Student Concerns Addressed

I appreciate those of you who took the time respond to my survey. If you haven't already, there is still time! Please do so. Click here for survey.

Here are some responses from your peers, and I thought I would take some time to address them, if only to express a contrasting opinion:

"Too many assignments. Not enough time."

This is a common complaint, and I get it. But what is the reference point of comparison when offering this sort of criticism? This is English 1101, so you would have to compare the work load in this course to other English 1101 courses. You would also have to compare how your work counts for grades in this course compared to other classes. There would be fewer assignments in this class if I did not require practice and effort for high marks. Instead, I could do fewer assignments, let you work on them for longer, and then give you a grade that would be set in stone. Is this really what you want?

Another consideration is to look at the students who did finish all the work and still had time to revise, fix, and improve assignments. So "not enough time" is really imprecise. It might be, actually, that life outside of school is taking too much time away from doing college. Who is to say where time should be allocated. All I know for sure is that college is voluntary.

"I most definitely support grading based on accurate fulfillment of guidelines, but revision intensity is something that I do not see the need for considering sometimes you don't need to completely revise something if you did it right the first time. Improvements can always be made, true, but they shouldn't be a hard requirement."

I take this criticism very seriously. I suppose what this means is that when students have otherwise done solid work but have a messed up citation, all they should have to fix is the citation. Fine, I can accept that, as long as those students also accept that fixing such a small problem brings with it the responsibility of actually figuring out how to fix it and not being told exactly what is wrong so that they don't actually have to do anything more than type the correction. Typing a correction after being told what it is takes NO effort and NO skill.

"This is the only college class not graded A to F, assignment to assignment, and then changed back to A-F grade for a final grade. That does not work. Sorry, UNG will not allow you a pass fail class, but clearly they won't. Therefore, you should grade on the A to F scale that our final grade is on."

This criticism is the result of misunderstanding how grades work. First off, this class is not graded "pass-fail"; it is graded on a points system that ends up translating to an A-F when you look at the total points earned. LOTS of classes operate this way instead of using averages. What I proposed in the survey is that maybe students would prefer that each assignment in this class be averaged together for a final grade instead of using points to reward assignment completion and adding them up to a total, which then functions as a threshold. If you think about it, these are two completely different philosophies toward grading, but neither is a pass-fail system, and both are compatible with the A-F scale used when reporting grades for your transcript.

"It's disappointing to me that the only way to achieve an A is the extraordinary effort and time needed to complete a Revision or Presentation Portfolio. If a student follows guidelines as closely as possible, maintains a low point deficit, fixes everything that needs fixing, and displays basic comprehension of concepts like revision and citation, there shouldn't be a need for additional work just to get the ideal grade. In a higher level class, it would be reasonable to expect work to rise above and beyond the call of duty, so to speak, but in one like this, meeting that call should be enough."

It should not be disappointing when the policy is spelled out the first week of the course. It should be expected. But I get what this student wants. If I look at a student, and I can tell that he or she is working hard and doing well, I should be able to say, "This student has proven worthy of top marks. So, here is the A." But why should the cut-off point be the portfolio in that case, right? Maybe I could just look at the first three short assignments and then the first paper and say, "Yep. This student has already earned top marks. So, here is the A." Or what if there weren't this big thing called the "Portfolio," but instead I had just broken it all up into parts and awarded separate points just like the rest of the assignments. Then where would the cut-off point be? I mean, all assignments after the first one are "additional work."

Whether this class is "high-level" or something else is also very shaky ground for an argument. The assumption that the final project for this course is "above and beyond the call of duty" would also first have to be valid and true. But this all brings up a very good point. Where is the separation between an A, B, or C performance in a first-year writing class? I've presented my distinction in my course policies, but if my students ultimately get to decide what the distinction is, at what point will an "A" or "B" mean nothing at all? And if this class is not high-level, what value does a high mark have to the student who wants it? It's just a status symbol then, not a representation of actual growth in learning, which is what the portfolio tasks are meant to show. Now, if I abandoned the portfolio (and, therefore, the grading system that makes the portfolio necessary), then yes, we would know how well a student had done after all the other assignments in this course. But then, I would still be the one making the determination. In other words, the high standards I am imposing with the Revision Portfolio would just be transferred to high grading standards. And then what would the complaint be? I guess what I am saying is that, with the current system, students at least have more freedom to show me progress and growth in learning, which is the only thing a grade should really represent.

Needs Fixing Policy

In response to numerous student complaints, and against my better judgment about what is good for you as writers trying to prepare for college success, I am removing the 15-minute requirement for "fixing assignments." Take as little time as you want preparing your "Needs Fixing" documents for my re-evaluation, as long as you still leave this course with the knowledge that a job well done never took a little time. Meanwhile, please take this anonymous survey for me:

Click here for survey.

Major Extra Credit Opportunity 2018

This Friday, from 9:00-3:00 on the Gainesville Campus, UNG will be doing its Annual Research Conference. Here is the announcement about this event:

"The University of North Georgia's 23rd Annual Research Conference will take place March 23, 2018 on the Gainesville campus from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. We invite student research presentations and posters from any discipline or creative area. Projects should be presented either in poster form or in oral presentations of around 10-15 minutes.

Our Keynote Speaker this year is Dr. Amy Buddie, Director of Undergraduate Research at Kennesaw State University, who will discuss the importance of Undergraduate Research in building towards your future career."

You won't be doing a presentation, but to earn your reward, you must attend all six parts of the event--this means you must arrive at the Martha T. Nesbitt building no later than 8:45 and leave no earlier than 3:15. At these specified times, you will check in with me in the lobby so that I can record your arrival and departure. Also, at 3:15, you will turn in carefully labeled, hand-written notes on each session you attended. Make sure that your notes reflect your complete attention to each speaker during each hour. The only exception to this rule is the Poster Session--no notes are necessary for that, but make sure I see you walking around, speaking to the students who are presenting their posters.

And your reward will be this: I will forgive all penalty points on all of your assignments that used to be or are currently in your "Needs Fixing" folder (as of this week). Future penalty points are not part of this deal, nor are lost points on rough drafts or final drafts.

Click here for the complete schedule.

Here is a more general schedule so you can get a picture of the day:

1. 9-10 Choice of sessions
2. 10-11 Choice of sessions
3. 11-12 Poster Session
4. 12-12:45 Keynote speaker
5. 1-2 Choice of sessions
6. 2-3 Choice of sessions

First Day

Welcome to your English 1101 course! I hope this semester will be both fun and challenging for you! Your professor's name is Dr. Matthew Horton (that's me!), but you can call him Dr. H. I have high hopes that this semester will help you improve your skills as a college-level writer!

Click on these icons and see what you can do! This course is about writing, sure, but it is also about using technology to help you discover new possibilities with writing. Writing's not all just about typing papers and turning them in. In fact, this course strives to be as PAPERLESS as possible! This might be a little scary for some of you, but I assure you, the skills you'll learn will be just as important as effective writing!

Also, go ahead and look through some of the most important resources on this course website:

How to do well in this course
Read the syllabus
Check the calendar
Learn how to use Google Drive
Resources on Google Drive (permission required)

Additional resources are available by clicking the tabs across the top and various links in the right-hand margin. As much as you can, familiarize yourself with this course website. My contact info is in the right-hand margin at well, towards the top.

Check out these articles related to college and writing:

Death to High School English
Office Hours
The Ivy League, Mental Illness, and the Meaning of Life
Spirit Guides
The Rise of the Helicopter Teacher
Why Teach English?
Inescapably, You're Judged By Your Language
The Perfect Essay
In College, Nurturing Matters
My Little Bag of Writing Tricks
Young Minds in Critical Condition
The Streamlined Life
The Value of College: It's Not Just Correlation
College, the Great Unleveler
Class, Cost and College

How to Do Well

First things first. I want everyone in this class to make an "A" or "B"--let's make it happen! This class will help you succeed through effort. So if you follow instructions, come to class every day, turn in work on time, and fix work that has mistakes, you will make at least a "B." If grades mean something to you, you can relax because all you have to do is work hard in this course.

You will like make at least a "B" in this course if you come to every class and turn in all assignments complete and on time.

If an "A" is your goal, come have a chat with me. I like students who want to do well, but it is difficult to explain how to make an "A" on a website. So let's have a conversation. Or you can ask about it in class.

Succeeding in this course depends on the mindset that works for you to help you succeed. What are your career goals? Are you the creative type? Do you like to be told what to do and follow the rules? Do you think of yourself as a boss or an employee? Do you like to know the right answer? What kind of student are you?

If you ask me, I will tell you the kind of student and teacher I am, and what I hope you can achieve in this course, but what really matters is what kind of student YOU are and what YOU hope you can achieve in this course. It's a hard question to answer if for most of your life, older people have always told you what you should want and the kind of student you should be.

Here are some mindsets that have hurt students before you::
  1. "This course will be like my past English courses."
  2. "I'm already a good writer, so I'll be fine."
  3. "Attendance isn't really a big deal."
  4. "I'd much rather be texting right now."
  5. "I don't have time for all these assigments. I have a job."
  6. "I'm not sure what he wants in this assignment."
  7. "I need an 'A' in this class."
  8. "I'll figure it out eventually."
  9. "I don't feel like fixing this assignment right now."
  10. "That's probably good enough."

Students who make an "A" or "B" in this course are students who like to learn and try hard.