My Philosophy Regarding:
Discussion plays an important role in all of the classes and seminars that I teach. Discussion creates opportunities to bring many minds to bear on a topic, to deepen and develop thinking, and to learn from classmates as well as the professor.
In my classes controversy and difference of opinion are welcomed. Indeed, discussion where multiple points of view are expressed and important questions debated is not only basic to education, it is fundamental to democratic society. In this sense education can become the practice of freedom, as Paulo Freire has advocated.
Preparation & Participation
Being well prepared for class is especially important in a discussion-based class. You won't learn from others, nor will you be able to shoulder your responsibility to contribute to the thinking we are all doing, if you are not well prepared.
Grades for "class participation" in my classes reflect what you have done to prepare for class, especially on-line discussions, written assignments, quizzes, and so on, that illustrate that you have carefully done assigned reading and thinking before class starts. I keep detailed records of this kind of work.
As you will see, I expect every student to participate in discussion, ideally more than once each class period. If you don't volunteer, I will invite you. I consider your verbal participation in class to be my responsibility, not yours. In other words, the "class participation" grade does not reflect how often you speak up in class. Instead, I commit to creating a class where every student will always be part of the conversation.
For these reasons I take attendance and have a clearly stated policy on the syllabus about how absences may affect your grade. While you can (and should) try to find out what happened from classmates, there is no substitute for being in class.
I record when you are late, and if you leave class early. I expect excellent attendance and preparation from all students. And, by the way, I almost always get it. I know WMU students to be hard working, responsible, and dedicated to learning.
If you are unable to attend class, I appreciate knowing in advance either by personal communication or by email. I understand that there are things in life more important than my class. I trust you and don't need or require proof of medical visits and so on.
At the same time, there is no such thing as an excused absence. In terms of your grade, I treat all absences in the same way. It may happen that one semester of your college career there are events in your life that lead you to miss class more often than you would like. That semester your grades may be impacted. It doesn't make you a bad person. In fact, sitting at your mother's hospital bedside instead of being in my class may illustrate that you are a good person.
Grading & Learning
From my point of view, the most important thing is the learning, not the grade. Learning more is something I am always willing to work with you on. Frequently papers can be rewritten and turned in a second time -- so that you can learn more. Extra reading, writing, viewing, and group and individual work are always welcome.
Meaningful learning is deeply joyful. Even with everything on your schedule, I hope my class will inspire your best effort and provide you with pleasure!
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