Tasks

These tasks are inspired and governed by my rules for the game of Christian liberal arts education. You should be aware of those rules.

Mentoring. For one workbook assignment you will need to find a mentor who will read any one of our assigned books and have several conversations with you over the course of the semester.

Office hour appointment. I consider time spent with a student in person a much better investment for both of us than the same time spent writing comments on an assignment that may never be read. So you will meet with me one-on-one at least once during the semester during my office hours. We can get to know each other better, address concerns, tailor the course to your particular interests and needs, and extend what you are learning. Make an appointment on my office door. If you forget your appointment, grovel, apologize profusely, and make a new one on my office door. If I cancel your appointment unilaterally, make me grovel, please accept my apologies, and make a new one on my office door.

Active attendance. You will attend class sessions and group meetings, subscribe to these podcasted lectures on iTunes and watch them before class, and participate in discussions on online lectures and readings. These times together are integral parts of the course. Our subject is best understood when lived and discussed, not just when heard and read. I don't take roll or require that you speak out in class. However, I do reserve part of your grade for course participation in whatever forms it may take for you (including appointments).

The syllabus often contains links to lecture outlines, but beware: I frequently make points in class that are not on the outline. Where I do skip points or sections in an outline, you are not formally responsible, but you should still browse the whole outline to see how I would develop the topic if we had more time.

Reading. You must read material for class discussions before class. You should read all other required material either before the class sessions that follow them, or immediately afterwards. You must be caught up on readings before group meetings. Bring up misunderstandings in class. Assignments draw on lectures, readings, and discussions, so you are accountable soon anyway.

Memorization. You will memorize the Ten Commandments, the Apostles' Creed, and the Lord's Prayer. They will be the subjects of either pop quizzes in class or as part of exams. No one is competent in Christian teaching who is not intimately familiar with these texts. It was good enough for Martin Luther, and it is good enough for you.

Special in-class preparation. Each student will be 'at bat' for one discussion of a podcasted lecture and one discussion of a selection from our readings. This means that the student will come with a typed observation, question, objection, or some other comment designed to seed a productive class discussion. The student will turn it in after class.

Examinations. You will take a number of weekly (or so) in-class tests and one final exam. All examinations will cover up to the day of the exam. The final exam's questions on lectures will be cumulative.

Workbook. Using Google Drive, you will compile a workbook of exercises that will help you familiarize yourself with the course material and put it to use. You can find each assignment from a link on the schedule. These are like 'problem sets' meant to get you into readings and lectures before you forget the information (this doesn't take long, believe me), to keep you caught up, and to train you in how to study, understand, apply, and write about theology. They of course require proper citation and quotation, the absence of which is academic dishonesty.

I may randomly check your workbooks during the semester, unannounced, like a thief in the night. I will certainly check by or at the end. The following are guidelines to give you an idea of how I will be evaluating these:

Consistently excellent quality (A): all assignments complete, on time, full responses to question(s), uses sources broadly and appropriately, demonstrates unusual grasp of the material, well written.
Consistently good quality (B+): complete, on time, full responses, uses sources broadly and appropriately, demonstrates sound knowledge of the material.
Adequate quality (B-): complete, generally on time, full responses, depends on sources, demonstrates basic knowledge of the material, mediocre writing (some grammatical and spelling errors).
Deficient (C): occasionally missing or late, repeated failure to do what is assigned (e.g., not using sources well enough, tangential topics), poor understanding or misunderstanding of the concepts, or poor writing.
Poor (D): somewhat incomplete, generally late, consistent failure to do what is assigned, poor or no grasp of the concepts.
Inadequate (F): largely incomplete, failure to do what is assigned.

Late work. Work that is late will be penalized unless I have excused it. If a late assignment is demotivating you, you should probably just move on rather than letting your demotivation grow.

Grades. Here is how the assignments figure into your course grade:

Course participation 10%
In-class 'at bat' comments 5%
Workbook 35%
Tests 35%
Final 15%

You will not engage in academic dishonesty (as described in the student handbook). Students who do will fail the course.


"You know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness" (James 3:1). There is perhaps no more responsible position in the Church than teaching doctrine and preaching Scripture, whether behind a lectern, in a small group, or around a dinner table. In grading these assignments, I will resist grade inflation. I have found (as both a teacher and as a student!) that this way students are more likely to improve, and grades are just as high at the end of the course because of that improvement.

Having trouble understanding the reading? Look up unfamiliar terms in a dictionary (for instance, Wikipedia or the on-line New Advent Catholic Dictionary), or google them. If even these suggestions do not help, then I leave you with the advice of Thomas Cranmer:

"I cannot understand it." What marvel? How shouldest thou understand, if thou wilt not read nor look upon it? Take the books into thine hands, read the whole story, and that thou understandest keep it well in memory; thou that understandest not, read it again and again: if thou can neither so come by it, counsel with some other that is better learned. Go to thy curate and preacher; show thyself to be desirous to know and learn: and I doubt not but God, seeing thy diligence and readiness (if no man else teach thee) will himself vouchsafe with his Holy Spirit to illuminate thee, and to open unto thee that which was locked from thee (Preface to the Great Bible 6).

In other words, giving up on difficult material is not an option.

Course
Vision
Reading
Tasks
Schedule
MATERIALS
Rules of the Game
A Few (Strong) Suggestions on Essay Writing
Pointers for Presentations
Workbook Tips
Peer Review Guidelines
Review Form (PDF)