These assignments are inspired and governed by my rules
of the game of Christian 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 create five-minute biographical presentations on figures
and events remembered in Galli and Olsen's 131 Christians Everyone Should
Know. You will principally answer the question: Why is it important
that the Church remember this person or event faithfully? Grades will
reflect both your answers and the creativity and effectiveness of the presentation.
You may present them in class if you are so inclined. This is an opportunity
to reflect and appropriate what you find in course materials and your own
outside research, not merely regurgitate the course material. Each is due
at the appropriate day on the syllabus (e.g., a presentation on Martin
Luther would be due as we cover the German reformation). Presentations count
as one reflection.
- You will peer review the reflections and biographical presentations
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
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
In other words, giving up on difficult material is not an option.
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