Teaching Method, Grading, and Assignments in English
In addition to developing a broad understanding of the key topics taught in this class, this course also seeks to develop each student’s ability to understand and discuss academic texts (including any visual “texts” such as films). This requires that students be able to explain a text’s key concepts in both oral and written assignments. Written assignments are to be done individually while oral assignments will be done in small groups. To this end, students will be divided up into groups on the first day of class. (These groups will be adjusted after the add/drop period is over to ensure that they are evenly sized.) Weekly assignments will be divided evenly between groups. While the number of weekly assignments will depend on the size of the class, commonly each group ends up being responsible for approximately two weekly assignments per a semester. For each of these weeks students are expected to write a written report on the assigned text. Also, each group is expected to make a collective oral presentation to the class for the weeks they’ve been assigned. There will also be midterm and final exams. In smaller classes these exams will be conducted orally, while larger classes necessitate written exams. Class participation is an important part of the class and students will receive a grade for their contribution to classroom discussion. Finally, to facilitate communication there will be an online discussion forum set up for the class. (Posts to that forum will also count towards the participation grade.) Detailed instructions for each kind of assignment are provided in the “assignments” section of the syllabus.
- Participation: 15%
- Written Reports: 25%
- Oral Presentations (group score): 20%
- Midterm Exam: 20%
- Final Exam: 20%
What Grades Mean
- “E” (Below 50) – You are a ghost. Either I didn’t see you all semester, or maybe you have been sent to hell for plagiarism?
- “D” (50-59) – You are a zombie. I see your body in class, but your brain is somewhere else.
- “C” (60-69) – Soldier. You do exactly what you are told. No more, no less.
- “B” (70-79) – Scholar. You are enthusiastic about learning new ideas, but maybe you were daydreaming too much to get an “A”?
- “A” (80-100) – Hero. You combine the qualities of the soldier and the scholar, not only fulfilling the course requirements but also going beyond them in your pursuit of knowledge.
- These are to be written individually. Students are encouraged to meet in groups to discuss the reading, but each report should be unique to that student. (If there is any duplicate content between individual reports it will be treated as plagiarism and punished accordingly.)
- Written reports should be between 900 and 1800 characters of original writing (not including direct quotations and the bibliography).
- If there are more than one text assigned that week, or if I have explictly divided a single text into smaller parts for each student, then the group should divide the texts up between group members so that each student is only writing about one of the assigned texts.
- Cite all your sources! The report should follow standard academic practices for in-text citations and the final bibliography. (See the section on plagiarism for more details.)
- Students must hand-in all the reuqired reports in order to receive a passing grade for the course. (Work that is plagiarised or sub-standard will not count.)
- All written reports should contain the following sections, in the following order:
- Context: Discuss the background and context for the text. This will require doing additional research and will be different for each kind of text. For instance, if the article is replying to a previous work by another scholar, then the report should briefly describe that previous work. If the text is describing a culture or society that is not familiar to students in the class, then the report should give a brief introduction to that culture or society. Context may also include information about the author, but only if that is somehow useful to understanding the text. (Points will be taken off if the context discussion is irrelevent to understanding the text.)
- Key points (with examples): What are the key points made by the author in this text? Some authors make this easy, summarizing their own key findings, while other texts require close reading identify the author’s key points. In either case, don’t just provide a list of these points, but explain each one briefly and clearly. In doing so, provide examples for each of these points to help illustrate what they mean. (Extra points if students can supplement the examples used in the text with their own examples - either drawn from other readings or from personal experience.)
- Methodology: How does the author support their argument? What methodology is used (ethography, statistics, archival research, etc.) and how well does this kind of data support the points that the author wishes to make? (If the text is not an academic research paper, you can skip this section.)
- Commentary: This should be your own personal thoughts about the text. It can take the form of questions, criticism, or a meditation on the importance of this text for your own life. This section must reflect careful, original, thought. (Points will be taken off if you resort to platitudes or clichés to avoid the hard work of saying something original, but there is no “wrong” answer and students are encouraged to say what they really think.)
- While the reading analysis is an individual assignment, the presentation is a group assignment.
- Everyone in the group must participate in the presentation, each one speaking in turn.
- Students who miss their presentation because they are late or fail to attend class on the day they are supposed to present will not receive any grade for that presentation and will have to complete a makeup assignment in order to receive a passing grade for the course.
- Students must prepare lecture notes for the presentation. Students must collectively write a presentation lecture that is different from their written report. Nor can students read directly from the assigned text. These presentation notes must be a collective endeavor.
- You must prepare a PowerPoint (PPT) presentation as well. The PPT should not be the same as your lecture notes, but should serve to help illustrate and highlight the main points in your text.
- Each group will have 20 min to present. On average, you should spend no longer than 30 seconds on each Power Point slide, so for a 20 min presentation you will want approximately 40 slides. Also, the slides should vary between text based slides and images and/or charts (as necessary). Some effort should be made to make the slides attractive and easy to read from the back of the classroom.
Handing in the written reports and oral presentations
- Written Reports
- Written reports are due at the start of class one week prior to the date that text will be discussed in class. (If there is no class that week, then discuss with the TA how to hand in the homework. If the first presentation is due on the second week of class, then it can be handed in one day before the class.) This is so that groups have one week to prepare for their oral presentations after having finished writing their individual reports.
- In addition to hading in a paper copy of the report, all students should email a copy of the report to the TA on the same day.
- The top of the report should contain the following information: name, student number, email address, date the assignment was due, and the date the assignment as completed (this last item is only required if the completion date is different from due date).
- The title of the report should be the name and author of the text being discussed.
- When emailing documents please include your name and group number in the filename.
- Oral Presentations
- The PPT file and the written lecture notes should be emailed to the TA the same day as the presentation. (They can be sent after class.)
- Both documents should contain the the following information at the top of the first page (or on a cover page): group number, names and student numbers of all students in the group, date the assignment was due, and the title and author of the work being discussed.
- When emailing documents please include your name and group number in the filename.
Actively participating in class discussion is an essential part of your overall score. Don’t worry if I disagree with what you say. I prefer students to express strong opinions, even if they are different from my own. If you are shy in front of other students you can participate online instead. There is no distinction made between online and in-class participation.
- Students should treat oral exams as seriously as they do written ones.
- Oral exams will include topics discussed in class lectures, not only the assigned readings, and not only what was on the PPT for that lecture, so students should take good notes in class. (If students miss any classes they are still responsible for knowing what was discussed on those days and should ask a classmate to help them take notes.)
- Students are expected to review all course materials and lecture notes before the exam.
- During oral exams students are only allowed to bring a single sheet of paper with notes. (I advise students not to write too many notes. Questions have to be answered promtply and having too many notes makes it impossible to find what you are looking for in time to answer the question.)
- Oral exams are conducted in groups, but each student answers questions on their own and is graded individually. Students who have already answered several questions are asked to let other students have a chance to answer first before answering.
- Students who are absent from the oral exam, or fail to answer any of the questions, will fail the class.
- If it is an unusually large class it is not possible to conduct oral exams. Instead students will be asked to answer essay-type questions in class. (There will be no written exam if oral exams are given instead.)
- Students are only allowed to bring a single sheet of paper with notes.
- Students who are absent from the written exam, or fail to answer any of the questions, will fail the class.
If in doubt, ask! I have regular office hours, an e-mail list for the class, and students have my private e-mail address. There is no excuse for not knowing what is expected of you.