Friday, January 5, 2018

Handout CL: Classroom Policies and Expectations

What it means to be a (good) student
Your primary responsibility in this context is to be a good student:

Good students attend all classes and arrive on time; put their electronic gadgets and other distractions aside; 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; seek out assistance when required; and, most generally, openly, deliberately, and with care and 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 or strive to be a good student, are as follows:

Missing class (or arriving late/leaving early) is not an excuse for missing a deadline or an assignment. Attendance is absolutely required to benefit from or 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 to award any kind of “credit” for mere attendance. In short: please don't take my seminars if you plan not to attend or to arrive late.

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. Even so, since each of my seminars is discussion-intensive, I expect all students to participate fully. Mandatory classroom participation schemes, however, 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 which attend post-secondary schooling, no one, independently of his or her scholarly performance, has purchased or contracted for a right to a good or 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 species 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 students' lives aside from their scholarly products. In short: please don't expect to receive a grade higher than the one 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 don't take my seminars unless you plan to do all of your work on time.

Civility/behavior/electronic distractions
I believe that nothing is more corrosive to our educational success than incivility (a broad category which includes all manner of inappropriate or disruptive behavior, including incessant joking, chatting, arriving late/leaving early, expressing anger, engaging in personal attacks (we discuss the merits of ideas here, not persons) and using a cellphone or any other electronic gadget, including laptops). While honest disagreement and debate (along with occasional laughter and surprise) are natural and welcome consequences of our inquiries, there is never a call for disruptive, disrespectful, abusive, or intimidating words or actions of any sort in our dealings with each other in a classroom setting (virtual or otherwise). For online coursework, always follow the basic rules of "netiquette."  In short: please don't take my seminars if you cannot remain considerate of others.

Special Accommodations/Extra-Academic Concerns
I will happily honor any officially documented requirements for special accommodations as outlined in the MCLA Student Handbook. Please consult MCLA's "Students with Disabilities" policy statement. MCLA's "Help Directory" usefully outlines all student-related services available on campus.