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Re: [SACC-L] Let's Talk Excuses

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  • Lloyd Miller
    All of this delightful discussion (delightful because I don’t have to deal with it anymore) inspired me to review my Cultural Anthro. syllabus the last
    Message 1 of 12 , Apr 15, 2004
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      All of this delightful discussion (delightful because I don’t have to
      deal with it anymore) inspired me to review my Cultural Anthro.
      syllabus the last semester I taught, spring 2000. After trying about
      everything imaginable over 35 years of teaching, I eventually arrived
      at the following.

      Student grades consisted of an average of four exams (including the
      final) and an ethnographic report. Students could earn up to 5% extra
      credit for good attendance (3 or fewer class periods missed; no
      excuses—a miss was a miss irrespective of dead grandmothers or early
      spring break departures). This significantly increased attendance,
      since earning the full 5% could improve a student’s final grade by half
      a letter, e.g., B+ to A-, etc.

      Students missing one (but only one) of the first three exams could make
      it up during the last week of classes. We were fortunate in that our
      Learning Center would proctor makeup exams. Since most of the students
      who missed exams never completed the course anyway, I only had one or
      two per semester taking make-ups, sometimes none. Obviously, having
      them wait until semester’s end to make up an exam was an intended
      handicap and encouraged them to reschedule their various life tragedies.

      I gave students two class periods past deadline to hand in their
      ethnographies for a reduced grade and did not accept them after that.
      Students missing the final exam got an F for the course (unless prior
      arrangements were made) and had to make it up by the middle of the
      following semester to erase the F.

      My “exceptions” policy in the syllabus stated that I might make
      exceptions to the rules in extraordinary circumstances (such as sudden
      illness or accidents) if students notified me as soon as possible after
      the onset of the misfortune. This was designed to separate those
      students who breezed in after a two-week absence with the “Hey, I’ve
      been sick, did I miss anything important?” comments from those who
      might have genuinely needed a break.

      My system was not perfect. I still had to “judge excuses”
      occasionally. However, it did allow me to spend less time with
      students who weren’t ready or willing to learn and more time with those
      tried and cared.

      Lloyd Miller
      Des Moines Area Community College (emeritus)

      On Thursday, April 15, 2004, at 12:22 PM, Philip Stein wrote:

      > I also eliminated makeup exams beginning last
      > semester. It seemed that virtually all of my office
      > hour time was spent in giving makeups. I added one
      > additional exam to the semester and let the students
      > drop the lowest score. It has worked extremely well.
      > Phil Stein
      > Pierce College
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