TOPICS: While there is a certain set of core ideas which we must cover, there is enough flexibility in the schedule to allow for the addition (or subtraction) of certain topics. If you think of any useful changes please let me know. During the term, it may become apparent to either you or me that the course would be greatly enhanced by some other modifications (e.g., changes in the required readings, homework, etc.). Please feel free to make such suggestions. Any major changes will be openly discussed before being implemented.
FEEDBACK: If at any time you are unsure about your performance in the class, please let me know, and I will try and provide you with as much useful information as possible. Similarly, useful comments as to the quality of the course (including suggestions for improvement, if possible) are always welcome and can easily be made at any time via the online course evaluation. Depending on the class size, I may ask for volunteers to meet with me on a regular basis during the semester. These representatives will act as advocates for all of the students (and should continually solicit input from their peers) and will provide additional and immediate feedback about how to improve the course.
QUESTIONS: Feel free to ask questions and make comments during the lectures. I will try and answer all questions, but there may be occasions when I find it necessary to postpone answers until a more appropriate time. Your questions and comments are vital to the development and direction of the course. Please do not be shy about asking questions (when was the last time that someone asked a question and you felt 100% confident that you could give the right answer?).
READINGS: Effective learning in this class will require you to have read the material before it is actually discussed. Thus, please pace your reading in relation to the time schedule so that you are ahead of the class discussion. Unless otherwise specified, you will be responsible for knowing all of the listed readings, as well as any readings announced during class.
OFFICE: I encourage you to come and see me at my office. If you have a quick question or special circumstances, please drop by at any time. I would like not to limit my availability, so if it looks like I am deep in thought or otherwise engaged, and your question can wait, please come by at a later time. For more extensive questions, I prefer that you use the specified office hours), so far as possible. If for some reason the office hours are inconvenient, I am quite willing to make special appointments.
It is often difficult for me to get to know your name and interests through only our class interactions. ***Thus, during the first week of class , make sure to come by my office and introduce yourself.***
ATTENDANCE: I would hope that the lectures presented during class will be engaging enough that you feel compelled to attend. Although there is no formal attendance policy (other than for exams), you are expected to attend class and excessive absenteeism should be avoided. You are responsible for knowing any modifications to the course announced in class. Insofar as possible, lectures will complement, and not substitute for, outside material. This fact will be reflected in exams. Moreover, attendance and participation are one of the few signals available for judging your effort at understanding the material. If you find that attending classes is not worthwhile, for whatever reason, please come and see me so we can discuss the situation.
Class will begin promptly at the appointed starting time. The beginning of the class is an integral and critical part of the lecture, so please try and be on time. I will always try to end class on time---in the event that I exceed the allotted time, gentle reminders are always welcome.
GRADING: Ultimately, your grade in the course should reflect your ability and effort directed at learning and understanding the material presented in class. If you feel that for some personal reason the current grading system will not be able to accurately accomplish this, then please come and see me as soon as possible so that we can make alternative arrangements. I reserve some latitude to modify the specified grading system for cases in which it is not able to accurately reflect the above criteria. If you ever receive a below average grade on course work, I expect you to come and see me during office hours, also you should read and act on the following suggestions for doing better. Any time you have a question about the exact criteria for grading a particular assignment, please ask for an immediate clarification. Please note the deadlines policy below.
In general, the grading process I use is as follows. For each individual assignment I employ a variety of techniques to make sure that the grading is consistent. Both the absolute number of points and a measure of how you did relative to others in the class are then recorded (this latter measure allows me to adjust for differences in difficulty and teaching from year to year). At the end of the semester, I rank students based on the two measures of performance. Once the ranks are determined, I look for natural breaks that might be useful in grouping students. I look for breaks that are large enough so that typical errors in grading will not make a difference. Once the groups are determined, I spend a lot of time looking at those individuals who are on the borderline, and try and make the best possible case for moving them into the higher category. (I look at a variety of factors during this evaluation, including: unusual events, improvement over time, good attendance and use of office hours, expressions of concern and extra effort focused on learning the material, etc.) Once the final groups have been determine, each member in a given group is assigned the same grade. I do not use a set distribution of final grades---the final distribution will depend on the intrinsic performance of the individuals in the class. If you have any suggestions that would improve the grading system please let me know.
Please keep a personal copy (electronic, xerox, etc.) of any material you submit for a grade. Always retain your course work until you receive your final grade in the class.
If you feel that a project, homework, exam, etc., has been graded incorrectly, please submit, in writing, an explanation of the error. When such items are submitted for review, I reserve the right to regrade the entire item. Any issues with grading must be submitted to me, unless otherwise specified, within one week after the graded material is available to the class. After this one week period, no changes will be made in recorded grades.
DEADLINES: Unless otherwise specified, assignments are always due at the beginning of class on the designated date (if class is not scheduled on the designated date, then the assignment should be delivered to my office before 5pm). If you are unable to submit course work or take an exam due to a schedule conflict, illness, concurrent other work or exams, etc., you must submit, in writing, a request for an extension, giving the reason why (including outside documentation if available) and a new completion deadline. Such notifications must be presented for my approval in a timely manner (prior to the event if it is foreseeable). Getting an extension is very easy for legitimate reasons. As you will see below, the penalty for having unexcused late work is severe, so either turn it in on time or get permission for turning it in late!
***If you fail to obtain permission in a timely manner, you will receive a zero for that assignment*** Note that receiving a zero will seriously impact your overall grade in the course, since average grades on assignments are well above 0! (For example, suppose the class averages 80% on graded work. If you do not turn in an assignment worth 20% of the grade, then you will have to have perfect (100%) scores on the remainder of the material just to achieve an average score in the class!) Thus, avoid putting yourself in an impossible position, and make sure you turn in your assignments on time.
EXAMS: Prior to any exam, as much (reasonable) information as possible about the exam will be provided. This information will include potential coverage (reading material, etc.), exam format (types and allocation of questions), etc.
WRITTEN WORK: Submitted written work should demonstrate the ability to communicate ideas inspired by an intellectual adeptness and curiosity with the material. Unless otherwise specified, all submitted written work should be in a final and polished form (including appropriate spelling and grammar, standard format, 12 pt text, standard type-face, double-spaced, etc.).
WEB PAGE: You should become familiar with all of the material on the class web page. I will assume that everyone will check this page at least once every 48 hours for newly posted announcements. You will also be able to download important files from this site, as well as discuss general issues on its bulletin board.
RECORDING: No student may record or tape any classroom activity without the express written consent of Prof. John H. Miller. If a student believes that he/she is disabled and needs to record or tape classroom activities, he/she should contact the Office of Disability Resources to request an appropriate accommodation.
DISABILITIES: The Office of Equal Opportunity Services provides support services for both physically disabled and learning disabled students. For individualized academic adjustment based on a documented disability, contact Equal Opportunity Services at email@example.com or (412) 268-2012.
CHEATING: Cheating and dishonesty are unacceptable, will not be tolerated, and you will be held to a high standard in this regard. You may not represent other people's ideas or work as your own. Please make yourself familiar with the current University policy regarding cheating and plagiarism. This type of behavior is unfair to you, your classmates, and to me. Measures will be taken to detect cheating. If cheating is detected we will follow the procedures for academic disciplinary actions and seek the maximum penalty possible.