You Want An A? Here’s How.
Grades and Policies
My approach to grading is holistic and consistent with my overall approach to teaching. For our purposes “holistic” means that I look at the whole portfolio of work you’ve produced in the class, as well as the process that went into it. With respect to any given assignment, it is okay to try hard and still fall short. On the other hand it’s never okay not to make an effort. Essentially what happens is that during our required consultations, I ask you: What grade are you shooting for in this course? And then I tell you as an individual what you need to get there.
There are many good things about this approach. Most people feel that it’s fair and they appreciate that it’s individualized. They usually appreciate that I take their opinions seriously. Most people also feel that it helps to keep the focus on learning and not scoring points. On the negative side, we sometimes prefer what feels like the clarity, simplicity, and familiarity of a universal grading rubric that focuses on the results of your efforts: (“A C paper fulfills the assignment, but lacks sophistication,” etc).
My way of handling that is to ask you to develop a set of goals for yourself and to communicate those goals to me in a personal meeting. Later we’ll talk about how you’re doing based on the work you’ve turned in. We can talk as often as you like, but I require at least two visits to my office hours. In most cases where there appears the possibility of a substantially different understanding about your progress, or in cases where you feel that you haven’t been meeting your goals for a variety of reasons, you can request (or I may suggest) extra credit activities.
You have the freedom to do unlimited revision in response to feedback from me, other students and, possibly, from viewers of your projects online. At the end of the term, you’ll prepare a hypertext letter (a learning essay) linking to your web-published class work and discussing what you’ve learned.
I’m always available to talk if you have questions about your progress and will always take time to help you figure out how to do as well as possible.
But Really: How Do I Get an A?
My system maximizes personal communication. As a result I have received almost no grade protests in twenty years of teaching. Talking to me is always the best decision, because if you’re really learning, you’re taking risks and making mistakes! My role is to help you see what you’ve learned even if something doesn’t turn out the way you hoped. But I can lay out some guidelines that will fit most people in most circumstances:
Students seeking a grade in the A range will generally: Have completed all coursework; demonstrate thoughtful engagement with nearly all course reading in the informal writing; demonstrate ambition and learning in their websites, and complete at least one major project to a standard of exemplary, meaning that I would likely use the project to show other students how to do the assignment.
Students seeking or satisfied with a grade in the B range will have completed the major projects and nearly all of the other coursework, will demonstrate thoughtful engagement with most of the course reading, and will demonstrate some learning and some ambition in their websites.
Students receiving these grades typically agree that their portfolios are largely complete but nonetheless show minimal engagement with the assigned reading, and minimal ambition or learning in the coursework.
These grades are reserved for students who show little to no engagement with the course reading, whose work is missing one major project, or whose work is so perfunctory that it displays little to no learning at all.
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Attendance, academic integrity, and disability accomodation
Because of the participatory and hands-on nature of the learning you’ll do in this class, I suggest that you miss no more than 2 classes, and arrive late no more than once. Unexcused attendance problems beyond these guidelines will be reflected by a reduction in your final grade (usually 1/2 to 1 1/2 letter grades); attendance issues affecting 4 sessions will usually result in a failing grade. Emory maintains a detailed policy on academic integrity that applies to this course. Students who experience a circumstance or condition that may affect their ability to complete assignments or otherwise satisfy course criteria are encouraged to meet with me to identify, discuss, and document any feasible instructional modifications or accommodations. You are encouraged to explore formal support for ability issues. Any other issues? Please email or drop by the office to talk.
My policy as above has always been to accommodate any circumstance or condition, including warning students about triggering material when asked. As a result of the controversy at the University of Chicago, I have decided to adopt an explicit, proactive policy inspired by Erika Price’s thoughtful practice. In essence, anyone with any trigger is invited to contact me and request a private, individual warning regarding upcoming course material. You may also have a confidante contact me without naming you or use an anonymous remailer like FoldedNote. In the case of anonymous requests, I’ll notify the entire class. Accommodations include skipping the relevant material and/or the meetings in which it was discussed, without penalty. Additional accommodations available as needed. If you do use an anonymous remailer and I don’t respond, it will be because one of my mail services will have sent it to spam. If you do not get a response from me within 48 hours, please use another means of getting in touch, like putting a signed or unsigned note under my office door, or in my faculty mailbox in the Rich building.
The Emory Writing Center is located in Callaway N-212. It offers 45-minute individual conferences to Emory College and Laney Graduate School students. EWC tutors can talk with you about your purpose, organization, audience, design choices, or use of sources. They can also work with you on sentence-level concerns (including grammar and word choice), but they won’t proofread for you. Instead, they’ll discuss strategies and resources you can use to become a better editor of your own work. They encourage writers to schedule appointments in advance and encourage you to bring a laptop if you’re working on a digital or multi-modal text.
….are a tremendous asset to any classroom, bringing a wealth of knowledge, culture and perspective to their peers. If you speak more than one language, please feel encouraged to develop research projects in a language other than English, and in the media culture of a part of the world where English is not the first language.
Multilingual students who consider themselves English learners have substantial support for English-language communication of all types through ESL Services, including free one-on-one tutoring.
Please Keep Them Off Until Asked
Electronic devices will commonly be part of the learning experience in this class. However, using a device for activities unrelated to the learning experience commonly distracts you, your neighbors, and me. It’s often perceived as disrespectful by others. In many cases the quality of learning suffers. Acceptable technology use policies are a matter of everyone’s wellbeing, not individual choice. To secure the integrity of the learning environment, I’ve adapted some policy language developed by the CU School of Education and other sources. These policies apply to but are not limited to: cell phones, tablets, voice recorders, cameras and laptops.
1) All electronic devices must be turned off until there is explicit direction to use them for learning activities. Class notes should be taken on paper and digitally transferred at another time. Often just photographing the notes does the trick. If we are discussing your reading notes, we’ll just put your reading blog on the display.
2) You may not record the voice or image of any member of the class without their explicit, written permission in the form of a signed recording lease. This includes the instructor, the media consultant and guest speakers.
3) Students with disabilities or exceptional needs, who require electronic or assistive devices for their day-to-day functioning in the academic setting, may coordinate the use of electronics during class sessions with me.
4) Students using any electronic device in class for an activity not related to the learning experience, or without my permission, will receive a verbal warning on the first occasion. If a second occasion occurs, I’ll email you a written warning, indicating that this activity affects my assessment of your participation in the class and will affect your final grade. A third event will result in an invitation to withdraw and/or additional serious penalties to your final grade.
5) In the event you face an urgent situation and expect emergency contact, please discuss the situation with me before class. We’ll arrange for you to leave the class session in response to a silent notification on your cell phone.