Syllabus

The primary objectives of this tutorial, derived from the college goals for tutorial, are:

  1. To help you plan your liberal arts education
  2. To help you develop critical thinking and analysis skills
  3. To practice reading, writing, and oral communication
  4. To think critically about how knowledge can be built and destroyed

The follow blurb for this course will help to frame our work in the course:

We broaden our understanding of the world through the accumulation of knowledge, but where does this knowledge come from? It is not enough for a brilliant mind to think brilliant thoughts; ideas follow a slow, circuitous path on their way to becoming knowledge. Along this path, the “right” ideas must contend with other ideas based on old interpretations of evidence, ulterior motives, or flawed intuition. In this tutorial we will examine the accumulation of scientific knowledge in history and look closely at some of the techniques that malicious actors use to sow doubt and slow the spread of knowledge.

Texts

There are two required books for this course:

  • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (ISBN 978-0-7679-0818-4)
  • Bad Science by Ben Goldacre (ISBN 978-0-86547-918-0)

Unless instructed otherwise, you do not need to bring these books to class. However, if you find that they are a useful reference during our frequent writing exercises you are welcome to bring them to class.

Schedule

See the course schedule page for a class schedule. This schedule may change slightly during the semester, so please check it frequently. I will give at least two weeks notice for any changes to due dates for writing assignments.

Activities

Under a normal 16 credit workload, I expect you will spend 40 hours a week on your studies, including time in and out of class. Therefore, you should expect to spend ten hours a week on this four credit course to earn a passing grade. The workload may vary from week to week, and you may find that it takes additional time for you to complete work at the level required to earn an A in the course. You will spend this time on the activities described below.

Reading and Listening

I will regularly assign reading from the course texts, occasionally supplemented with other sources. In addition to reading assignments, I will assign a variety of relevant radio or news stories, podcasts, or other media that relate to our course topic.

You are responsible for completing any assigned reading before class on the day it is listed.

Discussion

In addition to individual writing, we will frequently discuss the course material as a class. Your participation requires several components:

  1. You must be in class on time.
  2. You must be prepared to discuss the assigned material for each class.
  3. You must demonstrate understanding of and engagement with the assigned material.
  4. You must stay on task during collaborative exercises.
  5. You must communicated respectfully with your peers.

Students who meet these criteria should expect to receive a B for their participation grade. To earn an A, you must actively contribute, rather than simply answering when called on.

Writing Portfolio

This is a writing intensive course, so the majority of your grade in the class will depend on written work. I will ask you to write over a range of lengths, formats, and audiences, and it is up to you to identify writing samples that best illustrate your ability by the end of the course. You are responsible for completing writing assignments on time, and for revising them during the semester.

Your portfolio will include samples of each of the following formats:

Short Writing Exercises

We will frequently start our class with brief writing exercises. These will often be related to the assigned reading for that day, but you should not consider these a writing quiz. Rather, I expect you to demonstrate an understanding of some key ideas in the assigned reading, and to add your own perspective and interpretation.

You must include three short writing exercises in your final writing portfolio.

Weekly Writing Assignments

I will assign a short (1–2 page) writing assignment most weeks during this course. While you will complete the writing outside of class time, we will occasionally take some time in class to critique, revise, or discuss writing for these assignments. You will have one week to complete each of these assignments.

You must include two weekly writing assignments in your final writing portfolio.

Extended Writing Assignments

There will be two extended (4–6 page) writing assignments during this course. These longer written assignments will build on the work from your shorter weekly writing assignments, but must also include new insights, research, and connections that you did not establish in the shorter assignment. Initial versions of your extended writing assignments must be submitted by October 13th and December 1st.

You must include one extended writing assignment in your final writing portfolio.

Revising

Revising your writing is key to the process of good writing. Therefore, you are required to request feedback on your writing and to submit a revised version at least six times during the semester. At least three of your revisions must be based on feedback from me, but you are welcome to submit revisions based on feedback from the course writing mentor or the writing lab.

To submit a writing sample for revision, you must first respond to any high-level concerns raised after you first turn in the writing sample. Once you have made a preliminary revision based on the grading information, you should make an appointment with me, the writing mentor, or the writing lab to review your writing.

I will review at most one of your writing samples each week, and I will review each writing sample at most two times (not counting the initial grading of the writing). I will reserve one week to give feedback on your writing, so work submitted in the last week of the course may not be returned until late in finals week. The writing lab and our writing mentor may have different schedules. You are responsible for managing those schedules to complete all your required revisions.

To complete your assigned revisions, you must submit a revised version of the writing, along with the original paper and the feedback from me, the writing mentor, or the writing lab. You may submit revisions throughout the semester, but all six are due at the end of finals week.

Your portfolio does not have to include only revised writing, but you will find that your writing improves as you revise it so it is in your best interest to submit your portfolio work for revisions.

Attendance

Our class meetings will include a mix of discussion and other collaborative exercises that you cannot complete if you are not in class. Therefore, attendance is mandatory.

However, I understand that sometimes stuff happens. To account for unexpected illnesses, malfunctioning alarm clocks, or other issues, you are allotted two “free” unexcused absences. Each additional unexcused absence will come with a penalty of 3% against your overall grade in the class. Arriving late will count as half an unexcused absence.

If you must be absent for an athletic event, family obligation, long-term illness, or religious observance, you must notify me by email at least seven days before the class you will miss. You are responsible for submitting any missed work by the class period following your excused absence.

Grading

Your grade in this class will be based on all of your work in the course, in the following proportions:

  • Participation: 10%
  • Short Writing Exercises: 10%
  • Weekly Writing Assignments: 20%
  • Extended Writing Assignments: 10%
  • Revisions: 20%
  • Writing Portfolio: 30%

There will be no curves or competitive grading in this course. Every student has an opportunity to earn an A. Your final grade will be determined with the following scale:

A
93–100%
A-
90–93%
B+
87–90%
B
83–87%
B-
80–83%
C+
77–80%
C
70–77%
D
60–70%
F
0–60%

I reserve the right to adjust this scale during the semester, until two weeks before the end of class. I will notify all students of any change in the grading scale. You may ask me for your current grade in the class at any point; I will happily give you my best estimate based on the current scale and graded work so far, but these estimates are not guarantees of a specific final grade.

Academic Honesty

I encourage collaboration when it promotes learning. However, it is important for you to understand the course materials and demonstrate your own learning on exams. As an instructor, I will meet my obligation to bring any work suspected to be in violation of the College’s Academic Honesty Policy to the attention of the Committee on Academic Standing.

You are free to discuss readings and assignments, but copying is not acceptable. The work you turn in must be your own. You must acknowledge the contributions of others, whether they come from other students in the class, or from print and online resources.

Deadlines

A late penalty of one full letter grade per 24 hour period (including weekends) will be deducted for late work. Thus, you have at most four calendar days to turn in work after the posted deadline.

Assignments due on days for which you have a prior excused absence must still be submitted by the deadline.

Contacting Me

If you have questions or concerns about the course or would simply like to discuss the course material, please come to my office hours. To provide equitable access to all students regardless of course schedules, I hold my office hours by appointment. You can make an appointment at https://calendly.com/ccurtsinger/office-hours.

Email is often the fastest and most reliable way to contact me. Please allow 24 hours for a response, excluding weekends.

Accommodations

I strive to create a fully inclusive classroom, thus I welcome individual students to approach me about distinctive learning needs. In particular, I encourage students with disabilities to have a conversation with me and disclose how our classroom or course activities could impact the disability and what accommodations would be essential to you. You will also need to have a conversation about and provide documentation of your disability to the Coordinator for Disability Resources, John Hirschman, located on the 3rd floor of the Rosenfield Center (x3089).

This syllabus is partly derived from Jerod Weinman’s TUT 100 Syllabus.