Courses

FAQ

Why Conversation?

Conversations are real time learning. First, most academic exercises ask you to analyze some kind of data or information and then to synthesize it through some kind of assigned exercise. In conversation, this is happening at light speed. As you listen, you analyze. As you speak, you synthesize. Second, conversations also provide the instructor and fellow students insight into each participants understanding. Third, daily conversations mirror the macro-conversations of academia (e.g. Biology is a conversation about "what is life?") and model the micro-conversations of a student's "homework."

what's your electronics policy?

I don't like computers in class. They do little for conversation. I don't care for phones either for the same reason. But, since I think of students as adults, I see no need to harangue someone about the usage of either. I say, quite simply, "if you need to use the phone or the computer, step out. Respect the conversation. There is no penalty for having to step out. You are an adult. Or if you have to check a notification about work or something from family by glancing at a phone, that's expected." The danger lies in the student's inability to discern the difference between checking a critical message and their addiction to dings and notifications.

why the readings?

Reading is the lifeblood of conversation. For conversational energy to unfold there must be some kind of shared space. That shared space is a text...most of the time. A text can be anything from a cadaver to a sociology book to a mathematics proof. The text is the document—and don't just think paper—that informs our conversation. Being able to read is being able to explore and engage. The opposite of reading, then, would be a kind of solipsism.

what happens if i miss class?

In a word, nothing. I am not interested in reducing you to a job evaluation. I want you to be present far more than I want you to attend. This means that you might miss class for whatever reason but be heavily involved in the course's conversation. However, you may be in attendance all the time and be mentally absent. The only time I will  initiate conversations about absences is when they have a prolonged duration. If you miss a lot you simply cannot stay attuned to the conversation. I would say that if you do expect to miss then letting me know in advance helps. Do not ask if you "missed anything important." Just use the resources to stay in the conversation.

HOw do i submit work

I only add this question because some of you are going to email me a plethora of assignments. I really do not want that. When I get loads of student emails, they get backed up and they arrive in so many different manners. Instead, I have set up a dropbox on the PSTCC interface (Brightspace). There is a video tutorial here.

Why do you say marks instead of "grades"?

Students have been trained, since about the third grade, to reduce their work to a series of letters. In other words, grades are an addiction. Grades become a kind of currency, like money, that you think you earn from professors. You work, they pay in grades. This industrialized approach to your work corrupts conversations. Markings is the British term for grades. I like it better because it reflects the conversational nature of our time together. The feedback you get on papers or assignments should be thought of as "re-marks" not grades.

what/where are my marks?

You can find your remarks on the material I return to you in the same dropbox you submitted to. You can find it here. A lot of times, I use obscure numbers and points so that a percentage never appears. Still, you can find those point totals here.

is there extra credit?

Nope. Since I really don't emphasize grading, then I see no need to design an assignment just for their purpose. If you want to ensure that your marks are high and that they reflect your insights, then be present, converse, and be purposeful.

Do you teach other stuff?

I do. As you can see at the top of this page, I teach a summer course for UTK/PSTCC as well as Religion courses for PSTCC. Feel free to peruse the resources of either. In the future, I will be teaching in the communications department. My current PhD research is in rhetoric and communication.

how can you mark my opinion?

I enjoy this question. Students' often ask, "If you want our opinion, how can you grade that?" First, I don't grade, I mark and re-mark. Second, I am not measuring your work against my opinion or some general perspective. I am measuring your opinion against itself. If a student cannot articulate their perspective or insight, then that insight fails to be compelling. It is not enough to say, "I know what I mean but I just can't write it out." In my opinion, then, you don't know it.