Course Policies

NOTES FROM THE FEBRUARY 9, 2010 BROWN BAG DISCUSSION ON

“COURSE POLICIES”

 

GENERAL POLICIES:

  • Even if policies are on the syllabus, go over them in class during the first class or two.
  • You must ask yourself:  What do you want to be to your students:  a coach to enhance learning or a gatekeeper to enforce policies?
  • One professor meets with students midway through the semester to tell them how their participation is going:  noting both attendance and how active they are in the class.

ATTENDANCE:

  • Some employers ding us for not being strict enough about attendance with students.  Former VU students with high grades sometimes get fired because they consistently fail to get to work on time (issue recently arose from software/tech companies).
  • Some faculty treat the class like a job:  student must be there on time for every single class.  As with a job, students must let the teacher know in advance if they will be gone due to illness, sports, etc., just as one is expected to do with one's supervisor in the professional world.
  • Even if attendance is not strictly necessary (i.e. a student could read the book and on-line notes and still pass), many feel that students owe it to their classmates to come.
  • Some faculty, though they consider attendance important, do not take roll every time.
  • Some faculty use attendance codes in Blackboard:  EX=Excused absence, SPORTS=Excused for a sport, L=Late, etc.
  • Many faculty use three as the number of absences that begins to affect a student's grade.
  • Lateness:  In some countries a student would never walk into class after the professor; it is just not done.  Should we/could we cultivate that attitude here?
  • Some faculty keep a late student after class to ask why he or she was late.
  • Some faculty keep track of how late a student is, after x number of minutes it counts as an absence.

ASSIGNMENTS:

  • Some are more liberal about late papers with non-traditional students.
  • Some spoke of the need for flexibility for illnesses, either give a make-up assignment or an extension.
  • For one instructor, "all assignments exist for the purpose of learning," not for evaluation; therefore, few points are assigned to them.  This instructor finds very few instances of plagiarism, since students do assignments to learn, not for a grade.  His motto:  I am not your jailer, I am your coach.  This instructor, however, has very heavily weighted exams.
  • One instructor had a problem of students in Core not turning in a first draft writing assignment to their peer group.  He now assigns 50 points to a first draft, 20-25 for a second.
  • If an assignment is important to you, then assign it a lot of points.
  • One instructor tells students that in most classes they will be assigned more work than they can do.  Therefore, it is up to them to figure out where they can cut, just as in real life.
  • What if the student is not there when an assignment is handed out?  Post assignments on Blackboard, then no excuses.
  • For some instructors, late assignments lose a student points.  They mark students down a grade for each day late, for example.  Others do not permit late assignments.

TEAM PROJECTS:

  • How to grade individuals when students are working in teams?
  • One instructor has team "meetings" on Blackboard discussion boards.  Students must post to get points.
  • Another gives both an individual and a team grade for projects.  Project members are asked to anonymously rate each other for attendance, contributions to the team, etc.
  • Another professor has student teams present to an external reviewer.  The reviewer rates both team and individuals.

CLASSROOM BEHAVIOR:

  • If a student makes a negative comment about a race, ethnic group, etc.:  make a mental note and find an occasion to bring it up in class without spotlighting that specific student.  He or she will get the message.
  • On some level students know when they are disrespecting another group, but still might make an occasional slur.
  • When students disrespect another student's opinion:  Find the nugget of truth in what that student as said, restate it and become his or her ally.
  • JOKE DAY:  Let off steam by asking them to bring in a joke on a certain day of the week.  This helps release tension.  Off limits:  racial, ethnic, or x-rated humor.

GOING BEYOND THE CLASS:

  • How do we get them to be curious?  Lead by example:  tell them of times you have gone outside your comfort zone.
  • One theology professor has students attend non-Christian services.  They must go early, talk to the usher, explain why they are there, report back to class.  Then the experience becomes contagious.