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Guidelines for Instructors

Guidelines for Instructors

One issue that often arises at Linguistic Institutes is what is the best way of assessing students, given that the Institute is short and intensive while the class and event schedule is relentless and extensive. On this page we have compiled an informal set of guidelines, based in part on advice from past Institute instructors and students. We also include some information on resources available for instructors to help manage their courses. We would be happy to receive further feedback to pass on to future Institutes. Please take into account that, except where noted otherwise, these are only guidelines, and we leave it up to you to decide how to best design your class.


Enrolled participants will have the option to take regular session courses either for Pass/Fail or for a letter grade; we will strongly encourage students to opt for the Pass/Fail option as we believe it is most in keeping with the goals of the Institute: to expand participants' knowledge of linguistics and provide them with a basis for future research. Students who choose a letter grade will be given a grade (A, B, C, D, F(ail)) at the end of the course, whereas those who choose Pass/Fail will either receive credit or not for the work they have done in the course.

Students will NOT be able to receive a grade of Incomplete for Institute courses. We leave it to the discretion of each instructor to decide how to deal with a student who fails to turn in some required work; in some instances, this may result in the assignment of a grade of F (or Fail if the class is taken as Pass/Fail).

Grades MUST be submitted within a few days of the end of the Institute; we will announce this date before the Institute starts. We will provide further details about how grades will be submitted in the third week of the Institute.


It is up to the individual instructors to permit auditors to attend class. If you get requests for auditing, please take into account that space in classrooms is limited, and that preference will be given to registered students. When classes start, if you see that there is not enough room for auditors, you can feel free to not grant requests for auditing. If the class has a waiting list, priority will be given to people on the waiting list to audit before allowing other auditors into the class.

The Institute has a long history of allowing auditors to attend courses, but we must stress that these participants, while not registered for the particular classes they are auditing, MUST be registered for the Institute. Nobody will be allowed to audit classes without registering for the Institute (after which they may audit classes beyond those that they are registered for, subject to permission of the instructor). Of course, instructors can audit other instructors' classes.

Course Requirements

Remember that enrolled participants will be registered for four classes; that is, they'll be spending 4 hours a day in the classroom on average, and more if they audit additional classes, as most participants do. Furthermore, there are Institute lectures, workshops, and other special events both on weekdays and weekends, and participants need some time to socialize with each other. Thus, they will not have a great deal of time left to do readings and assignments during the Institute, and weekends are unlikely to be available for major "catch up". We ask you to plan course requirements accordingly, providing assignments and/or projects that are most central to your class content.

Much of the value of the Institute is in attending classes. We think that it is fully reasonable to take attendance at every class meeting and to make regular attendance (say, attendance at 5 or 6 out of the 8 class meetings in a 4-week course) an important component of a passing grade. We will make attendance sheets available to help facilitate this.

In designing assignments, projects, or tests, please keep in mind that enrolled participants must submit all work before the end of the Institute as we will not allow students to receive the grade of Incomplete; furthermore, you will be expected to turn in grades shortly after the Institute is over.


Design assignments, projects, and/or tests that have substance, but that acknowledge the constraints on student time:

Do give short, well-defined questions that allow students to show that they have grasped key concepts. The questions could involve extending an analysis to a new set of data (perhaps the analogous data in another language that a student is familiar with), constructing a set of data that would help verify a hypothesis, or summarizing/critiquing a core reading. A question can be well-delineated and still require students to show imagination and creativity in their answers.

In introductory and hands-on courses, regular, short assignments may be the best option as they ensure that the students learn the material.

In other courses, it is reasonable to ask for one assignment due at the end of the course or for two shorter assignments, one due in the middle of the Institute and one at the end. If you go this route, make choices that will help students not feel overwhelmed during the last week of the Institute.

In the past, some hands-on or lab courses have used group work, where students are encouraged to work on a manageable project throughout the Institute. For instance, groups of 3-4 students can be given a data set at the beginning of the Institute that they analyze using the various tools they learn as the Institute proceeds, cumulatively writing a brief report on what they found. This model allows students to accomplish something substantive, while working with peers from other schools and making lasting connections.

Think carefully before asking students to write a final original research paper, even a short one, as students won't have the time to choose topics, do the background research, and write the paper. A feasible alternative might be a short (say, 500-1000 word) squib that shows a student's ability to define a problem for future research in the context of class material.

Some instructors have found it useful to ask students to submit a thoughtful question on the assigned reading before each class; these questions allows an instructor to get a sense of how deeply each student is reading and to make sure the class covers the issues that most concern the students. These questions have then formed a major component of student assessment.


Most students will postpone all but the most essential course reading until after the Institute, so please choose your essential reading assignments carefully and announce these clearly. Assigning about one substantive journal article or book chapter per class would be reasonable.


If you plan on using a textbook for you class, we can place an order for you at a local bookstore. If that is the case, please let us know as soon as you can.

Office Hours

Do schedule a couple of hours of office hours each week; many students want a chance to talk to you about their work. Remind students not to wait til the last week to come talk to you as your schedule may get overly full then, and you might have to disappoint them. We also encourage you to take questions by e-mail during the course; please make your policy on this clear. We will provide limited space for meetings with students.

Online Access to Course Materials

We strongly encourage you to make materials (e.g. readings) available online for students. Since these are not official University of Chicago classes, we cannot make course sites via our online course system. Making materials available online can be as simple as using a file-sharing service such as Dropbox, or you can use one of several free course management systems. A well-known free online system that you can use is CourseSites, a free version of Blackboard Learn:

The following link contains a list of free online course management sites that you can use, in case you want to try something else:

Printing and Copying

We very strongly encourage our faculty to go paperless during the Institute using one of the online methods listed above. The Institute will be able to provide access to printing and copying resources. Student volunteers will be available to help you with this. You will be able to do small printing jobs (e.g. notes for a class) directly using the Department of Linguistics printer. The page limit for these smaller printing jobs is 25 double-sided or 50 single-sided pages. For larger printing/copying jobs (e.g. handouts), you will need to submit a request 48 hours in advance. We do not have a page limit, but we do ask that you try to minimize as much as possible the amount of paper you use during the Institute. All printing/copying requests should be sent to Adam Singerman at

Technical support

All classrooms will have standard AV equipment (including a projector). If you plan on using slides, please make sure that you have the proper VGA adaptor for your laptop. We'll have a number of student volunteers that will help instructors setting things up, if needed.