject matter or experience with specific skills? Will students have the opportunity to improve their writing skills? Will an emphasis be placed on developing critical analysis? How much technology will be implemented throughout the course? Once the course is completed, should students’ knowledge of the subject matter be limited to a set of facts or should they have the ability to apply what they have learned in situations outside of the classroom? The questions that underpin the course objectives will depend heavily on the discipline and should eventually be matched to learning activities and assessment.

Given the perceived drop-off in the academic proficiency of lower-division students, instructors face the temptation to lower their expectations of students. Most faculty members do not succumb to this temptation and have, instead, tried to present complex material in a variety of ways that can be understood by a broad range of students. Nonetheless, conflicting student needs create significant challenges for faculty when designing an effective lower-division course. More often than not, students within the same class will complain that the course materials are too advanced or too remedial. Striking the right balance requires planning that often improves with experience. Most departments maintain a file of old syllabi from previous courses, so that new faculty, or faculty teaching a course for the first time, can see how other instructors have handled any potential difficulties.

The following suggestions for course preparation and classroom operations represents the collective view experienced by a group of veteran faculty members when asked about designing an undergraduate course at UCLA.

Preparing your course

Developing a course syllabus

A course syllabus should be more than a straightforward list of topics, readings, and examination dates for a particular course, although, clearly this information is important. The best syllabi also outline the settings, conditions, expectations, and performance criteria for students in the course (see for example, Grunert 1997). Instructors should provide a syllabus on the course website, and on the first day of the course, so that students can decide with full knowledge whether they wish to stay enrolled in the course. Helpful suggestions regarding likely syllabus content are given in the attached box.

UCLA Ombuds Office Suggestions for Course Syllabi Content

Basic Information

  • Full number and title of course.
  • Full name and title of instructor.
  • Office, telephone, and e-mail contact information (and policies for use). Names and contact information of any others involved in the course, such as TAs, discussion group leaders, guest instructors, etc.
  • Web address for course (available from the divisional or departmental computer support person).

  • Day(s), time, and location of class meetings, and office hours.

Course description and goals

  • Relation of course to the discipline, the major, or the general education/honors program. Explain all prerequisites for the course, including previous courses taken or a passing score on a placement exam.

  • Objectives and rationale of the course. Inform students of what they will have gained by the end of the course. Is the purpose of the course to increase their problem-solving abilities, improve their communication skills, sharpen their understanding of moral ambiguities, or to allow them to translate knowledge from one context to another? Why are the objectives important, and how will different parts of the course help students accomplish those objectives?

  • Explanation of the instructor’s grading criteria

  • Explain the relationship between readings and lectures or class activities.

Specific list of course requirements

  • Required texts and other materials, as well as where to find these texts (e.g., UCLA Bookstore, College Reserves).

  • Class attendance and participation policies. Specify absence and excuse policies (remember that students cannot be graded on attendance unless it is a specific academic requirement). Clarity about what “class participation” means is especially important. Does it include students asking the instructor questions, answering the instructor’s questions, and/or responding to other students’ comments? Or are there other criteria?

  • Discussion, group or lab participation policies, including course website bulletin board or electronic discussion participation.

  • Computer prerequisites/skills needed.

  • External requirements: field trips, lecture or concert attendance, etc.

  • Papers or projects (and drafts of same).

  • Examinations.

  • Indication of any flexibility in the above requirements, with information about how changes are negotiated.

  • Statement regarding accommodation for students with disabilities.

Clear statement of grading system

  • Identify the number of points, or percentage of the course grade, assigned to each exam, paper, project, or assignment.

  • Clearly identify any portion of the course that is required in order to pass the course, such as taking the final exam.

  • If the course fulfills a major or general education or honors requirement, indicate what minimum grade is needed to fulfill that requirement.

  • Specify any grade consequences for missing deadlines.

  • If the class is graded on a curve, explain how the curve works.

  • Inform students about opportunities for discussing grades.

Academic integrity

Spell out the class policy regarding student academic misconduct, with specific reference to cheating and plagiarism, and consequences. If the instructor allows students to assist one another or collaborate on homework, papers, or projects, he or she should specify the limits on that collaboration. Can students hand in the same paper? How should they acknowledge the fact and degree of their collaboration? What is the difference between working together and cheating? (See “Academic Integrity” chapter.)

Course schedule

  • Give students as much specific detail as is feasible regarding class topics.

  • Provide questions to guide/focus student thinking on each topic.

  • Highlight reading assignment deadlines, draft and final paper due dates, and exam dates.

Rules regarding:

  • Classroom procedure, if relevant.

  • Use of materials, computers, or particular software in class, in labs, or during examinations.

  • Written assignments, including length, acceptability of handwritten work, citation style, and requirements of grammar and format, including punctuation and spelling, and any grading implications of neglecting these requirements.

  • Supporting material for answers or solutions on quizzes, homework, lab reports, or exams.

  • Use of e-mail or Web etiquette.

In general:

1. Be as specific as possible.

2. If students are to be held responsible for knowing about oral announcements of requirements during the course (a risky procedure), they should be forewarned in writing.

3. If changes are made in the syllabus, especially related to requirements, grading, or deadlines, these should be distributed in writing, with effort made to reach all students in the course.

4. If the faculty member, or his or her department, has a system of identifying students who do not meet prerequisites or other requirements for the course, it is well to warn them in writing that this can happen, and that it may require their disenrollment at a potentially inconvenient time. (Such notice must also be published in the Schedule of Classes.)

5. In scheduling exams or other written assignments, keep in mind that students should have an opportunity to receive some grade evaluation in the course before the deadline in case they wish to drop the class as a result (see “Counseling and Advising Students” chapter).

6. If the instructor or a colleague has recently been engaged in a time-consuming dispute with a student over a particular issue, it is worth paying attention to the contested issue in preparing future syllabi.

7. Try to make students as aware as possible of any resources that can help them in the course such as the computing commons (CLICC) in Powell (

(The UCLA Ombuds Office and the Office of Instructional Development gratefully acknowledge Robert Shelton, Ombudsperson at the University of Kansas, for granting permission to borrow heavily from his syllabus memo.)

In addition to covering the basics, the best syllabi address most, if not all, of the following questions:

Why should a student take the course?

How does the course make a difference as part of the discipline? How does it fit into the general education program, or the major? Comments by students who previously took the course can provide a useful peer view. When this idea is implemented using a course website, these comments can include small video or audio clips, although, as with all use of student names and quotations, this public use requires the acquisition (and archiving) of approval forms.

What are the objectives of the course?

Where does it lead, intellectually and practically? Students should be able to find out what they will have gained by the end of the course, and also what they will be able to do better afterwards. Is the purpose of the course to increase their problem-solving abilities, improve their communication skills, sharpen their understanding of moral ambiguities, or allow them to translate knowledge from one context to another? Why are the objectives important, and how will different parts of the course help students accomplish those objectives?

What are the prerequisites?

Students should be given some ideas about what skills they should already have before taking the course, so they can realistically assess their readiness. Will they be expected to know how to compare and contrast, to analyze and synthesize, or will they be taught those skills during the course? Similarly, will certain computer skills be assumed, or will students be taught the relevant software or web-based skills they need to know? On the course website, links can be added to on-line references of concepts, terminology, formulae, etc., which students are assumed to know and need to be able to use. On-line self-tests of required knowledge provide students with a way to assess their own readiness. If linked to self-study materials, such materials can help students fill in a few missing gaps or review concepts.

Why is the course organized in this way?

Why do the parts of the course come in the order they do? Most syllabi note the order in which topics will be discussed, but make no attempt to explain the way instructors have chosen to organize the course. Sections of the syllabus are usually titled, but only infrequently are questions provided for students to help them put the reading assignments and homework into context. The course website structure can be used effectively to present the relationships between topics and the components of the course (lectures, discussions, readings, assignments, exams, etc.)

What is the course format?

Will the course be primarily lectures, discussion, or group work? When a percentage of the grade is for class participation, what does the instructor expect from the student--regular attendance, questions, or answers to questions? Will the students be given alternative ways to achieve success in the class, based on different learning styles? Will any of the delivery or participation be in an electronic format and, if so, how will it be evaluated? The course organization and format also implies a good many expectations on the part of the instructor. The instructor should also state, in very explicit terms, the expectations with regard to: attendance, collaboration with other students, format of written assignments, correct citation practices, and the stance on student conduct in the course.

What is the purpose of the assignments?

Students are frequently told how much an assignment will count toward the final grade and how many pages long it must be, but they are rarely given any ideas about what it will demand of them or what the goal is. Will students be required to describe, discuss, analyze, provide evidence, criticize, defend, compare, apply? To what end? If students are expected to present a project to the class, are the criteria for an effective presentation made clear? Is it acceptable for students to work together on assignments? If so, under what conditions and how will the instructor grade the collaborative work? How will technology be used to submit and provide feedback on assignments?

What is the purpose of the readings?

Faculty often ask “how much is too much reading?” The answer is, “it really depends on the objectives of the reading.” In a philosophy class, one phrase in a text may constitute a whole month’s reading. In other courses, instructors may wish students to skim 50 pages for certain key points as the basis for a five minute discussion. While an instructor may have an ideal regarding a student’s workload, it is perhaps helpful to think of this in terms of the student’s likely context. Most students take 12 credits per quarter, some as many as 15. It has often been suggested that for every hour in class students should spend two hours in outside preparation. However, many students also have full-time jobs which help to pay for their schooling. While this is clearly not the choice of the instructor, it is helpful to know that many of the students in their class may lead highly complex lives, with jobs, families and other outside responsibilities. This means that they are much more likely to do the reading, if its relevance and the approach that should be taken to it are made very clear.

The easiest way to indicate these elements to students is to give them “questions to guide the reading” on the syllabus. By incorporating the answers to these questions in class, relevance is made clear, and by carefully structuring the questions the intellectual process of engaging a text in the manner of the discipline is modeled. Thus if the one phrase in philosophy generates 20 questions, the student knows he/she had better read in extreme depth and with great care. If the 50 pages only generate one question, the student knows they are looking for a general impression, or perhaps only one particular slant on a complex topic. Even students who have conscientiously done the reading may appear to the instructor not to have done so because they did not know what to look for as they read. Again, questions to guide their thinking as they read help them to participate much more freely and confidently in any ensuing class discussion.

Where possible design the course to include the course to include significant written components

Many students complain about having to write because they are nervous about their composition skills; they will not overcome this anxiety, however, unless they have to write regularly. The inclination to rely exclusively on multiple-choice and true/false examination formats is great in the largest lower-division courses. Students often prefer this format because it rewards those with good memory skills. The format does not, however, tap into the ability of students to formulate arguments, to be precise in their thinking, or to synthesize disparate and seemingly unconnected pieces of data into a logical structure. Instead, open-ended questions, calling either for short, paragraph-length answers or longer essays (either in-class or take-home essay assignments), can test these abilities and more accurately assess students understanding of the complexities of course material (see “Examination and Grading at UCLA” for details.) Students who expect fixed-choice examinations in the class tend to take notes that are highly detailed and filled with facts and figures. Those who expect lengthy writing assignments are more likely to take notes that contain broader, more analytical ideas that would conceivably assist them in developing a written argument or treatise.

Faculty report that the use of electronic mail (either in the form of listservs, bulletin boards, or virtual office hours) can add both a discussion and a writing dimension to courses. Students may need help initially in understanding what constitutes a thoughtful and appropriate posting, how their contributions will be evaluated, and what level of participation/response they should expect from the instructor and teaching assistants. The outcome can be very rewarding however, for instructor and student alike, as students seem to encounter “writer’s block” far less often when using electronic means of communication.

For more information on developing written assignments and exams, see the section "Student Writing".

What will the tests test and why were particular tests chosen?

Memory? Understanding? Ability to synthesize? To present evidence logically? To apply knowledge in a new context? How will the examinations be structured? What is their relative importance in the course and for the discipline? Is the emphasis in the course on primary or secondary materials and why? This might also be a good opportunity for the instructor to mention his or her stance toward academic dishonesty. Some instructors mention very explicitly at the outset that they photocopy all assignments turned in by students, and that requests for regrading are compared with the original submission. This statement alerts students to the fact that instructors are very careful in their documentation and grading practices.

Meet with teaching assistants (TAs) regularly to plan and review the course

Meetings with TAs before and during the course are an excellent way to achieve collective goals and to assess the progress of the course. Discussion of course procedures, TA responsibilities, grading expectations, examination construction, and the use of technology such as electronic mail and the course website, will minimize any uncertainties and ambiguities that may arise during the quarter, and ensure everything runs smoothly for everyone involved (see also the Working with Teaching Assistants section below). A separate listserv and website for use by just the instructor and teaching assistants can also assist in the sharing of materials, facilitate on-going discussion and problem solving, and improve communication throughout the course.

Selecting and ordering course textbooks and related materials

Textbooks and other course materials play a critical role in a student’s college education. They supplement and enhance classroom instruction, provide students with additional references and points of view, and are excellent review tools.


The instructor is the single most important factor in determining students’ perceptions of the value of their textbooks. The cost of textbooks has risen dramatically in recent years, and some students may opt to go without a textbook if they believe they can get the information they want and will be tested on elsewhere. It is important to consider how much of the material covered in class, referred to, and tested on, comes from textbooks when putting a book list together. Books that are not essential to the course curriculum can be placed on reserve rather than ordered by the bookstore (see “University Libraries” chapter for reserve information). Other materials may be distributed via the web, provided the appropriate copyright clearance has been obtained.

Most faculty members order their textbooks through the UCLA Store, operated by the Associated Students UCLA. Depending upon the academic department, books will then be stocked in the textbook area at one of three UCLA Store locations: Ackerman Union, LuValle Commons, or Health Sciences. Instructors should consult with their departmental textbook coordinator to find out where their textbooks will be stocked. Each Store location has one or more textbook buyers who work with faculty, publishers, and distributors. Textbook buyers have many resources with which to assist faculty members, including “Books in Print” and other databases, and publisher catalogs. Faculty members should contact the Store buyers with any questions.

Instructors are asked to submit their textbook lists by a certain date to ensure adequate time to process and order books, so that they will arrive in time for the start of classes. Lead-time is longest for Fall (the due date is in May), so that the buyers can contact faculty with questions or problems before the summer vacation. If requisitions are submitted on or before the due date, the textbook department guarantees that the books will be on the shelves by the first day of class or the students get their textbooks for free. (There are a few exceptions: the guarantee does not apply if the book is out of print or otherwise unavailable from the publisher, or if shipment is delayed by strike or natural disaster.) Faculty members who submit course requisitions on schedule receive courtesy discount cards, good for 20% off in the BookZone (general book) department of the UCLA Store, for that quarter or semester.

The UCLA Store has recently changed its requisition process from a paper-based system to an electronic one. The electronic system parallels the old paper system and uses the Store’s website ( to collect requisition information from instructors or department textbook coordinators. Instructors can look up textbook information from previous quarters and search an extensive on-line database for specific information on each title under consideration: ISBN, copyright, edition, and publisher name. Instructors are also asked to provide estimated enrollment figures. Faculty members who experience a large increase in enrollment, decide to cancel a book, or otherwise alter their book list should notify the UCLA Store immediately.

Faculty members should also consider carefully whether they will require a textbook or make it optional. Students tend to buy all required books initially and then weigh the decision to purchase optional texts, depending on the emphasis in class or their particular interest in the subject. Instructors concerned with the total cost of their books will find price information at the UCLA Store website. The UCLA Store works to secure as many used textbooks as possible to save students money.

Some instructors order their textbooks through off-campus bookstores. Faculty members should contact the individual bookstore to ask about lead time and title availability. The information needed is similar to that required by the UCLA Store. In choosing a bookstore, remember that many students do not have access to cars, so try to order books at a store as close to campus as possible. Also, instructors should include the bookstore’s name and address on their syllabus and course website.

Course readers

Sometimes instructors may want to use customized course materials, usually referred to as “course readers.” A course reader may be a compilation of materials published in various sources, a reprint of an out-of-print text, unavailable imported material, special class notes, course syllabi, lab manuals, or a prototype text. On campus, Associated Students UCLA operates the Academic Publishing service (ext. 52831, to provide course readers. Academic Publishing course readers are stocked on the textbook shelves of the UCLA Store, and Academic Publishing offers a guarantee similar to that of the textbook department, as well as the same courtesy discount card for faculty. Off-campus copy shops in Westwood also produce course readers; these suppliers generally require that students purchase their course readers at the copy shop.

An instructor putting together a course reader must consider the important issue of copyrights. Copyright infringement is a serious matter; publishers who file suit typically name the instructor as well as the copy shop. The University of California Policy and Guidelines on the Reproduction of Copyrighted Materials for Teaching and Research (April 1986) spells out “fair use” guidelines so that instructors can avoid copyright infringement. The Policy is on-line at Academic Publishing secures all copyright permissions in accordance with University policy. Faculty members who use off-campus suppliers should make sure that they do the same.

The cost of course readers varies depending upon the royalty charged by the publisher and the number of pages being reproduced. Instructors should get an estimate of the selling price before ordering multiple copies of a reader. Sometimes a single article or illustration significantly increases the cost of the reader, and in these cases an instructor may choose to put that particular item on library reserve instead of including it in the reader. Course readers, once purchased by students, are not returnable or refundable.

Media resources

A range of non-print resources are available from UCLA libraries and from the Instructional Media Collection and Services for use in classrooms, libraries, and the Instructional Media Lab. The Instructional Media Collection currently has a teaching collection of films and videos. Be sure to book the use of materials well in advance. If the required material is not available, the IMCS will order new material, if it has broad teaching application. Mini-grant funding may be used to request the acquisition or rental of items not currently available (see section on grants below). Acquisition of such materials can be a lengthy process. It is wise, therefore, to place all media requests at the same time as textbook requests are due.

Not all general assignment classrooms are equipped with the full range of projection equipment. In order to ensure the ability to show materials in a classroom, it is critical that instructors discuss their requirements with Audio Visual Services one quarter in advance so that AVS can work with the Scheduling Office to schedule the course into an equipped classroom. Last minute requests can rarely be filled.


Web-based resources for instruction

A broad range of digitized materials is as available to today’s instructor as their Internet browser. Places to look first are previous course websites in the departmental archive, College Library electronic reserves, Charles E. Young Research Library discipline-specific web pages, pages maintained by academic associations, repositories such as MERLOT, websites from other institutions of higher education with reputations for excellence in teaching the discipline, and the pages of discipline-specific publishers. In most cases, the pages themselves will make it clear what right the instructor has to copy or link to the electronic materials they wish to use for instructional purposes.

The Instructional Enhancement Initiative

The Instructional Enhancement Initiative (IEI) began in July 1997 with the goal of enhancing instruction with computer-delivered course materials and services throughout the undergraduate curriculum at UCLA. The IEI fee is a course-materials fee paid directly by students each quarter on a per credit basis for courses in the College of Letters and Science. In fall of 2003, the Henry Samueli School of Engineering followed suit and now charges their own course materials fee to support computing resources for undergraduate coursework. In 2006, the fees were $6 a unit for courses within UCLA College and $7 a unit for courses within the Samueli School of Engineering.

Course Websites

If the course has been previously taught, it is highly likely that there are archived versions of websites used for the course in previous quarters. Websites are automatically created for all courses in the College of Letters and Science and in some of the professional schools. The computing support staff in each division and department can provide instructors with information about how to update an existing course website page, or how to create one, and what functions and services are available. For example, the services for the course are likely to include a listserve, a discussion or bulletin board, and a chat room. The specific list of functions will depend on what web software the division or department is running. A good first step is for instructors to make an appointment with the local computing resource person in their department or division.

Support for instructors

Although it is easy to be enticed by the newest, slickest web page software, it is wise to start by understanding what server software is supported by the staff who will be maintaining the course website. Enthusiasm for innovation and diversity is better directed towards innovative content, enabling the instructor to focus on the course materials while technical colleagues focus on ensuring that there is a reliable and accessible website for the students and teaching assistants.

These same support staff will also explain what support is available for the scanning and creation of new materials, and the processes by which to upload files to the course website. Please refer to the chapter on “Technology and Teaching” for more information about other services available to support the integrating technology into a course.

A broad range of services is available at UCLA to support the development and use of technology in instruction. The list of technologies available to enhance instruction is quite varied, ranging from commonplace tools like e-mail and web pages, to assisted help in computer labs or involved design and production, to “teaching the teachers” with technology training. The chapter on “Technology and Teaching,” in this Guide, as well as the Office of Instructional Development’s website at, are good places for up-to-date information about support services.

Once class begins

Talk to students about the structure and logic of the course

Beginning with the syllabus, make the structure and logic of the course clear for students. Then continue to emphasize this structure every class, pointing out how each lecture, assignment, reading, or use of the course website, fits into the overall scheme. In this way, the instructor is modeling the form of their own academic discipline for students -- by teaching them how to think like someone well-versed in the field. Subsequent information, when presented to students in this or future classes, will then be absorbed much more easily into the already extant intellectual structure. Additional levels of detail can be added to the syllabus that is posted on the course website, on a week by week (or lecture by lecture) basis, to reflect this growing corpus of information within the course structure.

Make learning active

It is very tempting for students to read the Daily Bruin or write letters during a lecture if they feel that they are not accountable for their behavior. If lectures are interspersed with questions to students, it keeps them engaged in the learning process. Although a large lecture class cannot have the same type of discussion as an intimate seminar, it is still possible to involve students in a modified discussion format or engage active participation through new technologies, such as Classroom Response Systems (see “Technology and Teaching” for details). These interactive components of the lecture can also be used to respond to, or further expand upon, questions or comments made in the on-line discussions. Doing so helps to integrate the work outside the classroom with the work being accomplished face-to-face, as well as to increase participation in both types of discussion formats.

Organize lectures into distinct segments, with appropriate notes on the board, overhead, or powerpoint

A lecture will be more comprehensible if it is broken down into several 10- to 15-minute mini-lectures. This practice helps students see the structure of the class. It will also give the instructor the chance to build in stopping points for questions or reiteration. Students tend to take substantial notes during the first 15 or 20 minutes of a lecture, with a noticeable drop off in the remainder of the class. Structuring a lecture into smaller, well-defined segments of 15 or 20 minutes will help to offset this declining student attention. Also, effective use of visual reinforcement (e.g., the board, overhead, or laptop projected onto the screen), announces to students that the information to be given is important. Nearly all students will write down information seen visually—and reinforced by the instructor—while barely half will identify and write down critical lecture ideas spoken alone. Instructors should, therefore, give attention to such issues as illegible handwriting or cryptic abbreviations, both of which may frustrate students’ note-taking.

It is important to present information on overheads or powerpoint slides at a pace which matches the complexity of the information and the learning required. Augmenting what is being projected with additional information, such as context and examples, will help students effectively take notes in combination with provided lecture notes. Overall, it is very important to remember that just because it is possible to “cover” more material using pre-prepared slides, this does not mean that students can necessarily “absorb” the material any faster.

Talk to students about note taking

Instructors should consider talking to students about the type of notes that they should be taking in the course. Research indicates that high-achieving students take much more extensive notes that include sidebars, comments, and their own reactions to the material. Many faculty make some level of lecture notes available on their course websites. This can be done prior to the lecture or following the lecture. Regardless of the timing, faculty report that this strategy has changed what can be accomplished during the class time itself. Contrary to popular belief, many faculty have found that making lecture notes available prior to the class has resulted in increased attendance and a more targeted discussion, because students come better prepared about the lecture topics. Faculty who remain worried about the effect of posting full sets of notes, might instead post outlines with key concepts written but not defined, so that completion of the notes requires lecture attendance.

Obtain feedback from students throughout the course

There are a number of effective ways to assess the extent to which students understand the content of lectures (see “Measuring and Evaluating Teaching” for detailed list).

• Ask questions at various points throughout the class.

• Employ a Classroom Response System to gauge student comprehension.

• Randomly select a couple of students at the end of a lecture and ask to borrow their notes until the next class meeting. These notes, when compared with what the instructor thought students were hearing, will be revealing. It will not only tell the instructor how students interpreted his or her presentation, but it will also help focus succeeding lectures and discussions.

• Give students a chance to evaluate the course midway through the term; faculty members can design their own mid-term feedback form that asks students particular questions about how confident they are feeling about the material, how they are understanding lectures and discussion sections, how well the reading assignments and lectures are working together, etc. Always be sure to respond to any feedback the very next class, so that students can see that their input into the teaching and learning process is valued.

• Have students do a Minute Paper at the end of class. In the last five minutes of class, ask students to write down on a piece of paper either (a) the most important idea they obtained, or (b) the biggest question they have remaining, from the day’s class. Collect these and then use student responses to focus your next lecture, or clear up any problems that may be hindering learning.

• On-line evaluation forms, quizzes, and questions can provide a quick mechanism for obtaining regular feedback from students, as can using the course listserv or bulletin board.

Regularly assess student progress

It is important to give students short assignments, quizzes, or exams throughout the quarter so that both the instructor and students will know where they stand. Do not make too many assumptions about material that students should know before the course begins. Technical terms, concepts, and formulae should be defined and discussed, even if only in a very brief update, as a lecture topic is introduced. On-line materials, which are specifically targeted to the learning level of the students and to the topic, can provide references to terminology, concepts, formulae and other key concepts which are fundamental to the course, and can be linked to the course website.

Electronic mail discussions, self-assessment in the form of on-line quizzes, and previous exams on the course website, can provide feedback both to the student and to the teaching assistants and instructor on student progress.

Integrate tests and assignments carefully into the course

Tests and assignments should be an integral part of the course, arising from the same educational goals as the rest of the syllabus. This means that instructors should test in the way they teach, modeling the test/assignment thinking process in class. If discussion-based essays are the method of assessment, questions in class should model the kinds of argument students will write in their essays. If fixed-choice tests are to be used, then instructors should instead model the type of reasoning such tests will require. Access to prior exams and assignment keys are two of the most popular uses of course websites among students.

Approach fixed-choice tests with care

Writing effective fixed-choice (or multiple-choice) test questions is extremely difficult to do well. If an instructor is forced to use fixed-choice examinations (because of class size), it is always a good idea to scramble questions among several different versions and to position students with empty seats between them as much as possible (see the Academic Dishonesty chapter).

The Office of Instructional Development’s Evaluation of Instruction Program (EIP) maintains a test-scoring service that is available to UCLA instructors who teach large undergraduate courses. EIP provides test-scoring forms that are readable by an optical scanner; EIP will then provide the instructor with a detailed statistical report. Taking advantage of this report enables an instructor to review the test questions and assess their reliability (In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Center for Accessible Education ( and the Disabilities and Computing Program (, serve students with visual impairments, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders acquired brain injuries, psychological disabilities, hearing impairments, mobility impairments, and health impairments. These offices are available to work with the instructor and the student to help with alternative format needs. They work with faculty to facilitate the most successful learning experience for each student who presents documentation of a specific disability. These centers will also help faculty who may have similar needs.

Students with disabilities at UCLA are capable individuals who experience some limitation that calls for adaptation of materials or alternative methods, or environments to facilitate their most successful learning. Accommodations are varied and specifically designed to meet the disability-based needs of each student. Accommodations for students with visual impairments, for example, may include readers, taped textbooks from Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic, extended time for examinations (with a proctor to read and record test questions), or use of materials in Braille. A hard-of-hearing student may employ an assistive listening device that is used by the faculty to transmit a clear signal to the student so that the student may hear the lecture without interference. Deaf students may use sign language interpreters. Note takers are provided as well, because it is difficult for a deaf student to watch an interpreter and take notes simultaneously.

Additional support for students with disabilities may include: priority enrollment; special materials, such as large-print textbooks; assistive technology, such as the voice recognition or voice synthesizer program; and disability-management counseling. All accommodations are designed to provide access to the educational process. On-campus van service, housing assistance, and parking assistance are provided for students with mobility impairments.

See the section on “Teaching and Technology” for further information about enabling universal access.

Curricular alternatives and innovations

Considerable help is available at UCLA for instructors who wish to implement curricular innovation in their undergraduate courses. Assistance can come from specific programs dedicated to curriculum enhancement, from grants and mini-grants for individuals, from the infusion of technology, and from individual consultation on pedagogical issues. Most of this assistance is available through units administered by the Office of Instructional Development.


Programs for instructional innovation

Collegium of University Teaching Fellows (CUTF)

The Collegium was initiated in 1993-94 to provide a mechanism for UCLA’s very best advanced graduate students to develop and offer a lower-division seminar in their field. The opportunity is open to advanced graduate students in all divisions of the College and across the professional schools. The experience of developing and leading a lower-division seminar serves as a “capstone” to the teaching apprenticeship experiences of UCLA’s best graduate students who will seek employment in higher education. CUTF fellows each work with a faculty mentor in developing and conducting their seminars. Interested parties should contact Collegium staff at 310-206-8998 for details. See

Fiat Lux seminars

Fiat Lux seminars (courses numbered 19) span the rich array of fields studied at UCLA. The seminars, taught by faculty in areas of their expertise, inform freshman students about topics of intellectual importance and enable them to participate in critical discussion of these topics with a small group of peers. Since the seminars illuminate the many paths of discovery explored by UCLA faculty, the seminars take their name from the motto of the University of California: Fiat Lux -- Let There be Light. See

Undergraduate Student Initiated Education (USIE)

Undergraduate Student Initiated Education (USIE) is an innovative program designed to provide a select group of juniors and seniors in the College of Letters and Science with the opportunity to develop and facilitate, under close faculty supervision, a lower-division seminar for their peers. The application and selection period is during Fall Quarter. During Winter Quarter, facilitators work closely with their faculty sponsors through a two-unit independent study focused on the content area of their proposed course, and participate in a two-unit pedagogy seminar with other student facilitators. Through these studies, student facilitators develop for review and approval a formal syllabus for their spring seminars. Mentorship with faculty sponsors continues during the Spring Quarter as students conduct their seminars.

The student facilitated spring seminars are 1-unit and graded on a Passed/Not Passed basis. They are offered through the faculty mentor's department. Enrollment for the seminars is through MyUCLA and opens in late March. Each seminar is capped at 20 students. Students can enroll in a USIE seminar only twice in their undergraduate careers. Units earned in USIE seminars do not count toward the College's 216 maximum unit limit. Units do count toward Minimum Progress and Expected Cumulative Progress. See

Center for Community Learning

The UCLA Center for Community Learning - CCL (A265 Murphy Hall, 310-825-7867) provides opportunities for junior/senior students to link hands-on experience with classroom education. Many courses and programs are offered that require fieldwork in the form of internships or community service projects. In all instances, students are expected to apply the theories found in lectures and course readings to their experiences in the field. To help facilitate this goal, CCL provides a trained staff of graduate student coordinators who work with faculty, monitor students’ progress, and help students to integrate course concepts with their fieldwork. In all, CCL serves over 2,000 students per year enrolled in its courses, and many others on a walk-in basis. Interested students should visit for more information.

Center for American Politics and Public Policy (CAPPP)

The UCLA Center for American Politics and Public Policy in Washington, D.C. is committed to promoting significant research on American politics and public policy, to developing programs that educate students in the processes of the United States, and to providing ideas, scholarship, and knowledge to policy makers and other interested publics in California and the nation.

As part of its research commitment, CAPPP supports a Faculty Research Fellowship program. Fellowships are awarded for an academic year to assist UCLA faculty in initiating, conducting, or completing research focusing on politics and/or public policy in the United States. A Graduate Research Fellowship is also awarded each year. Graduate fellows work on their own projects and assist with faculty research.
CAPPP sponsors an annual Speakers Series on a topic of general interest to scholars and the public in the area of American politics and public policy. In addition, faculty research fellows organize speakers focused on topics related to their individual research projects.

All awards are made competitively on the basis of applications solicited each year from faculty and graduate students across the campus. Decisions are made by the Center's Advisory Committee. See

UC Center Sacramento

The University of California Center Sacramento (UCCS) Scholar Intern Program is a visionary opportunity for UC students to have professional experiences and skill-building opportunities while they live, intern, and conduct research in California's capital. UCCS is dedicated to providing students from all majors and each UC campus with an opportunity to participate in internships tailored to their goals.

Honors seminars and advanced honors seminars

Course numbers 89 and 189 are reserved for honors seminars and advanced honors seminars. The seminars are one-unit adjuncts to primary lecture courses at the lower- and upper-division levels. By using standard course enrollment procedures, faculty and students receive appropriate workload credit.

The one-unit honors seminars are designed to provide students enrolled in a lecture course an opportunity to meet separately with a faculty member in a small-group setting. The seminars explore content beyond that provided in the lecture course and discussion section. Adjunct honors seminars may be created in advance of the first day of class, or they may be added after the lecture begins in response to requests from interested students who want to participate in an adjunct honors seminar. In all cases, the seminars must be established by the end of the second week of the term.

Honors collegium

The Honors Collegium (A311 Murphy, 310-825-1553) is an innovative educational alternative designed primarily for UCLA’s promising freshmen and sophomores. Several honors seminars are taught each year by Letters and Science faculty representing the broad range of academic fields and disciplines on campus. Honors Collegium courses are generally interdisciplinary, and those in the lower-division carry general education credit. Each course is under the direction of a single faculty member distinguished in the field. See

Student Research Porgram (SRP)

The Student Research Program –SRP (courses numbered 99) assists undergraduates in obtaining research skills, in defining academic interests and objectives, and in becoming part of the larger university research community. SRP is designed as an entry-level experience, particularly suited to lower-division and first-quarter transfer students, and allows undergraduates early in their academic career to participate in research or engage in scholarly efforts under the direction of a faculty mentor. Typically, a student spends three to six hours per week working on the faculty research. See

Pedagogical innovation

New faculty tend to teach in the way they themselves were taught. More experienced teachers may find that at particular moments in their career, they feel “stale.” In either case, the instructor may feel somewhat dissatisfied with their current teaching methodologies and may be looking for new approaches. For those who feel this way, the following are suggestions that have proved successful for others:

Discuss teaching with colleagues

Peers are often a good source of ideas regarding how to teach a difficult concept in such a way that students find it more accessible. In departments where peer discussion of teaching is an acceptable part of disciplinary scholarship, visiting colleagues’ classes can also be an excellent source of ideas and inspiration.

Search disciplinary journals

Most academic disciplines have at least one journal dedicated to teaching. Try seeking out discipline-specific publications and exploring them for ideas.

Look at teaching in other departments

Faculty within a discipline often teach in similar ways, and for good reason -- certain techniques make good sense. However, this disciplinary uniformity may limit the potential for innovation. Some of the best teachers, therefore, look for ideas outside their own discipline. What might be old hat in one department may be innovative in another, and vice versa. Conversations about teaching methods across disciplines can, therefore, be very fruitful. Try also looking at the web sites of colleagues in departments known for their innovative teaching.

Consider an individual consultation with an instructional improvement specialist

Instructional improvement specialists are trained to consult faculty on any teaching issues they may have. Such specialists can offer ideas on both improvement and innovation. Since they consult university-wide, they have usually acquired a large pool of suggestions that can be applied in diverse settings. Such consultations are entirely confidential, and thus low-risk. Various techniques can be employed including videotaping before and after implementation of an innovation, one-on-one curriculum design, referral to technology specialists, and student focus group sessions. In all cases, instructors should first make an initial appointment with a consultant to develop a plan that will meet their individual needs (

Grants and mini-grants for instructional improvement and innovation

Instructional improvement grants support major projects designed to enhance curricular experimentation and development and to improve undergraduate instruction. The Office of Instructional Development (60 Powell, extension 59149, provides consultation and support services to proposal writers and then coordinates and administers funded grants. Proposals should address the specific needs of an undergraduate course or curriculum, and represent an appropriate and cost-effective response to a clearly defined pedagogical problem. Each proposal should indicate the level of faculty, departmental, or interdepartmental support, include an itemized budget, and indicate a calendar for completion.

The following is a brief description of grant categories and the instructional improvement efforts they might support:


All regular UCLA faculty are eligible to apply for a mini-grant for the undergraduate courses they teach. Teaching assistants are likewise eligible for mini-grants, but only with the approval of faculty responsible for the course. Any small-scale project offering instructional enrichment is eligible. An individual faculty member’s request may not exceed $750 for any academic year, and these funds may not be used to supplement regular departmental supplies and expenses budgets. Appropriate uses of these funds have included film rental, slide development, student field trip transportation, distinguished guest speaker honoraria, purchase of instructional software, and a variety of other small-scale instructional improvement efforts.

Major curricular and pedagogical development grants

These grants support major faculty, department, and college-initiated projects designed to enhance curricular development and instructional improvement of undergraduate offerings. Requests for proposals for the coming academic year are sent to deans, department chairs, and interested faculty in early Winter and then are due in Spring ( The Chancellor’s Committee on Instructional Improvement Programs reviews all proposals and monitors the implementation of those selected for funding.

Suggested readings

Angelo, T.A. & Cross, K.P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers, (2nd ed). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Bosworth, K. & Hamilton, S.J. (Eds.) (1994). Collaborative learning: Underlying processes and effective techniques. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 1994(59).

Grunert, J. (1997). The course syllabus: A learning-centered approach. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing.

McKeachie, W.J. & Svinicki, M. (2006). Countdown for course preparation. In McKeachie, W.J., Teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Miller, W.R. & Miller, M.F. (1997). Handbook for college teaching. Sautee-Nacoochee, GA: PineCrest Publications.

Neff, R.A. & Weimer. M. (Eds.). (1990). Teaching college: Collected reading for the new instructor. Madison, WI: Magna Publications.

Sorcinelli, M.D. & Elbow, P. (1997). Writing to learn: Strategies for assigning and responding to writing across the disciplines. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 1997(69).

Sutherland, T.E. & Bonwell, C.C. (Eds.). (1996). Using active learning in college classes: Range of options for faculty. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 1996(67).