Class Coffee House: General Questions and Discussion about ENG 241

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Class Coffee House: General Questions and Discussion about ENG 241

Dr. Brandon
Administrator
Questions and Discussion about ENG 241

Use this thread to ask questions and get answers about how the class works or about assignments, reading, etc.

In the colonial era, coffee, tea, and chocolate houses were brand new, and they were all the rage. As with parties and golf today, more real business went on in coffee houses than most know. Loyds of London--the shipping and insurance house--started out as a coffee house/tavern, and visit the newly restored Coffee House in Colonial Williamsburg to learn of how much of our own revolution happened in the backrooms over coffee.

In our class, the coffee house thread on the General Assembly Discussion Forum is a place to discuss and get answers to general questions about the class or just to meet and talk.
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Re: Class Coffee House: General Questions and Discussion about ENG 241

Kristi Kesler
Hey Dr. B

Just curious and I'm sure others in the class might be wondering the same thing...

Is there anywhere our grades are posted so we can keep up with them throughout the semester since we are not using the traditional BlackBoard cite?

Thanks

~Kristi
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Re: Class Coffee House: General Questions and Discussion about ENG 241

Dr. Brandon
Administrator
No.  In a pinch, I'll provide a holistic grade for the students who are worried about the grade I feel they are earning in ENG 112, but the system of grading I use doesn't lend itself well toward doing on-going grades.  

Think about it.  50% of your final grade comes from class participation.  That is: Are you attending class? Are you coming to class prepared?  Are you doing the assignments?  Are you coming to class on time? Are you participating in the discussion? Are you taking notes?  Are you posting the assignments on time?  Are you keeping up to date on your blog?  Are you doing the bare minimum, or are you trying to excel?  What kind of argument do I see on why or why not in your portfolio's reflective cover essay and the weekly learning reflections? 

All these factors play into the 50% of your grade which makes up the class participation portion, and much depends on how you present your side of class participation in your mid-term and final portfolio and in your learning reflections.  Much of this grade neither of us will see until after the draft of the mid-term portfolio is done.

The other 50% of your grade comes from the portfolio you produce for the class.  The portfolio has two parts: a cover, reflective essay and a section containing material you've produced over the course of the semester.  In the reflective cover essay, you:  1) reflect on the items you've included in the portfolio; 2) analyze these items to demonstrate how they prove you've learned the learning outcomes for the course; 3) discuss your class participation and performance; and, 4) argue for a grade.  You'll produce a draft of your portfolio at mid-term, and you'll revise it a couple of times before the exam week.  The due dates are under the "Assignments S11" tab.

Notice how your grade comes together.  You build it up as you do the work each week.  As you do the work and participate in class, you build evidence you can use in the portfolio, but you also build an ethos with me in terms of your class participation.  Then, you evaluate yourself and turn in your evaluation of weekly learning in the learning reflections and long term learning in the mid- and final- portfolios.  It's possible--not probable, but possible--mostly because you'd lack evidence--to put together a stellar, "A" portfolio at end-of-term and have a less than stellar class participation grade.  I won't know your grade until I see the final portfolio.  This is very much like how one is evaluated and assessed in a professional job, that is, one writes up an evaluation each year of one's strengths, weaknesses, and what one brings to the "company" for which one works.  In this evaluation, you concentrate on your strengths and how you'll improve the weaknesses.  Your "boss" then tosses in his or her two cents in their evaluation of you, and their take may clash with yours or support it.

I grade in these ways for a host of reasons, but the most important are that I'm teaching students to become professional caliber writers and readers.  The single most important texts you need to learn to read are yourself and your own communication.  You need to see how to improve both, and you need to come to view them and judge them with near the same dispassion as those outside of you do.  Most important, you won't have a professor to help you make these judgments.  If you're lucky, you'll have mentors, supervisors, and bosses, but each of these means little if you don't know yourself and your abilities as a communicator, as you need to be able to take their advice and fit it into your own gut-level decisions about what is right and wrong for you.  To model and force an environment in which students learn to can judge their selves and their work, one of the most potent tactics is delayed and limited grading.  Otherwise, the students attempt to satisfy the professor--something they already have plenty of practice doing--instead of learning to think for and evaluate the value of their own work.  

The second reason I use delayed and limited grading is to help students learn process and the value of revision.  Students hate revision.  Like most people, they want a task which is over; however, I'm tasked with teaching the value of revising and going through multiple drafts.  If I offer early comments and grades, I've found that students--already trained to think of the professor's as the most important voice in evaluating and reader of their work--tend to only pay attention to the comments I make.  In the process--pun intended, students learn little of how to form their own comments and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of putting in the time to revise.  Remember: good writing is writing which accomplished *your* agenda.

The third major reason I employ limited and delayed grading is to allow students the room to improve--room outside of the pressure for grades.  The freshman year is one for growth.  Students come in high school students but they must leave ready for the rest of college and started on their journey to become professionals.  If I grade weak students early, then these grades hang around their necks and weigh down their course average.  In short, there's little motivation to continue to learn, as the results may never bring about the grade they desire.  If I grade strong students early, I also lesson their concern about earning a good grade.  Instead, I make force the students to grow as communicators and create a safe place where they much continue to revise and grow to achieve success.  I'm not grading students relative to one another; I grade relative to where they begin and what they've learned in terms of the learning outcomes for the course--a document I hand out on the first day of class.

I hope the explanation above helps you understand the basis of how you earn your grade for the course, and why I employ limited and delayed grading.

If you still have questions, write back.

Steve
Stephen Brandon, PhD
Professor, Composition and Rhetoric
J. Sargent Reynolds Community College
Richmond, VA 23221
[hidden email]
[hidden email]

Often the accurate answer to a usage question begins, "It depends." And what
it depends on most often is where you are, who you are, who your listeners
or readers are, and what your purpose in speaking or writing is.
-Kenneth G. Wilson, usage writer (b. 1923)



On Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 9:37 AM, Kristi Kesler [via General Assembly Online Discussion Forum, ENG 241, Spring 2011] <[hidden email]> wrote:
Hey Dr. B

Just curious and I'm sure others in the class might be wondering the same thing...

Is there anywhere our grades are posted so we can keep up with them throughout the semester since we are not using the traditional BlackBoard cite?

Thanks

~Kristi


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