These tasks are inspired and governed by my rules for the game of Christian liberal arts education. You should be aware of them.
- You will join a group of three (or four) students, choose a captain (and a name if you are unusually dorky), and schedule your first meeting before the first written assignment. Further team and group responsibilities and guidelines are available in the leadership section of my rules of the game.
- You will attend class sessions and group meetings and participate in discussions. These times together are integral parts of the course. These subjects are best understood when lived and discussed, not just when heard and read. When you fail to attend, you frustrate not only your education, but that of your teammates and especially those in your group. I don't grade your attendance or participation, because the assignments do it for me. Nevertheless, I reserve the right to adjust grades up or down (though never by no more than one letter-grade) on their basis.
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 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.
- You should read all 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 at group meetings and in class. Do not fall behind, or you and your teammates will be sorry!
- You will write occasional exercises on lectures and readings. You can find each assignment from a link on the syllabus. 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. You will review and discuss these with group members and occasionally in class. These reflections will total 50% of your final grade. As you write, please refer to my suggestions for writing papers for helpful suggestions, cautions about Internet "research", ultimata regarding late papers and plagiarism, and so on.
- You will peer review the written work of other students in your group, evaluating the writer's style, organization, use of sources, and strength of argument. Refer to my peer review guidelines and use my peer review form (in HTML or Acrobat). How well you perform your peer reviews will affect your own grade as the equivalent of one exercise.
- You will take three in-class exams covering major terms and topics in the lectures and required texts. These will focus on the section just ended, covering up to the day of the exam. We will grade them in class. The first and second exams will count as 10% of your final grade. What would have been our third "in-class" exam will become the final exam, which will count as 20%. It will concentrate on the last part of the course, though it will also have a cumulative component.
- "There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:4). I don't expect you to excel at every one of these practices (though I do expect competence in all, as the skills required for each are important for anyone with a college degree, let alone anyone with preaching and teaching responsibilities in today's Church). Accordingly, your highest grade in the other categories will also become the last 10% of your grade. Isn't that nice?
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've 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? I may sometimes post introductions to readings in advance. Look up unfamiliar terms in a dictionary (for instance, 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.