Thursday, January 25, 2007

Course Policies

The other day, I discovered that I am a sinner! It turns out, when they updated our Faculty Handbook, they slyly slipped in some new provisions, that my usually extremely beady eye missed. We are now required to have explicit course policies, in writing, on various topics. This is a pain. I now have to find a way of writing up, in language that is too legalistic for the students to manipulate, what I used to just say.

One of the topics we now need an explicit policy on is Class Attendance. I used to just say,

"This is a lecture class, based upon quite difficult materials, which you are required to read. If you miss a class and do not get your hands on a good set of notes, then you will not understand the topic under discussion. As we are using original texts, just reading the book will be of limited help. You will not be able to work out what is important and why, on your own. So, if you miss too many classes, then you will probably fail this class."

How does one write up such a rant, in legalise? Also, although we are required to keep a list of who attends class, I really do not care. The exams and the final paper almost always suffice to sort the 'goats' from the 'sheep'. I bet I'd get killed if I said anything like that in writing on an official document for students though.

Having to have a policy on Class Attendance brings up the additional (and entirely unnecessary, in my view) topic of excused verse unexcused absences. There are always a few kids who are on the University Tiddly Winks team (or some such) who have to miss a few classes, due to away matches. Provided they stay up to date with their readings and get hold of a good set of notes, then that is fine by me. These students are usually polite enough to let me know what is going on, which is cool.

Similarly, there are usually a few students who miss a few classes for entirely mysterious reasons (although hangovers could be responsible for some cases). Again, if they do not miss too many and get caught up, why should I care? Now, I have to describe all this in excruciating detail.

The thing that most upsets me though, is that I can no longer use my favorite line that,

"...the Federal Government seems to think that we faculty members should act like their surrogate baby sitters. We are not. You are all adults. You decide. However, it is a good plan not to miss class, unless there is a good reason."

OK, I should probably quit grousing and get down to writing up respectful prose, filled with crap about 'the community of learners', 'learning outcomes' and all that other stuff that the folks in suits love so much. Bah!

What really terrifies me though is that I also have to come up with a detailed description of my grading system. This is going to be an extra special nightmare. Should I tell the students about all the steps I take to make sure that I have not messed up the sums? Should I explain all the descriptive statistics I do, to make sure that an especially fiendish midterm does not disadvantage them, as compared to the students last year? Should I give up my quality control system, or just lie about it? This is a real quandary. Suggestions would be welcome.

The CP

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