Frequently Asked Questions about AST12X

The amount of work I'm doing does not reflect the grade I'm getting

Your grade does not measure the amount of time spent studying (directly). It measures the number of correct answers on exams. Being able to state the correct answers is assumed to measure the amount of material you have learned in the course, and that is what grades are about. There is usually a strong correlation between time spent on the lecture notes and exam score, i.e. more time spent studying means more understanding of material which means a higher exam score. However, your personal perspective of how hard you are working ('A' or 'B' effort) is completely invisible to me as I can only judge your work based on your exam scores.

This is actually one of the big differences between college and high school. In high school, with smaller classes, the emphasis is on the learning process. Study and reading skills, tools and techniques are the main program goals in high school. In college, the emphasis is learning the subject material. It's assumed that your acceptance into college means that you have the basic tools needed to study. So high school grades focus on effort and techniques and less on the actual material. College only grades on the material learned, with little recognition of what level of effort was required by an individual to meet that goal.

I'm taking the course pass/no pass and now I think I'm going to get a 'B'. How do I switch to a grade option.

There is an appeal process through the office of Academic Affairs to change a grade option or late withdraw from a class. However, you have to have a really, really good reason to win an appeal. Just saying that "opps, I got a good grade" will not be sufficient to change the option (for obvious reasons, otherwise everyone would sign up for P/NP, wait to see their grade, then switch options).

My roommate studies 1/2 the amount I do and got a higher score on the exam!

Ok, grab a-hold of the chair you are sitting in, cause this is going to seem harsh, but... your roommate is smarter than you. This happens often in many subjects. For some people, math and science are easy. For others, literature and spelling are a breeze. In this case, your roommate finds science easy to understand and has to work less than you. There's only one thing you can do, hate them.

Are you going to grade on a curve?

Yes, the grades will be curved, meaning that a letter grade will be assigned based on your score relative to the scores of your fellow students. It is a ranking system.

I'm one point short of the next higher grade, can't you give me the higher grade?

Since the student population insists on being graded on a curve, then you must suffer the conditions of the curve. On a straight scale, one could work extra credit to increase your grade. But with a curve, it is not fair to the other students to add points without a reason. In addition, it's not the points that determine your grade, it is your rank compared to the other students. Thus, you may believe you are one point from a 'B', but in fact there may be dozens of students ahead of you on the curve.

Can't you re-grade my exams? I'm sure there's an extra point somewhere in there.

With a curve system I would have to re-grade everyone's exams to draw a new curve. This is not practical in a large class.

When will the exam be graded?

Soon.

I forgot about the exam, or I was sick for the exam, or my computer ate my homework assignment, etc.

Contact me by email and we will work something out. Usually, this means a painful oral make-up exam (these are torture, so you want to avoid missing an exam at all costs).

I need a make-up exam, how do I do that?

Check my schedule on the class webpage and drop into my office any blank time.

Can I make an appointment to take my make-up exam?

No, just pick a blank time and stop by and hope I am there. I don't make appointments because students fail to keep them (based on 25 years of experience).

I don't wanna take the oral make-up exam, can't you give me a written, multiple choice exam like everyone else? It's unfair that I have to take an oral exam because my grandma died, my car broken down, I overslept the exam, I had a fight with my boyfriend/girlfriend.

Since the class is graded on a curve, it is not possible to give you a fair grade from a written exam unless I use the exact same questions as the original exam (which I can't for security reasons). A second written exam might have questions that were harder (for you) than the original and, thus, you would get a lower grade for the same score given to the rest of the class. I could grade the class on a straight scale, but if I did that about 60% of the class would flunk.

The oral exam, as painful as it sounds, allows me to judge your comprehension of the material in a much more objective manner than a written exam. You will not get a numerical score for the oral exam, I simply note in a file that you did 'A','B' or 'C' work and average this into your final grade. This means that you will not see your name on the class ranking, but this is the price that is paid for missing exam.

This class seem unrelated to life or my career goals, I'm bored, do I need to know this stuff?

This is a science course. Science is important. Every little bit you learn makes an impact later in your life, even though it may not seem like it now. Not everything in college has to be exciting, interesting or fun. Sometimes you just have to work hard. Sometimes the satisfaction of doing well in a new subject is worth the effort.

Primarily, you have the wrong view of what college is. It's not a career training center, it is a center of learning to produce an educated society, a Jeffersonian democracy. You may not personally agree with this mission goal, if you want to change this, become a professor.

This science stuff is hard and full of terminology, you seem to assume people have a science background and I don't. I should get an 'A' if I can parrot your words back at you in the exam.

This is a difficult course in some sense. In general, most of the students get most of the information at a level that I'm pleased with (I know this cause I read your exams). This course has very few science majors, I aim the material at history/English/business/etc., not science majors. There is a lot of terminology, but each of the words has some meaning that I want you to learn and understand.

The faculty of this University, and others, feel the quality of education is declining in that last 15 years. In response to this decline, most of the survey courses have degraded to busywork and memorization of facts tested with piles of multiple choice exams. Your education money is not well spent with these courses.

I fill this course with many new exotic ideas that have been discovered in the last few years. I believe this course is challenging and interesting. Therefore, its suppose to be alittle hard.

This class is way, way, way too hard. It's like a 300 level course. This is suppose to be an introductory course.

I have no doubt that a majority of the class thinks this course is "too hard". However, in the last few decades, the quality of introduction courses has degraded to embarrassing levels. While this is disturbing in a general context, to the individual student this means that you are giving the University a great deal of money and they are giving you very little in return. Now, I also recognize that this is exactly what most of you want, a degree with very little work attached to obtaining it. But I refuse to participate in this charade. This course is what a college level course should be based on what your admission requirements say you should know when you enter college. I have no doubt that many of you are college eligible, but not college ready. This course will, hopefully, help down that path.

I want to improve my grade, why don't you offer extra credit work?

I have found that students wanting extra credit work are struggling in the course and have sub-standard grades. College learning is not like lifting weights where extra reps will tone you up faster (that was high school learning). The course material is designed to provide you with some level of knowledge about the subject. If your work is sub-par, then doing more sub-par work is not going to improve your knowledge level and, quite frankly, I don't want to grade more sub-par work. Bottom line is that I don't offer extra credit because I believe the students should focus on doing the regular credit.

Why don't you offer a study guide or an outline of the stuff we really need to know for the exams?

In the past I have offered detailed study guides and even examples of questions from the exams. This resulted in the students simply studying *only* what was in the study guide and exams scores dropped. All the information in the lectures and readings is relevant and interconnected. The exams are lengthy and there are no shortcuts to knowing the material.

The math problems seem easy when you do it on the board in class, but when it comes to the quizzes, I don't do that well.

You know why it looks easy when I do it? Because I'm good at it. I've been doing these problems for years. If you want to become good at them, study your lecture notes and do the practice problems in the textbook.

Your class is full. Can I get in?

What do you think "full" means? Don't worry there will be plenty of drops in the first week when people find out there is math in the class.

I think I'm about to fail this class. Is there anything I can do?

Yes. Take the class again.

You're awful preachy, do you think you should just teach the material and otherwise leave us alone?

No.

Lastly, when in doubt with the course policies, always do the following: