Course Development, Scheduling, & Class Management

Teaching Information

Basic rules of teaching suggest that preparation is critical to a well run course. Knowing what is coming up and how to handle various teaching opportunities help to ensure a successful course. The information located here is to assist in your planning for the academic year. For any questions or comments regarding teaching information, contact Michelle Bell (mbell@hsph.harvard.edu).

Course Scheduling
Course Sponsors and Primary Instructors
Course Syllabus
The First Class
Class Lists
Homework Assignments
Examination Procedures
Reporting Grades
Changes in Grades
Student Course Evaluations
References by Faculty Members for Current or Past Students
Evaluation and Recognition for Teaching
New Course Proposals
New Concentrations

Times When Faculty Must Be At School

(revised 8/20/04)

There are a few times during the academic year when the presence of all faculty members is crucial. These times of important decision making for students and faculty are:

  • The week of fall orientation and registration
  • The first two weeks of classes in each period
  • The last week of classes in each period
  • The week prior to the final faculty meeting (ordinarily in June)
  • The week preceding, during, and the week following summer sessions, if teaching or advising during the summer.

In the event that faculty members need to be absent for any time during these periods, it is necessary for them to make suitable arrangements for others to take on their duties, including appropriate substitutes for advising responsibilities. These arrangements should be approved formally by the department chairperson and every effort should be made to inform students as to the faculty members who will be available to assume advising duties.

Faculty are expected to submit all grades to the Registrar’s Office prior to travel.

Course Sponsors and Primary Instructors 

(revised 7/13/06)

All courses (including formal courses, tutorials, independent studies, and research credits) will have a sponsor. At HSPH, faculty members eligible to sponsor a course are individuals whose academic appointments have been approved by SCARP and the Board of Overseers, i.e., those holding the titles professor, associate professor, assistant professor, senior lecturer, or lecturer (as primary, secondary, adjunct, or visiting appointees); in unusual cases, a dean who holds the title “member of the faculty” may be a sponsor of a course. Individuals with an equivalent appointment in another faculty of Harvard University or at MIT may also sponsor an HSPH course.

The responsibilities of a course sponsor include oversight of the following:

  1. submission of the course proposal;
  2. submission of updated course syllabus
  3. course instruction;
  4. course structure and content;
  5. continuity of course supervision;
  6. quality of instruction;
  7. evaluation of student performance (grading); and
  8. submission of grades.

This sponsor, in most cases, is also the primary instructor.

A “primary instructor” is defined as an individual who does the majority of the teaching in the course. This may be someone with a nonfaculty academic appointment. While the most appropriate title for such individuals is instructor, appointees with the following titles may also occasionally be the primary instructor of a course: research associate, research scientist, visiting scientist, or annual lecturer (as distinct from faculty lecturer). Please note that students may participate in instruction only in the role of teaching assistant.

If the primary instructor is different from the sponsor, this information must be indicated on the course proposal or revision form submitted by the course sponsor to the Registrar’s Office.

In those cases where the sponsor is different from the primary instructor, the letters (S) and (P) will appear, accordingly, after the instructors’ names in the official course listings produced by the Registrar’s Office.

(The policy stated above was approved by the CEP in 1996, and revised 2001.)

Course Syllabus

All course syllabi must incorporate course objectives and the means by which the instructor will evaluate students for their competence of the objectives. A sample syllabus, syllabus directions and template, and description of learning objectives is available to provide assistance and direction to instructors who are developing a course syllabus. For further assistance, contact Michelle Bell, Assistant Dean, Office of Educational Programs at 617-432-1778 or mbell@hsph.harvard.edu.

The First Class

At the first class meeting, the instructor should

  • disseminate the course syllabus
  • remind students of course prerequisites as published in the Course Descriptions
  • indicate the requirements for successful completion of the course, the policy regarding missed deadlines and extensions, and the methods to be used to evaluate student performance

Instructors should make clear to students how grades will be determined for the course. The CEP suggests that no more than 25 percent of the final grade be based on classroom participation.

Instructors are urged to describe course content, time and effort required and other aspects of the course that may be helpful to students. Because students are allowed to drop and add courses after registering for each period, some students who will subsequently enroll in the course may not be present for the first meeting of the class and introductory remarks may have to be repeated. Therefore, it is important to distribute basic information about the course in writing.

Class Lists

(revised 9/1/2006)

The names of all students enrolled in a course must appear on the final class list or be added to that list by the registrar; instructors should not add students to the class list. Students not formally enrolled in a course will not receive credit for that course. All students whose names appear on the final class list will remain enrolled in the course unless the student has officially dropped or has been withdrawn from the course by the registrar.

HSPH degree candidates have priority in course enrollment. Other students, by arrangement with the registrar, may also enroll in courses at the school. These include students cross-registering from other faculties of Harvard University, students enrolled at MIT or the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Harvard Corporation appointees, Harvard employees participating in a program of study approved by the university’s Office of Human Resources (Tuition Assistance Plan Students), and Boston-area public health professionals.

Normally, only students enrolled in a course are permitted to attend classes, and instructors are asked to report to the registrar those individuals whose names do not appear on the final class list. However, HSPH degree candidates may audit courses at the discretion of the instructor. A student may do this by enrolling formally in the course as an auditor, in which case the student’s name will appear on the class list. If an instructor notifies the Registrar’s Office that auditors are excluded, this is indicated on the Schedule of Courses. Students receive no credit for courses audited and no audited courses appear on permanent records or transcripts.

Homework Assignments

Instructors should state their expectations for the completion of homework assignments. For example, instructors should be explicit about whether students are expected to work together or independently on a project. This will help avoid misunderstandings that may lead to allegations of inappropriate collaboration.

Examination Procedures

The following examination procedures have been adopted by vote of the faculty:

  1. The teaching faculty ordinarily proctor their own examinations. It is suggested that there be at least one proctor for every 50 students.
  2. Ideally, seating should be arranged so that there is an empty seat and, if possible, an empty row between students.
  3. Proctors will record attendance.
  4. Proctors should remind students before the examination of what materials they may have with them and that there is to be no talking. Instructors who are not proctoring their own examinations are expected to be in the room for at least ten minutes before and ten minutes after the start of the examination and to be available throughout the examination.
  5. If students must leave the room during the examination they must leave their examinations and other materials with the proctor. The proctor will note the student’s name and the time of leaving and returning to the room.
  6. The proctor will post the time when there is fifteen minutes of examination time remaining.
  7. If proctors note any suspicious behavior, they must immediately ask the student to stop, note the student’s name and the names of any other students who may be involved and write a description of the incident. If possible, proctors should immediately notify the instructor. The student will be allowed to complete the examination.
  8. At the end of the time allowed for the examination, the proctor will inform the students and ask them to be sure their names are on their examinations. The proctor will emphasize that the examination is over and that students must stop writing. The proctor will immediately collect the examinations and deliver them to the instructor.
  9. If the proctor has reported an incident of suspicious behavior, the instructor will initiate a meeting among the proctor, the assistant dean for students and the student. If the issue cannot be resolved informally during this meeting, further action will be initiated by the assistant dean for students.

Instructors should take care not to lose examination materials. Because disputes occasionally arise about grading, instructors should retain (for at least one semester) all examination materials that are not returned to students. Such materials should be available for students’ inspection.

Take-Home Examinations

It may be necessary in certain situations for instructors to administer take-home examinations, for example, when a computer must be used for the analysis of a data set. When a take-home examination is given, it is essential for the instructor to make absolutely clear what resources students may use (e.g., their textbook, their notes, any book, nothing) and with whom they may consult (e.g., the instructor, the teaching assistant, other students, no one) while completing the examination. In particular, if, as is the usual case, students are expected to complete take-home examinations entirely on their own, this should be printed clearly at the top of the examination paper and stated explicitly in class when the examinations are distributed. Faculty should be aware that the majority of cases referred to the HSPH Disciplinary Board involve collaboration on take-home examinations; for this reason, members of the board advise instructors to avoid the use of take-home examinations whenever possible.

Use of Questions from Previous Examinations

Instructors who use questions from previous exams as part of current exams must insure that all students in the course have the same opportunity for consulting previous exams.

Reporting Grades

(revised 8/20/2004)

The primary instructor is responsible for the grades given and must supervise grading. Teaching assistants should not bear full responsibility for final grades. The primary instructor is expected to submit their grades to the Registrar’s Office via the electronic grading module. Instructors are expected to be at the school during examination periods and, according to the official policy of the Harvard Corporation, are not permitted to travel until they have submitted their grades to the Registrar’s Office. Since grade point averages must be computed and students must be notified if they are not in good standing, it is essential to file grades promptly.

Changes in Grades

(revised 8/20/2004)

Final authority for the designation of grades rests with the grading instructor of each course. Once a grade has been reported in writing to the Registrar’s Office, the following procedures apply:

  1. To change an “Incomplete” to an ordinal or P/F grade, the grading instructor must complete the final portion of the incomplete form for the student and deliver the form directly to the registrar.
  2. To correct a clerical error in reporting the original grade, the grading instructor must submit a change of grade form to the registrar for review and decision by the CAD.
  3. To change a grade in light of new and relevant information regarding the student’s performance, the grading instructor must submit a change of grade form to the registrar for review and decision by the CAD.

For grade changes other than those made to resolve incompletes, the grading instructor is expected to indicate that he or she has reviewed the work of all other students in the course in order to determine that no similar errors have been made and gone uncorrected. Grades cannot be changed after a degree has been voted, and a petition for a grade change will not be considered beyond one semester following the initial due date of the grade.


References by Faculty Members for Current or Past Students

(revised 8/20/2004)

A faculty member from whom a reference is requested should review a student’s current transcript before preparing the letter of reference. If the transcript shows that a student has been dismissed, expelled, or required to withdraw, the faculty member has a professional obligation to report this in the letter of reference.

In order for a faculty member to view the record or transcript, the Registrar’s Office must have a written release from the student. Information regarding students’ academic records can be found in the Advising Students section of this Faculty Handbook.

Evaluation and Recognition for Teaching and Advising

(revised 8/17/2007)

The Office of Student Affairs coordinates the annual HSPH teaching and mentoring awards. There are four teaching awards and one mentoring award. The teaching awards are comprised of the Roger L. Nichols Excellence in Teaching Award and three teaching citations. Awards are based on student course evaluations. The questions used to determine award recipients focus on quality of teaching and effectiveness in class. The mentoring award is decided by student nominations and by committee vote. The committee includes members of the HSPH Student Government and administrators. The teaching and mentoring awards are presented at the June faculty meeting, along with an award to the best teaching assistant.

New Course Proposals

(revised 11/16/2007)

New courses must be proposed on the Registrar’s Office Course Proposal Form. The information from the form is forwarded to the Committee on Educational Policy (CEP) for approval. New courses are expected to meet three criteria:

  1. fulfill an educational need;
  2. be scheduled at a time convenient for those for whom the courses is intended; and
  3. present material not covered in other courses.

Since the chair of each department is in the best position to determine if a proposed course meets these criteria, his or her signature is required on the Course Proposal Form. In addition, this form must be signed by both the course instructor as well as the department’s course liaison who then delivers the form to the Registrar’s Office. A  course syllabusidentifying course learning objectives, the means by which students will be evaluated in their competence of the objectives (outcome measure), grading criteria, and session by session detail must be included in the proposal.

Students cannot register for a course until it has been approved by the CEP. With the approval of the department chair and the CEP, the course may be given once. After the course is given the first time, the CEP reviews evaluations of the course from both students and the instructor. If the course has proven successful, it is then presented to the faculty for formal review and vote. If the faculty approves the course, it becomes a permanent part of the curriculum.

When assigning number of credits for a new course, consider the guidelines outlined below:

Classroom Sessions
Outside Effort

1 semester course
(16 weeks)
ex: Fall

1 term course
(8 weeks)
ex: Fall2
1 semester course
(16 weeks)
ex: Spring
1 term course
(8 weeks)
ex: Spring1
 Credits
Hours per Week
Hours per Week
   5.0
3 – 4
8 – 12
   2.5
2
3 – 4
4 – 6
8 – 12
   1.25
1
2
2 – 3
4 – 6

The Registrar’s office collects course information from each department in January and February for the following academic year. This includes any changes such as title, instructor(s), description and scheduling preferences. If a course is to be canceled, a completed Course Cancellation Form must identify the reason for the cancellation and whether it is only a one-year or a permanent cancellation. Course information is processed and then returned to the responsible department for final certification by March 15th in order to meet publishing deadlines. It is therefore quite important that every effort be made to insure the most accurate information at the conclusion of the certification process. Additional session deadlines include:

Deadline Term Course Will be Offered
July 1 Fall, Fall 1, and Fall 2
November 1 WinterSession, Spring, Spring 1, and Spring 2

Any changes to be made after course certification must be submitted to the Registrar’s office on a Course Change or Cancellation Form (available from the department’s course liaison or Registrar’s office) with the changes clearly outlined. These are subject to CAD approval. The Registrar’s office will not accept change requests after noon of the business day prior to the first day of registration. No changes will be made once registration has begun unless it is to cancel a course for low enrollment or to change classrooms to accommodate over-enrollment. Emergency cancellations will be subject to CAD approval.


New Concentrations

(revised 7/13/2006)

A concentration is a coordinated program of study within an academic program. Departmental concentrations are usually located within a single department or within the MPH program, but can also encompass two HSPH departments.

Concentrations encompassing three or more departments are called interdisciplinary concentrations. A core set of required courses from the participating departments is established, along with elective courses. The CEP strongly recommends that the core course(s) be interdisciplinary rather than a collection of existing courses from the participating departments. Concentration sponsors will be responsible for ensuring that interdisciplinary core courses are scheduled at a time that does not conflict with required courses for students in participating departments.

Students apply to one of the participating departments, and the degree will be issued from that department. Currently there are two interdisciplinary concentrations with CEP and faculty approval– the Interdisciplinary Concentration in Women, Gender, and Health and the Interdisciplinary Concentration in the Epidemiology if Infectious Disease

In 1996, the CEP approved a new policy for the creation of new concentrations (either departmental or interdisciplinary.) All concentration proposals submitted to the CEP must include the following information:

  • proposed name
  • background and development of the concentration
  • purpose (need it addresses)
  • concentration competencies
  • description (for use in HSPH Catalog)
  • requirements (number of credits, lab work, other types of experiences, etc.)
  • proposed curriculum (required/core courses and electives) indicating the sequencing and progression of courses
  • process for documenting completion of the concentration
  • degrees to be awarded
  • description of likely career paths for graduates
  • letter of endorsement from the department chair (or, in the case of interdisciplinary concentrations, a letter from the chair of each participating department)
  • list of faculty members affiliated with the concentration

In addition, interdisciplinary concentrations should include the following:

  • how concentration will be administered and reviewed
  • list of steering committee members
  • proposed admission review process

The sponsor of the concentration will attend a CEP meeting to present the proposal and to provide answers to questions that committee members may have. The CEP will review the concentration proposal and may make recommendations, or ask for additional information before granting final approval. If the proposed concentration is approved by the CEP, the proposal will be placed on the agenda of a faculty meeting for discussion and full faculty approval. Once final approval is granted by the faculty, the concentration will be forwarded to the Office for Enrollment Services and to the catalog editor for inclusion in the catalog and application materials.

Newly approved concentrations will be reviewed by the CEP after five years. Sponsors of a concentration should notify the CEP of any significant interim revisions to the original concentration proposal.

Information about a new concentration must be included in the edition of the catalog and application materials used by the prospective students who will be applying for the concentration. For example, if the first class of students is expected to enroll in September 2008, the proposal for the concentration must be reviewed and approved by the CEP and the full faculty during the 2006-07 academic year. To meet the catalog deadline, which in this example would be March 2007, it is recommended that the new concentration be proposed to the CEP at its October 2006 meeting. Please note that this is nearly two years before the first class matriculates.