Thanks for taking the time to check in! I hope that some of the questions you have about your class can be found here. You're always more than welcome to contact me for any reason. Also, there might be some helpful advice you can find on the student wiki (I don't patrol or police it, so I'm not sure what you'll get)
FAQs (FAQs specifically for distance education students found below)
Sortof General Questions:
Questions About Grades and Grading:
Questions About Writing and the Rubric:
- What's your bottom-line teaching philosophy? You can find that information here and my philosophy on teaching writing is here.
- This all seems kind of legalistic? Unfortunately, what used to be a fairly well-understood delineation between students and professors has degraded into "do whatever it takes" attitude amongst a very, very few but vocal group of students who fall back on legalism or querulous behavior to advance their ideas about how I should run my class. Thanks to them, I've been forced to think about every possible contingency against this. I wish it were different, but I have to operate within the space of the reality I've been given.
- Is there something that surprises you about students more often than not? Yes! I just don't understand why students don't bring me their work beforehand (when I can help them do something about it) rather than afterwards (when I can't). I can only guess that they're waiting until the last minute to do their work and run out of opportunities to seek my counsel, and that's really more on the student and their time management skills than anything else. I'm also surprised how very few students will read this FAQ ;).
- How can I do well in your course? As with any class, you'll get the farthest if you get to know and understand your professor all of his or her desires, expectations, philosophies, and quirks. It's amazing how many students probably won't even bother to read this page (or any other on my website) where a great deal of valuable information can be gleaned, so you're off to a great start! (click) You might also find some answers to your questions in the prospective student FAQ since it documents, to some extent, my philosophy on teaching and learning. This page, outlining why I care about your writing might also tell you something about how I view my role in my students' lives. Also please remember that you're not supposed to work in a vacuum--college was never designed to work that way. Work with others in the class, work with tutors, and work with me. It's your education--take charge of it and don't settle for your own excuses.
Sortof General Questions:
- What are your office hours? Check here. However, if you are by my office outside of posted office hours and the door is open, you're more than welcome to pop your head in to see if I have time to meet with you.
- How can I contact you? (click)
- I don't have a syllabus. Where can I find it? All official course materials are posted to your course homepage.
- I missed a class, do you need to know? or I will miss class, do you need to know? I usually don't take attendance unless I'm required by the institution to do so, so you don't have to let me know if you did or will miss class. However, it will help me to know why you did or will miss class since it helps me to know what's going on in my classroom.
- I can't meet you during your office hours. Can I arrange to meet you another time? Yes (click).
- Can you write a recommendation letter for me? Probably (click)
- Where can I see what we've studied in class thus far? You can find that information by going to your course's online site.
- I'm going to turn in an assignment late. What do I need to do? Will you take my excuse into account?
Can I turn it in via e-mail? Is an e-mailed document "proof" that I got it done on time? (click)
- I don't know when things are due, I can't remember when X is due, or When is X due? All of this information is available in this.
- How can I properly prepare for your exams? (click)
- I will miss a test/presentation date, do you need to know? Yes. You will receive a zero grade otherwise.
- I don't have the next assignment or the essay rubric. All official course materials are posted to your course's homepage.
- I have a disability. Will you accommodate me? So as long as you've gone through proper channels, yes.
- Can I turn in anything for you to proof (answers to potential essay questions, notes, etc.)? Yes, use these directions.
- Why do some of your classes have a "no technology" policy? Because controlled studies are backing up my own anecdotal evidence that taking notes by hand is far superior to typing in notes on a computer and avoid the distractions associated with connected electronics. As computers became more prevalent in my classes, the grades on my exams were dropping and displaying a repeatable "double curve" with the first appearing around the mid-50 percentile range. You may audio record my lectures if you're afraid that you'll miss something.
Questions About Grades and Grading:
- What kinds of grades have you given in the past? (click)
- You miscalculated my grade; will you change it? Yes (click)
- A TA graded my exam and I don't like my grade; will you re-grade it? Yes, but you'll want to be really careful about this (click).
- Do you curve? That information is located in this FAQ.
- What is my current grade? If I use a courseware system to grade, look there. Otherwise, you should keep all of your graded assignments, tests, quizzes, etc. so that you have immediate and up-to-date knowledge of your grade. Compare these grades with their maximum point values as outlined here. You can also come by and see me during office hours. I will not send grades over e-mail.
- I don't like my grade [on whatever], what can I do about it? (click)
Questions About Writing and the Rubric:
- Why do you care so much about my writing? Because it will be important to your future, and few others will help you along the way, even those who are ethically bound to help you (click).
- I'm writing one of your essays, how can I do better? Can you help me? Also: Can I send you a copy of my writing before its due so that you can take a look at it? I will do anything and everything in my power to help you with your writing. There are some steps you have to go through, however. Also, don't forget that you must be working with me on your writing before mid-day Friday the week before a writing project is due if you want to share it with me electronically (you're always welcome to bring something by in person, though) (click).
- What is the average grade on one of your essay assignments? The average grade for a first attempt at one of my essays without getting my help beforehand is in the very low 70% range. The average for a first attempt with getting my help is about 87%. I always discuss this in class so that there are no surprises, but students are often still nonplussed when they find out that an "average score" can include them. Beyond that, there is no way for me to determine an average score, although as long as this sentence stands, no student has ever received anything less than an "A" on the second, third, etc. paper that they have brought to me in person at least two times.
- Wait! I might meet with you on a paper and STILL not get an "A"? Hunh?
Yes, it's possible that it could happen, of course. You might be starting from a point where you need a great deal of improvement before you can turn in an "excellent" paper. It's ok, it happens, and obtaining a skill usually happens in discrete steps. There will come a point where you'll have to accept who you are at the moment and realize the improvements you have made. Be proud of them and know that you're building a foundation for your writing that you can apply to the next assignment.
- Why do you give a "base grade" and then take off for rubric errors? Isn't this a type of double jeopardy? The base grade that I write on the back of your essay takes into account the actual information and ideas that you have in your paper without regard to your grammar and other items on the rubric. Most students have fairly good ideas, so it's not unusual for students to have a relatively decent base grade. Many professors give you only an "ideas" grade when you write, so you'll be fairly familiar with this grade and have probably developed a bias to expect it from most, if not all your professors. The rubric, on the other hand, is designed to help you express those ideas in a readable, concise, scholarly manner that will be expected of a college graduate. I give you a grade for your ideas/information (which is 100% less deduction) and then subtract for rubric errors as defined on the rubric, itself. Rubric errors are easily avoidable since the rubric tells you exactly what you'll need to do in order to not receive deductions. I notice many students just print the rubric out right before turning in an assignment, which is a bad idea since it's basically an instruction set for your essay that students should know very well. On top of that, students who bring their work to me beforehand often have very few rubric errors since I'll catch the vast majority of them (I keep coming back to this idea, but I still can't get why one wouldn't bring work to the person that's going to grade it).
- You ask us a lot of questions that we don't know the answers to. Why do you do this? I'm not going to answer if I don't know the answer! (click)
- What book/s is/are we using? You'll find this information here.
- How much time will I have to dedicate studying for your class? Probably three hours per every one hour of class time. Read my FAQ re: how difficult my classes are, etc.
- What if I can't dedicate the time or resources to your class, but I still want to pass, what can I do? (click)
- I don't have the notes or slides for X day [e.g. because I wasn't in class / dog ate my notes / I was asleep / I was on a date with someone more interesting than you and your class], can you help me? Also: Do you hand out your notes, slides, or PowerPoint presentations? Short Answer: No (click).
- Ack! I can't write down everything on your PowerPoints! The types of drugs you would need to be on to successfully copy everything on my PowerPoints wouldn't help since you would be dead before the first exam, anyhow (click).
- You didn't assign a textbook. How can I look up information? Textbooks are so 1920s :). All of my courses include a universal textbook that students can access here during non-class hours or with this device during class.
Distance Education FAQs
This section is really only for students who are in one of my online, structured classes (particularly ones with discussion forums). If you're an independent studies student or you're taking a class from me using the Oxbridge tutorial system (e.g. Prescott College), then the FAQ below isn't really targeted directly toward you since you have enough one-on-one contact with me to know my habits and expectations already.