Advice to Current Students

What should I expect when…?

In addition to reviewing how I value student feedback and previous course syllabi to gain an understanding of what it might be like in class with me, this page is designed to demystify course expectations, class participation, and office hours. I will also provide some tips and tricks for succeeding in my class (and perhaps other university courses). If you have questions about advising and mentoring, click here.

As a sidenote, an important part of college is learning professional educational communication norms. When you do not know what professor and are unsure of the level of formality that they preferred communication, it is best to always prefer to them as Dr. or Professor at the beginning of an email.

Course Expectations

The syllabus will be one of the founding blocks to success. This is where you will find the course description, learning outcomes, and course requirements. Other items on the syllabus include (but are not limited to): the late assignment policy, attendance policy, and resources available to students on campus.

Please arrive on time for class, having completed the reading or media for the day. Please make sure you have the reading with you for that day’s class.

This class is dialogue intensive, meaning your participation is critical to active learning within the classroom. Class discussions are meant to encourage us to think critically about both the content of this course and the world around us. Together, we will be producing knowledge rather than merely consuming it. The inclusion of multiple, and even contrasting, viewpoints will help us with this, and participation is required from everyone.

Based on the assigned readings, you should prepare 2-3 questions that can be used to launch our discussion and begin your thinking about future papers. While you do not necessarily need to formulate an answer to the question posed, you should be able to convey some broad thoughts. In order to facilitate participation in class discussion, I highly recommend taking notes on the reading. To improve your reading comprehension, please keep the following concepts in mind:

  • ARGUMENT: What is the author’s central point? Does the author clearly articulate his/her central points at the beginning of the chapter/article?
  • CONCEPTS: What key concepts/theories does the author engage with? § METHOD: What tools aid the author’s development of his/her argument? Does the author utilize surveys, textual analysis, statistics?
  • CONNECTIONS: How are some of these “buzzwords” related to what we’ve studied throughout the course? For example, how does a reading from the beginning of the course relate to something we’re discussing towards the end of the course? Remember all of the texts build off one another.
  • CONCLUSIONS: What conclusions does the author make? How do these conclusions relate to broader themes discussed in the class?

Office Hours

I encourage you to come to office hours to discuss your writing on an individual basis. I especially encourage you to see me before papers are handed in to focus your ideas and then after papers are handed back so that we can talk about your writing and ideas in further detail. In my experience, students who see me in office hours write better papers, and thus, office hours have numerous benefits:

(1) You explain your ideas to me, and I better understand what I eventually read in your paper;
(2) In talking through your ideas, you 8 further clarify your own; and
(3) You can anticipate possible objections and modifications your potential reader (me) would have to your thesis.

Scheduling a Meeting

Unable to come to my office hours this semester, please email me ( and schedule an appointment. In your email please let me know what you’re interested in discussing and available dates/times.

Don’t despair if you cannot meet during traditional business hours! I also hold Skype, Google Hangout, or Blackboard Collaborate meetings.

Class Absences

Please make sure you review the attendance policy in your syllabus. Assignments, changes to the syllabus or assignment deadlines will also be announced at the beginning of class. Exchange contact information with another student upon whom you can rely for information about classes you miss.

Written Assignments

Each writing assignment requires critical thinking. To critique is not merely criticizing an author’s perspective. Rather, you must be “specific about what it means to argue for a position” (Bowen, Teaching Naked 163).

Please note that while personal opinions play a role in class discussion, they do not substitute for a concerted effort to grasp the scholarly material in the course. Understanding the material does not mean you have to embrace all or any of the viewpoints represented. However, it does require that you read it, think about it, and discuss it.

As you write, review the rubrics for each assignment. Consider how the text (e.g. reading, documentary) may be interpreted. Differentiate between opinions (yours, mine, ours) and the intention of the text’s author. I suggest that you outline your papers. Please also remember that I am willing to review drafts of your assignments. If I provide feedback on paper drafts, you are responsible for integrating the revisions to enhance your paper. You should also utilize the available resources on campus — The Fred Meijer Center for Writing.

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