Teaching Policies & Resources

Instructor Handbook

The HCDE Instructor Handbook is a comprehensive guide for anyone who teaches courses for HCDE. Find information including: department basics, new hire information and IDs, teaching resources, in-class policies and procedures, safety and commuting resources, and an academic calendar.


HCDE Pedagogical Philosophy

Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE) faculty employ many pedagogical techniques yet all would agree with the following principles.

Learning Activities

Students generally learn more readily through active learning. Lectures should be combined with workshops, presentations, discussion, and other participatory learning approaches. Having students interact with other students and using think‐pair‐share activities are valuable active learning strategies.

Learning Environment

Successful instructors create an environment of respect and courtesy in which students feel safe to voice their views. Demeanor in class should be professional, recognizing that instructors are in a position of authority rather than on equal footing with students. Instructors must take care to treat all students equally.


Learning takes time. On a practical basis, the university provides a 3:1 guideline—courses are expected to require about three hours of activity (this includes lecture) for each course credit. Thus, an instructor is challenged with creating activities and requirements that lead to the most learning within the workload expectations. Under such constraints, less is often more. For example, a single reading discussed for twice as much time may result in deeper understanding and more connections than two readings engaged in a shallow manner.


Students need feedback in order to learn successfully. Graded assignments should occur fairly early in a course, and there should be more than one graded assignment in a course.


Students perform better when they understand instructor expectations. Learning objectives are a central source of these expectations and should influence all class decisions (e.g., readings, assignments, evaluations, grading rubrics), and they should be explicitly revisited often.

A Timeline

A student's past and future are important resources for learning in the present.

Students use their prior knowledge and experience to make sense of current learning situations, and they use knowledge gained in the present to revise their understanding of the past. Since a key goal of most learning situations is to provide students with knowledge to be used in the future, it can be helpful to have students purposefully think about connecting their learning to their future.

The UW Center for Teaching and Learning includes many helpful teaching resources.

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HCDE Grading Policies

The HCDE Academic Advisor will send an email to all instructors once grading has opened for the quarter. Grades must be submitted online.

What are typical HCDE grades?

HCDE programs have highly competitive admissions and many faculty find that HCDE students perform extremely well in classes. They realize that many students have proven themselves by getting into HCDE undergraduate or graduate programs and class averages typically fall between a 3.6-4.0 level. Of note, to maintain satisfactory performance in graduate classes, graduate students must maintain an overall grade point average of 3.0 and obtain at least a 2.7 in an HCDE course.

What are the UW grading policies?

Passing grades differ for undergraduate and graduate students.

  • A passing grade for undergraduate students is 0.7.
  • A passing grade for graduate students is a 2.7.

General grading practices can be found on the Faculty Resource on Grading (FROG) site:

What are X and I grades?

Students are eligible to receive an incomplete grade (I) only when they have finished at least 80 percent of the coursework and have a medical or other urgent reason that they cannot finish the course. Incomplete grades must be replaced with a grade before the end of the next quarter. X grades, or "no grades," do not expire like incomplete grades. These should be used only when the instructor is unable to compute the student grade by the deadline. Check with the HCDE Academic Services Manager before giving a student an X or I grade.

Many HCDE graduate students have a teaching or research assistantship. They must complete 10 credits per quarter to maintain full-time status and eligibility for assistantships. An X or I grade can cost a student their assistantship if it reflects unsatisfactory academic progress. X and I grades can also cost a student their financial aid or scholarships, most of which require students to complete a certain number of credits per quarter. For these reasons, X and I grades should rarely be given.

Can attendance factor into a student's grade?

Instructors cannot grade based on class attendance per University rules and regulations. However, instructors may grade on class participation as it relates to student learning. Review the attendance policy on the UW website (several classroom issues are also outlined on this site):

How can an instructor transmit grades to students?

Grades CANNOT be transmitted to students via email or left in public areas (e.g., hallways) for students to pick up papers. Grades cannot be shared orally with students in the presence of other students. Sharing grades in these ways is a violation of FERPA--the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Grades can be transmitted to students via Catalyst, Canvas, or via paper graded assignments.

How do I submit final grades?

All grades must be submitted online. You can go directly to UW's GradePage for online grade submission, or you can go to MyUW and look for Grade Submission under your assigned class, which will take you to GradePage. You can also import grades from Canvas. To update or change a grade, there is a separate Change of Grade form through the registrar. More information on how to submit grades online can be found at UW-IT's GradePage guide.

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Low Enrollment Course Policy

Policy established March 2011

If a regular, on-campus course has 15 or fewer undergraduates or 6 or fewer graduate students enrolled in it, it cannot count toward part of a faculty member’s teaching load.

The faculty member must recruit more students to the course to reach the minimum enrollment. Otherwise, the course will be cancelled and the faculty member will be reassigned to help teach or support a larger course. In addition, no faculty member should teach a low enrollment course while the department is paying an outside instructor to teach a different course. Paid outside instructors should not teach low enrollment courses.

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Part‐Time Instructor or TA Supervision and Assessment Policy

The purpose of this policy, along with the HCDE Instructor Handbook, is to provide guidance for Lecturers, part‐time, temporary (LPTTs) and teaching assistants (TAs) teaching HCDE courses, establish strong communication between the instructors and the department, and ensure quality instruction.

Before class begins

  • The LPTT/TA should be provided with syllabi from previous quarters and a copy of the HCDE Instructor Handbook.
  • Syllabi/course changes should be approved before the beginning of the quarter by the Department Chair or a Supervising HCDE Faculty member (if one was assigned by the Chair) to ensure that the syllabus is consistent with programmatic goals.
  • The Department Chair will set expectations regarding mid‐quarter and post‐quarter evaluations with the instructor.

During the quarter

LPTT TA Assessment

  • The Department Chair or a Supervising HCDE Faculty member is expected to check in with the LPTT or TA at least once during the quarter, or on an as needed basis. Managing instructors of support lecturers and TAs should be checking in with support lecturers and TAs throughout the quarter as described in their job descriptions.
  • The Department Chair can request to conduct a classroom observation.
  • LPTTs and TAs will have their students complete a midterm evaluation. This evaluation will occur by the end of the fifth week of the quarter. Results will be reviewed by the Department Chair.
  • LPTTs and TAs will have their students complete a written end of quarter evaluation. This evaluation will occur during the last week of the quarter. See more on this below.

TA Assessment

  • The faculty member or LPTT who is managing the TA, or the Department Chair, will conduct at least one in‐class evaluation during each of the first two quarters of teaching. Afterwards this supervisor will meet with the TA to discuss the class visit and provide written feedback.
  • The faculty member who is managing the TA can request to conduct more classroom visits if necessary.

After the class has ended

  • The LPTT/TA will attend a wrap‐up session as requested by the Department Chair to review end of quarter student evaluations (Office of Educational Assessment IAS forms that will be ordered by the Program Assistant). In addition, the LPTT/TA may choose to share with the Department Chair their reflections on the feedback gathered.
  • The Department Chair will recommend whether the LPTT/TA should be invited back to teach the course again.
  • TA reappointment will follow the guidelines above, but will also take into account whether the TA is making satisfactory progress toward their degree.
  • Required mid‐term TA assessments will be forwarded to the Graduate School.

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