Below you will find various course policies, including:
- Late Assignments
- Extra Credit
- Cell Phones and their ilk
- Lab Conduct
- Group Lab Reports
- Studying Genetics
- Academic Honesty
It's important that you be in class. As you will discover, there will be no lecture notes for me to give you should you miss a meeting, no little PowerPoint handouts. Classes will be devoted to reviewing the topic(s) for the day, informed by your preparatory reading. Needless to say, that reading is critical to your ability to participate in class, clarify any difficulties you're having, and succeed in learning as much as you can about genetics.
I do not grade on a curve, so I hope that each of you will do your best to help your fellow students: if they benefit, it does you no harm. In fact, one of the best ways to learn something is to explain it to someone else, so talk to your classmates (see "Studying Genetics" below). Grades for this course will be determined as follows:
I'm going to be using the point system for this course, so you don't have to worry about calculating percentages for individual components. I'll try to keep an up-to-date total here on the website, so you can always determine your grade so far by comparing what you've earned with the max possible. (And don't you just hate Max, that little weenie?) Given my grading scale (see below), you can therefore calculate your own grade in the course at any time.
You want to learn genetics. I want to help you learn genetics. It's imortant that you come to class prepared, and I'm going to assume that you will do so. If not — if it becomes clear to me that many of you are not doing the necessary reading before class — I will start giving quizzes at the beginning of class. IF I give quizzes, they will be very low-impact individually, but how much (if anything) they contribute to your grade will depend on how many there are.
There will be three hour exams in this course, plus a final. Each will focus primarily on the material covered since the previous exam, but anything covered during the semester up to that point is fair game. Yes, that means that the final will be cumulative. Each hour exam will contribute 100 points toward your final grade, and the final exam will contribute 200 points.
There will be no make-up exams except in cases where I had advanced warning of your missing the exam, or you were unable to notify me due to circumstances beyond your control. Note that in any case, I may decide not to allow a make-up exam regardless of circumstance.
Homework problem sets will be assigned. I will be selecting them throughout the semester, based on our pace and what I feel will be most helpful to you. I will assign points to these based on how difficult I feel they are. As I don't have them all mapped out, I can't know how much they will contribute to your final grade, but based on previous years I estimate around 850 points or so.
I will give occasional miscellaneous assignments over the course of the semester. These will be worth whatever points I announce at the time. I anticipate that there will be a total of 100 to 200 points in this category by the end of the semester.
Class participation will necessarily be somewhat subjective, but will encompass just that: participating in class. Asking questions, answering questions, being prepared to discuss whatever topics arise, doing your share of the work in lab — you're not children, you should have a reasonable idea of what is meant by the term "participation." I assume a certain amount of participation on everyone's part; I will award up to 25 points for participation "above and beyond" at the end of the semester toward your final grade. Conversely, I will also dock up to 25 points for anyone who is not holding up their end in class.
Quizzes will be given before at least some, perhaps all, labs. They will be intended to make sure that you have read the appropriate background materials; I expect they will contribute about 100 points to your final grade.
Keeping an accurate, legible, and comprehensible laboratory notebook is an absolute requirement of this course. I've ordered lab notebooks for you to use for this course. We will go over some strategies for keeping notes in lab the first week. I will collect the copies (make sure you know how the notebook works!) throughout the semester; your lab notes will be worth 100 points.
In addition, I will be asking for lab reports for our lab experiments. I anticipate having 5 reports all told, worth a combined total of 750 points. Laboratory technique will account for another 100 points of your final grade.
Late assignments — including problem sets — will not be accepted.
In summary, then:
|Hour Exams||300 points|
|Problem Sets||850 points|
|Misc. Assignments||100-200 points|
|Lab Quizzes||100 points|
|Laboratory Notebook, Reports, and Technique||950 points|
|Final Exam||200 points|
|Anticipated Total||2500–2600 points|
I reserve the right to tweak these distributions as I see fit.
Here is the grading scale I use in all my classes:
|numeric grade||letter grade|
|93.3 - 100||A|
|90.0 - 93.2||A-|
|86.7 - 89.9||B+|
|83.3 - 86.6||B|
|80.0 - 83.2||B-|
|76.7 - 79.9||C+|
|73.3 - 76.6||C|
|70.0 - 73.2||C-|
|66.7 - 69.9||D+|
|63.3 - 66.6||D|
|60.0 - 63.2||D-|
Just to review, this is what the Student Handbook has to say about grades:
- A and A–
- These grades are given for achievement of the highest caliber. They reflect independent work, original thinking, and the ability to acquire and effectively use knowledge.
- B+, B, and B–
- These grades are given for higher than average achievement. Evidence of independent work and original thinking is expected.
- C+, C, and C–
- These grades are given when the student has devoted a reasonable amount of time, effort, and attention to the work of the course and has satisfied the following criteria: familiarity with the content of the course, familiarity with the methods of study of the course, and active participation in the work of the class.
- D+, D, and D–
- These grades are given for unsatisfactory work, below the standard expected by the College. They indicate work which in one or more important aspects falls below the average expected of students for graduation. The work is, however, sufficient to be credited for graduation, if balanced by superior work in other courses.
Note that there isn't a whole lot of emphasis on knowledge here (as traditionally defined). Which is odd, but in any event, these descriptions are guidelines, not absolute criteria for a given grade. If you work independently, think originally, and are able to acquire and effectively use knowledge, but don't know squat about genetics at the end of the course, that's simply not "A" work. Context is important, people.
In this course, the reading is critically important. Classtime will be spent discussing the reading for that day; I will not be lecturing. If you don't keep up with the reading — and by that I mean active reading, not just using a highlighter — you won't be able to keep up in class, you won't fully understand what's being taught, the class will rapidly become a waste of time for you.
Assignments turned in late will not be accepted. Period.
On a 100-point exam, I will give you 110 points-worth of questions. Thus, you can miss (nearly) 10% of the questions on any hour exam and still get the full 100 points. With the exception of these additional points on exams, there will be no opportunity for extra credit in this course. Spend your energy learning the course material; "extra credit" in a college course is almost always a sham and a cheat.
No eating in class, unless you can convince me it's medically necessary. I don't eat in class!
Cell Phones and Their Ilk
Cell phones, like television, are tools of Satan. They are without significant positive value in my world and while I don't expect you to share my view of them, I expect you to spare me from being rudely reminded of their existence. If you are expecting an urgent phone call while in class or lab, alert me to that fact ahead of time. Otherwise, if your cell phone goes off in class or lab, you can expect me to penalize you some number of points, based entirely on my whim. Someday this will be looked on as one of my loveable eccentricities, but until then you'll just have to put up with my sociopathy.
My antipathy extends to Blackberries, iPods, and other such devices as well. If you want to text, tweet, IM, email, browse the web, check your stocks, shop, or do anything else that you feel is more important than participating or just paying attention in class, go for it. But don't do it in this class: if I notice anything like that going on, I will fail you. For. The. Course. You have been warned.
There is to be NO food or drink in the lab at ANY time. Rules have gotten stricter, fines have gotten much higher, and the government is coming after undergraduate institutions like never before. If I see any comestibles or potables in lab you will be docked points in accordance with my mood; if I see you put anything into your mouth, I may well dock you several hundred (yes, hundred) points. This is a serious infraction of laboratory protocols.
The only thing worse is endangering other students or their data, whether through carelessness or malice. If I find anyone doing something which might result in harm to another student or compromise their experimental results, I will fail the perpetrator for the course. I am by and large a fairly easy-going guy, but there are some things which are simply beyond the pale; this is one of them.
Group Lab Reports
For certain labs I will require group (rather than individual) lab reports. When submitting group reports, please be sure to:
- Use "we," not "I" — this is to be a group effort.
- Include the title, date, and the names of your group members.
- Every member of the group must initial the report, indicating that they are satisfied with it and agree to its contents.
If you have any questions about this format, please don't hesitate to ask me.
Science is a collaborative venture. I urge you to get together with your fellow students as much as possible to study the material for this course in groups. Discussing problems, studying for exams with other students, and asking each other questions on the reading assignments are all examples of activities which will benefit you and which I encourage. Obviously you cannot consult with others during exams or quizzes, but the homework may be something of a grey area for many of you. For my courses, you must prepare your own answers to assigned problems, but I feel that getting together with other students in the course to discuss and think through problems together is not only perfectly acceptable, it is a very good idea. If you have arrived at what you believe to be the correct answer, put it aside for fifteen minutes before writing it down; this way you can be more confident that you really know what it is you're saying, and your answers won't be identical to your partners'.
Note that the idea of collaborative learning in this way does not mean that you should ask for answers from others who have already taken this or a similar course, nor should you just accept an answer from a classmate whom you think is likely to be right. Everybody is mistaken sometimes, and if you don't understand why his or her answer is the right one, well, then you don't understand it. And that is not where you want to be. Conversely, if you're sure you've got the right answer, don't just tell your study group and be done with it. Try to help them arrive at the same conclusion you did step by step; someone else may come up with a very different view of the problem which forces you to rethink your approach. And rethinking your approach, even if it doesn't turn out to change your mind about your answer, is critical to your success as a scientist.
My concern is not that you "learn" genetics, seeing it as a (very large) pile of facts, but that you understand it. Your fellow students and I are resources to help you; it's up to you to do the work necessary to gain that understanding.
You should expect to spend at least 2 hours studying on your own for every hour in the classroom. At a minimum. That's true for every class, not just mine. If you're content to just slouch through, willing to trade a better grade in the course for whatever you think is more important than your studies, you're welcome to do so. But if you want to excel, not only for the sake of a higher grade on your transcript, but also for the sake of your own intellectual development, you owe it to yourself to put in enough effort that you can honestly say to yourself at the end of the semester, "I did my best, and I learned as much as I could in that course." If you do, I'll do everything I can to make this a worthwhile experience for you.
I adhere to the Academic Honesty policy of the College. There is nothing more important to me than personal integrity — not happiness, not power, not even genetics, nothing — and I conduct myself and all of my classes in that spirit. If you're not familiar with College policy, you should be.
Per Moravian College policy: "Students who wish to request accommodations in this class for a disability should contact Elaine Mara, assistant director of learning services for academic and disability support, at 1307 Main Street or by calling 610-861-1510. Accommodations cannot be provided until authorization is received from the Academic Support Center."
For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, Moravian College considers this to be a personal page. Therefore it is incumbent on me to point out that "The views expressed on this page are the responsibility of the author, Christopher Jones (cjones-at-moravian-dot-edu) and do not necessarily reflect Moravian College or Moravian Theological Seminary policies or official positions."