Sunday, January 08, 2012

Welcome Back

Classes begin in just over a week.  For returning and prospective students, here's the latest iteration of my all-important "Handout CL" (I've included a link to this document and all course handouts -- several of which are new or in progress -- in the margin of this blog):

Handout CL: Classroom Policies and Expectations

Good students attend all classes, participate regularly, thoughtfully, and respectfully; consistently strive to produce high quality work and meet all deadlines; consult with the professor during office hours when necessary; and, most generally, openly, deliberately, and with enthusiasm embrace this and other formal opportunities for intellectual, scholarly growth. My class policies and expectations, consonant with this understanding of what it means to be a (good) student, are as follows:

Missing class is not an excuse for missing a deadline or an assignment. Attendance is absolutely required fully to benefit from/contribute to the seminar. Even so, I will not take or grade attendance (except on those occasions when it is required for institutional record-keeping). Physically attending class is such an obvious and nominal requirement of any adult learner in a non-compulsory, post-secondary educational setting that it would be errantly paternalistic and ineffective (I assume, as the clich√© suggests, external reward often undermines internal motivation) to take note of, let alone award some kind of “credit” for, mere attendance. (Here's another take on attendance that I support.) In short: please don't take my seminars if you plan not to attend.

Likewise, aside from the basic respect due all persons, I will not award any kind of special credit to those who, in fulfilling an equally basic and obvious duty as a member of a community of learners/scholars, regularly and effectively participate in classroom discussions and other activities. Class participation schemes, like attendance policies, often are little more than paternalistic incentives designed to trick or force (adult) students into acting like adults. In short: please don't take my seminars if you plan not to contribute.

Despite the heavy financial and opportunity costs associated with attending college, no one, independently of his or her scholarly performance, has a right to a good or even passing grade. Rather, good grades must be earned. In an effort to resist the triadic wave of grade inflation, social promotion, and consumerism currently plaguing our educational institutions, I strictly adhere to a traditional understanding of the grades A-F (outstanding-abysmal) as articulated by the Foundation for Critical Thinking:

Furthermore, I fallibly grade students on their individual performance, not on some kind of collectivist “curve.” Our role as teachers is to grade student work, not the students themselves. That is, I do not -- and do not think it fair or right for anyone to -- grade student effort, potential, intelligence, character, goals, needs, or any other feature of a student’s life aside from his or her scholarly products. In short: please don't expect to receive a better grade than you earn.

Unexcused Absences/Make-ups/Extra Credit/Incompletes and other Nonsensical terms
Aside from officially sanctioned reasons for absence or lateness as outlined in the official MCLA Student Handbook, I will – on principle and in fairness to those who do their work in a timely fashion – strictly enforce all course deadlines. Therefore, I will not offer (undocumented) "incompletes," “makeup exams," “partial credit” for late work, or “extra credit” for those hoping to improve existing grades. In short: please do all your work on time.

I believe that nothing is more corrosive to our educational success than incivility (inappropriately childish behavior -- like incessant joking, chatting, or expressing anger during class -- is a close second). While honest disagreement and debate is a natural and welcome consequence of our enquiries, there is never a call for disrespectful, abusive, or intimidating words or actions of any sort in our dealings with each other in a classroom setting (virtual or otherwise). In short: please be considerate of others.

Special Accommodations
I will happily honor any officially documented requirements for special accommodations as outlined in the MCLA Student Handbook.

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