Students are required to attend both lectures and discussion sections. Sign-in sheets will be distributed at both lectures and discussions. Students are responsible for remembering to sign-in on the sheets. While I encourage students to take as much advantage as possible of Middlebury’s extracurricular activities, students are reminded that they are here as students first and athletes, activists, artists, &c., second.
The consequences for missing lectures are different from those for missing discussion sections. After they miss a lecture, students are required to contact me to explain the reason(s) why. In almost all cases, this will be sufficient to offset the absence. (Again: contact me even if you skipped only because you don’t find the lectures useful; I would like to hear that—perhaps along with some suggestions for improvement!)
Discussion sections are another matter. Attendance is naturally a prerequisite of participation. I believe strongly in the power of discussion as a pedagogical vehicle; and students should know that I think a considerable amount of independent work would be required to compensate for missed discussions. As a result, those who are considering missing a discussion section are encouraged to consult with me about suitable makeup work before they do so. Those who fall victim to debilitating illness must contact me as soon as they are able to arrange suitable substitute work.
Much of the success of this course will turn on students’ contributions. This is true for both our scheduled discussion sections and lectures. Students should ensure that they arrive to class prepared. This means reading the assigned readings before each lecture. Students are also required to bring the relevant readings with them to every class (including lectures). This will aid in note-taking, enhance discussion, and help to foster better connections between what we do in class and the course reading list.
The discussion sections will be organized around the material covered in both lectures and the assigned readings. I will try to guide the discussion, often playing the role of devil’s advocate. The specific content and direction of discussion, however, will be determined principally by the questions and issues raised by each discussion’s participants. Students should not be bashful about raising questions and specifying their preferences.
I recognize that some students hesitate to speak up during discussions; and I acknowledge that contributions to public discussion do not always need to be submitted orally. Those students who wish to take this course but who prefer not to speak in class will have the option—after consulting with me—to complete written discussion papers with which to earn good marks for their “participation” grade. These papers (300 words each) must be submitted to me at least 24 hours prior to the discussion. (I might then forward these analyzes to the entire discussion group.) Just as with oral discussion comments, summary should only be used in the service of critical analysis and argumentation. Students pursuing this option are still expected to attend every discussion. Students interested in exploring this option must contact me by the third week of the term.
Online Discussion via Facebook
Previously, I asked students to participate in online discussions via online forums, blogging engines, &c. Ultimately, I have found that the “Groups” function on Facebook works quite well as a mechanism for both discussions and sharing articles and links.
The Facebook group is open, meaning that you can join it without friending me or anyone else in the class. Additionally, participating is optional. This is just another avenue to continue discussing and sharing. The IP Facebook Group is available here.