October 21, 2017


First words

If you are reading this page, chances are high that you are a student in one of my classes. The goal we share is education, but we may not share the same understanding of what that means. Education, as I see it, is much less about what I do and much more about what you do. It is not mostly about teaching, but is mostly about learning. One thing we need to agree on is this: You need to be actively involved in your learning and need to care about the outcomes of your work. If your expectation is that I will do something “to you” or “for you” that will magically transform you to a person very knowledgeable in a field you are in the wrong place. Learning is your responsibility and guiding and challenging you in that endeavor is mine. If you leave my courses thinking that you have learned a lot and I don’t seem to have done much, that will be great for the process is about you and your learning, not me and my teaching.

I also need to state at the outset that your grade is based on the results you show, not the “effort” you claim you have put into the course, whatever that may mean. “Working hard” or “putting a lot of effort” are euphemisms for cramming a few days before exams or other assignments are due and consequently staying until the wee hours of the morning. If that “effort” does not produce results that are deeply rooted in knowledge, reason, critical assessment, and other signs of “learning” your grade will reflect that. No hard feelings.

You will find some of these ideas in this spoof video. There is a lot of truth in it as I have seen over the years.

About the site

This site serves as an electronic syllabus for the courses I teach. I do not distribute a printed syllabus for each course. Although you may print your own from your browser, I encourage you to visit this site frequently to pick up the latest changes if any. You are responsible for knowing everything on the pages related to the course you are taking as well as those under the “Must Read” section.

I encourage you to visit me in my office for your questions and comments. In addition, feel free to send e-mail to me anytime you need help. I read my mail regularly many times a day and respond promptly to as many messages as I can, usually all.

I expect that everyone is familiar with using e-mail and can send and receive attachments. I will be happy to have training sessions on the tools of the Internet for those who need it.

Learning requires active participation from all parties involved, the teacher, the student, and others in the class. One of the most important aspects of being in a course is to learn to appreciate how the course relates to your lives, not only to the material you think you will use. Engage with the material and the course and take an active role you will be amply rewarded. Not only will you learn the course material better, you will also learn how to learn, which is more valuable than the course material in the long run. You will generate and own your knowledge through various courses, including mine. The quality of your learning is directly tied to the quality and the type of knowledge you create for yourself. I cannot over emphasize this point.

Not every course has wonderfully colorful, fun, easy to learn subject as you would like it to be. Liking the subject matter of any course is in part a decision you make at the outset. Start any course with a positive attitude and learn to look at it from different perspectives. The more you can relate the subject matter to other disciplines, other course, and to your personal life, the stronger your learning will be.

Now, let us get on with it. Read every section and subsection of the syllabus site, if you like, get a printed copy. But remember, I may update parts and add new material anytime. Visit the site often, it is available wherever you have access to the Internet.

Have a great semester.