Kellen Myers - Teaching Policies
This page will contain my current policies regarding various instructional matters. Students should refer to these pages, to which my syllabus will refer, when there are questions about policies. Previous versions of each policy may be archived here, when appropriate, but only the most current policies apply to my courses (as will be stated in each course syllabus). If changes are made to these policies during any term, students will be notified and should review the new policies carefully.
Email - Computing - Integrity - Conduct - Registration - Disability
Current Version as of 13 September 2015
Summary: Attendance is mandatory. No accommodation will be made for a student who is absent except in the case of a documented, excused absence. Such arrangements should be made in advance.
Unless otherwise noted, attendance in any of my courses is required. Classroom participation and conduct are addressed below, but as far as attendance is concerned, students are expected to attend all regularly-scheduled class meetings. Further, one should arrive before the class begins and not leave until class is over. Attendance is usually not explicitly graded; however, participation is -- and this is precisely where your grade will suffer if you do not attend class (if you aren't present, how can you participate?). See the participation section for details on how participation is graded. Additionally, if one fails to be present in class, any homework, quiz, etc. from that day will wind up with a zero grade (see those respective sections for more details).
This policy is not intended to punish students who find themselves unable to attend class. Instead, it is meant to emphasize the importance of in-class activity and to clarify students' responsibility to be present. It is applied accordingly.
Students are allowed to be absent in cases where the absence is excused. In the case of medical emergencies or other emergency circumstances, wherein a student's attendance, participation, or other obligations cannot be met, one is required to consult with a dean, advisor, or other administrator to determine that the absence in question is excused and to discuss with me whether/how to make up missed work. In the case of an excused absence that is planned in advance, students must make arrangements for this absence at least one week in advance. In the case that these arrangements are not made, a student will not receive credit for assignments or other graded items that are missed.
In practical terms, no one is perfect. Any student might be late absent once or twice in a semester. Although this may affect more than one part of that student's grade, it will not affect the overall grade dramatically. However, the expectation — and the best case scenario — is still that a student attend every class meeting. Having more than a few sporadic absences will not only result in direct deductions to a student's grades, but may also lead too a poor learning experience and disappointing outcome in the course.
Current Version as of 1 August 2017
Summary: I do not currently teach courses with special sections or meetings designated as recitation or similar. This policy is no longer in effect.
Current Version as of 1 August 2017
Summary: Participation is essential and required. Failure to participate (or to attend) will result in direct and indirect deficits in a student's grade (and in his/her learning!).
Participation is, in some ways, an extension of attendance. Students are required to participate in class. Depending on the class, the expectation will change accordingly. In a lecture class, students are expected to pay attention, respond to the instructor's questions and prompts, and complete examples and exercises throughout the lecture. During recitation, students are expected to show up prepared (which is a major aspect of participation), and that includes having homework done, and then to ask questions effectively and attentively. During in class exercises, quizzes, exams, etc. students should participate appropriately.
Depending on the course, in-class participation may be graded directly (via in-class activities) or indirectly (via homework, quizzes, etc.). In either case, failure to participate (or to attend class, or to attend class on-time) may result in a deduction of the corresponding grade (participation, quiz, etc.).
In addition to whatever incremental deductions one's absences incur, a student who misses four class meetings (unexcused absences) or who completely fails to participate therein will have his/her final grade dropped by one step (A to B-, B- to B, etc.). For every three additional missed classes, the grade will continue to drop. For example, a student who earns a 67% overall in a course may get curved to a C, but with 7 or more unexcused absences, this grade becomes an F. (Note: 7 absences is 1/4 of a semester!) For Summer/Winter courses, this is scaled accordingly, meaning 2-3 absences may result in a deduction (depending on the number of meetings the Summer/Winter course has). Students in Summer/Winter sessions should not be scheduling courses if there are time constraints that will result in multiple anticipated, unexcused absences.
Current Version as of 10 June 2013
Summary: Students are required to complete homework assignments. If submitted it should be complete, legible, and neat. Late homework is not accepted.
Depending on the course, homework may consist of various practice exercises or required exercises, but if homework is assigned, it is required — whether or not it is collected or graded. Students are always expected to do their homework. In the case that some or all of the homework exercises are collected, students are required to hand in that homework promptly. Late homework is never accepted under any circumstances, unless there is an excused absence. Any part of the homework that is optional or "for practice" should be completed at the discretion of the student -- students are expected to know when they need practice and should complete optional homework accordingly. Homework that is not optional, but not collected, is still expected to be done.
If homework sets will be graded, they are usually graded the basis of completion. (If this is not the case, the course syllabus will explain.) In this case, you should make a reasonable effort to complete every problem. Points are typically deducted when homework is incomplete, and generally this would entail: omission of all or most of an entire section; conspicuous omission of a certain type of problem; transcription of solutions from Wolfram Alpha, solutions manuals, or other sources; transcribing solutions wholesale from recitation. The last two items here also entail academic dishonesty (see here for more). Note that "omission" could mean writing something, but not something that amounts to an attempt to solve a problem. Please make a serious effort to solve the problem.
In addition to the notion of what to include in homework, the format of homework is important. While your previous experiences may have tended to extremes (either no requirements whatsoever, or overly-stringent requirements), homework format should be neat, clean, and professional. Students are required to staple their homework and to use standard- sized paper. If paper is torn from notebooks, the frilly spiral bits should be removed. A student's name should be displayed prominently at the top of the page. I don't care where, left right or center, just put your name on it. And write neatly, clearly, and concisely. It might behoove some students to re-write pages that are sloppy or heavily crossed-off. Homework should be completed in a dark color (black, blue, gray) pen or pencil. Purple or green in a pinch. Don't use red. I'm the one who uses red. We will both wind up confused, I assure you.
This isn't a TPS report. I don't care if you use cursive or print, as long as it's legible. I don't care if you write front-and-back or not (although, for the trees' sakes, try using both sides of the page). But homework is a finished representation of your work (as are answers to exams and quizzes). The grader (be it myself or anyone else) will need to be able to read your workings and understand how your work is organized.
Current Version as of 1 August 2017
Summary: Quizzes' specific timing and questions will not be announced in advance. Students should be prepared to be quizzed on course material that has been covered previously. Calculators are not permitted. There will be no make-up quizzes.
Depending on the class format, a quiz might be administered sporadically during lecture, or routinely during recitation, or in some other combination. For example, in a more introductory course, a quiz might be administered in every recitation; but in a more advanced course, quizzes might be administered sporadically during lectures and/or recitations.
Quiz questions will usually cover up to the material from the recent lectures and will be roughly the same as the corresponding homework exercises. Quizzes are, however, cumulative, so they may include or entail previous material.
The precise timing and content of irregularly scheduled quizzes will not be announced in advance. Do not ask. Announcing when a quiz will occur (or what the questions will be) would defeat the purpose and make the learning process less effective.
Quizzes are an important part of the day-to-day learning process. Quiz grades are a direct and indirect assessment of student participation and attendance, as well as students' ability to solve problems. For this reason, there will be no make-up quizzes, except in the case of excused absences. Keep in mind, quizzes are low-stakes — do not be overly concerned about a single quiz's outcome.
Unless otherwise noted, calculators are not permitted on quizzes and should not be required. (The same is true for exams.)
Current Version as of 1 August 2017
Summary: Students are expected to attend class meetings in which exams are administered. Calculators are not permitted, nor are any other types of aid. There will be no make-up exams.
Exams are an important part of courses, and one should take exams very seriously. In addition to generic advice about preparation and study habits, it is important that students conduct themselves appropriately during exams. Exams are closed-book, closed-notes, etc. unless explicitly stated otherwise. For that reason, students should be sure that their cell phones, books, notes, papers, etc. are all stowed away and out of sight. (Cell phones are not wristwatches, and most classrooms have clocks, so there is no reason for a cell phone to be out during an exam.) Any student whose study materials, cell phone, book, etc. are visible and/or used during the exam may be asked to remove the offending material and to begin the exam again without the aid of such devices.
Students are required to attend class meetings, and this is especially true when there is an exam. Any student who misses an exam will receive zero credit for that exam. There are no make-up exams, except in the case of an excused absence. If there is an excused absence and the student makes the appropriate arrangements, one should be mindful that the make-up exam may be substantially different both in content and in format than the original exam. Make-up exams for final exams may be arranged by the Department; otherwise, these are arranged on a case-by-case basis.
Unless otherwise noted, calculators are not permitted on exams and should not be required. (The same is true for quizzes.)
Final exams are routinely kept on file for some time by a department, an instructor, or both, potentially far beyond the end of the semester. Final exams are not returned, but a student is welcome to review the exam by appointment with me. Any questions about the final exam grade and/or course grade can be addressed at that time; however, one should first inquire by email -- it may be easy enough to answer such an inquiry without a face-to-face meeting.
Current Version as of 1 August 2017
Summary: Course grades are determined by the assignments and assessments in the course (homework, quizzes, exams, etc.). There is no other component in student grades. There will be no extra credit assignments. There are no curves on grades until final letter grades are assigned.
Course grades are computed according to the rubric defined in the course syllabus. There may be changes during the term to how this grade is computed, in which case students will be notified accordingly and the syllabus will be changed, however, this will be how a student's final grade is determined. This numerical grade (a percentage) will be assigned a letter grade.
The only "curve" in this course comes in the form of this number-to-letter conversion. The "standard" letter grades (A=90-100, B=80-89, etc.) may be followed, but students may also benefit from a curve (where, for example, a 79 might earn a B instead of a C, or a B- instead of C+ when incremental grades are available). However, there is no guarantee that any special curve may be assigned, so students should not necessarily expect that the curve will have any particular outcome. Grade distribution, student progress, and my expectations will be discussed at important course milestones (e.g. after exams), so that students understand whether their numerical grade indicates sufficient progress towards the desired letter grade.
Unless otherwise specified, students should be aware that in order to pass a course, one must complete all parts of the coursework. What this means, practically speaking, is that a student may not elect to completely disregard part of the course, assuming that he/she will make up the grade elsewhere. Students who attempt to pass a course without passing (or even attempting) to complete portion(s) of the coursework do not generally earn passing grades. A student who receives a failing grade on a major course component (exam, project, etc.) should be discussing his/her situation with the instructor.
Importantly, there will never be any extra-credit work assigned or given out by request. Occasionally, parts of normal assignments will count as extra-credit for that assignment (e.g. a bonus question on a quiz). However, those points will simply be added to the total score for that assignment. Any student willing to do "extra" work to earn a better grade by means of "bonus points" should consider doing the standard work (that is, studying, homework, attendance, etc.) in order to earn regular points instead.
Current Version as of 1 August 2017
Summary: Students are expected to check email regularly. For important matters, e.g. communication of grades, students should use their University-issued email address. Students' emails should reflect the nature of student-instructor correspondence.
At this time, students are required to communicate by email. This is generally an expectation at virtually every college and university, and students are issued an email address by the University to provide such capability. I will contact students based on the email address provided in the official class roster, which will be associated to students in course management systems. Students should use this email address to contact me, particularly for sensitive matters, and should check this address for communication from me. Mail filters, both generic spam filters and my own custom filters, will misplace mail from "firstname.lastname@example.org" -- you may never hear back from me if you email me from that address. In particular, I cannot respond to any email address that I cannot verify belongs to a student about any matter regarding grades, personal data, etc. That would be a violation of Federal law.
Student emails should contain, among other things, complete sentences and the student's name. I cannot answer an email that says "hey prefeser yo wat is hw 2nite," and even if I could, to whom would I address my response? Student emails should be at least somewhat professional. This isn't a formal letter to the Queen of England in 1850, but it should be a reasonable effort at polite, semi-formal communication. For more on this, see here or here.
Students can expect prompt email responses under normal circumstances. If a student asks a particularly complex or intricate question, it may take a day or two for me to respond, but generic emails that don't require complex responses will normally be answered as soon as I can. However, the term "prompt" should be interpreted within reason. Requests for some special arrangement five minutes before class begins cannot be honored, even if the email was "before" class. Emails send at 3AM will not be answered until at least 7AM. Weekend emails may be answered within 5 minutes, or might not be answered until the next week begins.
Current Version as of 10 June 2013
Summary: Students should use computers wherever indicated (and not use computers when counter-indicated). Computer skills are a part of courses' learning goals, and thus students should develop the ability to use computational resources effectively and independently.
Many courses contain computational work, and students in today's universities are expected to learn to use computers not just for generic functions like communication or organization, but for subject-specific tasks. Computational aspects of mathematics are important to many courses. Some textbooks suggest (or even require) students to use computational tools to solve problems. In those cases, students are expected to use the appropriate computer resources to solve these problems. In some cases, that means just using a calculator to do some long division, in other cases, there may be a specific tool that the class has been instructed to use, and sometimes, a student should seek out the appropriate computational tool oneself.
Solving a computational problem is analogous to solving any other type of problem -- students should not expect to be told exactly how to use the computational tools at hand for the entirety of a course. Like other skills, computer skills are meant to be developed and practiced until students can use these skills independently. It is not simply a matter of using a tool to eliminate complicated computations that are inconvenient or mundane to do by hand. Using computational tools is, in and of itself, an important skill that students should be developing.
To that end, computing policy in my courses will be flexible but firm. When a textbook indicates that a student should be using a computational tool to solve a problem, students are absolutely required to do so. Depending on the course, there may be specific instructions, but (here is a convenient and likely example) if a student is doing the homework problems for a differential equations course and the book asks the student to produce a slope field for some differential equation, a quick Google search will yield dozens of applets that can draw slope fields. Students should, upon entering the course, be computer-literate enough to then export that image into a printable format for submission with the homework assignment.
Students in courses with a computational component (e.g. homework, projects, etc.) are expected to work through these assignments using the appropriate tools and instructions as provided by the instructor. When a course utilizes such a computational tool throughout, students are expected to develop the skills necessary to complete complex and meaningful assignments that focus on the use of such software, not just as a glorified pocket-calculator. However, it is likewise very important that students do not rely on such software (particularly, Wolfram Alpha) to do the parts of assignments that are not meant to be done by computer. This will have a negative impact on students when exams roll around, and to be completely frank, I've been using Wolfram software for a very long time. I can often recognize a Wolfram Alpha answer within seconds, as they are sometimes very easy to differentiate from student-generated answers.
In short, misrepresentation of answers provided by Wolfram Alpha or any such software as student work (i.e. produced without a computer) is considered academic dishonesty and will not be tolerated. Students should have some trust that if a problem is assigned to be done by hand, it can be done by hand easily, and likewise that assignments assigned to be done by computer should be done by computer. Conversely, failure to use computers at the appropriate time is not academic dishonesty, but is still a failure to meet expectations. Give us some credit, we plan this stuff out somewhat carefully.
Current Version as of 8 September 2015
DO NOT CHEAT. PERIOD.
All students in the course are expected to be familiar with and abide by the University's academic integrity policies. Violations of these policies are taken very seriously. Students found cheating on exams or other major components of the course may be subject to automatic failure of the course, suspension, and/or expulsion. Students cheating on smaller assignments are subject to other disciplinary measures.
Academic integrity policies are stated and restated in many places, including the University-wide policy you should already know, but just to be clear (and frank), academic integrity is an important and vital part of academics and of your learning experience. Punishment, policy, and procedures aside, if you are ever thinking about violating these rules (even in a "small" way), please consider whether this is the kind of person you want to be. Five, ten, twenty years from now, do you want to remember that you should have failed calculus, if not for the cheat sheet you brought to the final? What if you didn't know it, but you could have passed it on your own? And how would you feel if, instead, you were caught and expelled?
Note that copying solutions (from the Internet, solutions manuals, peers, etc.) is academic dishonesty. Cheating on practice assignments like homework is not just "bad" and against policy, it also bypasses the learning you are supposed to be doing. Handing in a solution to a problem signifies that you claim to have done this problem on your own or with an acceptable sort of guidance and that you did not copy it from somewhere. Even when you get help from me (in class meetings, office hours, etc.) the outcome should not be you transcribing whatever I wrote word-for-word. Work out the solution again on your own, using what I have said as guidance. Likewise, if you work or study with your peers, you should still be writing out your own solutions individually, no matter how much of the solution might have been collaborative up to the final write-up.
Current Version as of 1 August 2017
Summary: Classroom behavior should reflect a positive learning environment. Behavior that disrupts students' learning will not be tolerated. Distracting behaviors and devices should be avoided.
The overarching principle for proper student conduct is to be a student -- to contribute positively to the learning experience for oneself and for others. One should be professional and mature, and one should respect the integrity of a positive learning environment. The specific guidelines below cover common instances of student conduct, some of which is disruptive to other members of the class, some of which is not. While the most disruptive behavior will require immediate intervention, the latter will still be duly noted and should be corrected.
Should a student's conduct become disruptive or otherwise negatively impact the classroom environment, that student can expect to have any corresponding part of his or her grade (attendance, participation, and any relevant assignment or assessment) lowered accordingly. If a student fails to correct any inappropriate conduct upon being told to do so, or if behavior is egregious and disruptive enough to skip the "warning" phase, a student may be asked to leave class. Please be aware, and let us hope this scenario is never realized, that if a student's conduct is disruptive and the student refuses to either correct this behavior or leave class, class will be suspended while campus authorities are contacted to remove the student.
Cell Phones, Computers, etc.
Students are required to attend class and to participate accordingly. Students' attention should be on the lecture, recitation, workshop, assignment, etc. and not on communication devices or other matters. Use of cell phones is explicitly prohibited in class. Exceptions to this should be discussed in advance (e.g. expecting an emergency phone call, carrying an on-call RA pager, working as an EMT or other first responder, etc.). Should a student need to take any emergency phone call, one should promptly and quiety leave the classroom to have that phone conversation in the hallway.
Laptops and other computing devices should not be used during class meetings (except in the case that a computer exercise is being used, see computing policy). Some students may take notes on a laptop or tablet/cellular device, in which case one is required to let me know that you will be doing so. I may ask to see these notes to verify that one is not taking advantage of this "loophole," and I may ask students with such devices to change seats if the device in question is a distraction for nearby students.
Regardless of exceptions, these devices should not be used except when they are a part of a student's engagement in the class's activity. Do not use these devices otherwise.
Outside conversation (chatting, gossiping, gibbering, rambling, mumbling, etc.) is not permitted in class. During a lecture or recitation, a student should raise one's hand and await acknowledgement from the instructor before speaking. If there is an question, one should address this question to me directly (again, by raising one's hand), not to one's neighbor -- even if a conversation is on-topic, if it is during a lecture, it will be distracting to one's other neighbors.
During in-class exercises, workshops, etc., even though conversation may be encouraged, students should remain on topic. A student's grade may be deducted for not participating appropriately during these exercises. However, during quizzes, exams, etc. any conversation will be considered potentially dishonest and students engaged in discussion during exams may be subject to scrutiny. Obviously, if there is a sneeze, no one will be punished for some traditional sneeze-related utterance, but there should be no substantive communication during quizzes or exams.
Students should also keep nonverbal noise to a minimum. Late entrance to the classroom should be made quietly and politely. Students needing to exit the classroom under normal circumstances (e.g. brief restroom use) should likewise minimize noise and disruption. There is no need to ask permission. (Important exception: During exams, students should be prepared to remain in the classroom for the examination period, and if an emergency arises, should speak with the instructor.) Students should not attempt to accelerate the end of the class period by noisily packing up books and papers five minutes early. Every effort will be made to make appropriate use of everyone's time by aiming to end class promptly at the correct time.
Students who participate in class discussions, question & answer portions of classroom instruction, or other in-class activities in a way that is off-topic may be asked to refrain from so participating. For example, recitation questions should be something like "Can you explain the error term for this integral approximation?" or "How do you do part (c) of 13.2?" One should not ask questions like "Why is my grade on this exam so low?" or "Can I talk to you about my absences last week?" Such matters should be addressed outside of class time.
Additionally, inappropriate comments will not be tolerated in class. Students should refrain from making any comments that are derogatory, prejudiced, lewd, or otherwise inappropriate for the classroom. I want it to be clear: In addition to being a violation of various University policies regarding student conduct, such comments are absolutely unwelcome in class. Classroom- appropriate humor and light-hearted conversation are not unwelcome in the classroom. I am always happy to make a joke, usually at my own expense, and I have no interest in policing students' conversations. But the use of an offensive slur in class, for example, whether it is shouted loudly in the middle of lecture or whispered to a neighbor before class starts, could result in ejection from the classroom and a corresponding disciplinary referral.
Current Version as of 1 August 2017
Summary: I do not provide any services to students directly related to registration, withdrawal, etc. outside of the normal processes established by the registrar and other offices. Should you require exceptional accommodations of some sort, I am not in any position to help you. Instead, consult with the Department or with your advisor/dean/etc. respectively.
Students seeking special permission to enroll in a course should consult with the registrar, an advisor, or another official. I am unable to grant such permission. Students concerned about prerequisites should definitely be talking to an advisor, although I am happy to discuss prerequisites -- but I cannot provide exceptions or special registration for students who do not meet the appropriate prerequisites.
Students and other individuals may audit my class meetings only in compliance with the applicable policies regarding auditing. Individuals who do not meet any relevant requirements will not be permitted to attend class meetings. These individuals are encouraged to speak with me to discuss their auditing plans.
Withdrawal, non-attendance, and other statuses outside standard A-F letter grades will be assigned according to a student's performance, standing, and circumstances. No exceptions or alternative arrangements will be made. In particular, I cannot issue any special withdrawal or late withdrawal to a student by request (such requests will be summarily dismissed). If you are unable to withdraw from a course because the deadline has passed, then it is too late. I cannot bypass this deadline. If you believe, regardless of a passed deadline, that you should be allowed to withdraw from a course, you should discuss the matter directly with the appropriate dean, advisor, or other administrator. That person will advise me if I am to issue any special grade or will issue that grade directly, or more likely will make those arrangements on your behalf. You should not stop attending class or doing coursework under the assumption that I (or anyone else) will eventually grant the withdrawal, in case that is not what happens.
Current Version as of 1 August 2017
Summary: I will gladly make every accommodation for students, in consultation with the Office of Student Disability Services.
Any student who feels s/he may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact Student Disability Services in Dunford Hall, at 865-974-6087, or by video relay at, 865-622-6566, to coordinate reasonable academic accommodations.
I am completely willing (indeed, quite happy) to help meet any student's needs. However, before I can do so effectively, a student should meet with officials from the Office of Student Disability Services. They will be able to assess what accommodations should be made and help us coordinate these accommodations effectively. Note that it would actually be inappropriate for me to provide accommodations to students without involving this office, as I am not trained to identify or assess students' abilities, nor am I authorized to independently coordinate accommodations for students with disabilities. Once the Office of Student Disability Services has provided a plan for the necessary accommodations, I will make sure we make the best possible arrangements to meet your needs.