Link to What's New This Week Soc. 595-01: Alternative Approaches to Theory, Week 1

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Theory Preparations
Week 1: Week of August 25, 2003

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Minimal Requirements in Theory: First and Second Weeks

California State University, Dominguez Hills
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Created: June 22, 2003
Latest Update: June 28, 2003

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Index of Topics on Site Soc. 595-01: Alternative Approaches to Theory: Week 1
Preparations for Class and Internet Discussions
For purposes of grading we provide the readings and exercises listed here. There will be no "testing." That means that you will not have to live in anxious anticipation of what we will ask and how much you will have to know. Instead, we will provide weekly discussion questions, lectures, essays, and concepts we feel that you should know as a result of having taken this course. You will assure us of that learning and receive your grade for the questions and concepts about which you choose to write and talk with us. In addition you will find detailed explanations and examples on our grading policies in the first week's reading.

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Week 1: Week of August 25, 2003
Adademic Assessment of Learning: The Technical Term for Grading Policy

  • Topic:

    Grades are required by the college. The following readings will explain our grading policy. These readings will substitute for textual readings this first week.

  • Preparatory Readings on Grading Policy:
    • Academic Assessment in Credited Course Learning What Susan calls the 5 C's, or qualities we look for in grading. Please don't ask how much is enough, when it's good enough for an A, and such. No one can tell you when a term paper is long enough, when it is an A, or any such nonsense. You're not working for a grade. You're working to learn. And this file will give you extremely concrete details on how to do that. And you don't usually know if you got an A on a term paper until you get it back. We think our system gives you much more detailed and accurate feedback. Use it.
    • Maintatining Consistency in Academic Accountability An explanation of consistency as "discipline," and how to maintain it as a measure of your learning.
    • Cutting to the Chase: Twenty-Five Words or Less and Paper Clips Knowing what to write, rembering what you learned, and making sure your teacher knows.
    • Discovering Your Identity in Learning This essay covers a very specific example of how we measure our learning, particularly when that learning is latent. Like you recognize a word, but you can't remember what it means. And we tell you how to record that with us as learning.
    • Authentication of Knowledge as Interdependent Forms to Guide Us Through Interactive Measures. articularly at the latent stage of learning, it's hard to tell someone what you've learned. We focus on that with a vocabulary learning example in Discovering Your Identity in Learning. In this file we try to offer numerous examples that will help you identify learning in the latent stage. Link created June 29, 1999. Updated July 28, 2003.
    • Measuring Learning without The Learner A brief essay on how we do this to children when we misperceive so dreadfully their creative learning. To share with your kids and friends.

      More Advanced Theoretical Background for our Grading Policy:

    • The Aesthetics of Answerability Bakhtin's theory that every utterance by a Person may be answered by an Other, and that the exchange of utterance and answer will interdependently alter each of them, creating an aesthetic product in community, which community will be more enlightened by the illocutionary exchange.
    • Finding Ethical Ways Around Intellectual Property that Poses Barriers to Learning Discovering ways around the problem that everything is available in books in libraries you can't get to, and using better search techniques to do it. There's a lot available on the Internet now. The state and the academy have a legal interest in your learning, even though they haven't recognized it well since Frederick Jackson Turner. For more on this look at Normative Discourse, particularly what Webber has to say about the formation of aboriginal rights. Lecture and discussion questions on that file not yet finished. August 11, 2003. Nag me. jeanne
    • Why jeanne says don't just answer the questions. Important that you see how our work is answerable and how that relates to aesthetics and how that relates to the creative merging of self and Other, both as individuals and as members of the academic system. Authority assumes the right to answer in one direction only.
    • Keep Your Eye on the Ball Update of a piece written by a former student, recognizing that a normative approach to theory is not always the most fruitful. The aesthetic process is often the one we need.

  • Lecture: Time Management for Study in a World Without Discretionary Time

  • Concepts:

  • Discussion Questions:

    1. What role does the aesthetics of answerability play in the grading policy for this advanced theory course?

      Consider that monologic non-answerability would leave you without an interdependent role in the measurement of your grade. That objectifies you. If I ask a question to which I want only a specified acceptable answer, I leave you no room to play with that question, to ponder it, to follow a road not yet taken in wondering about it. (Robert Frost, The road not taken. . . )

      But especially, many of you are going to need latitude in here. some of you are studying for comprehensive exams, and thus reviewing classical and modern theory. I'll have no more than two weeks to give that review, and mixed in with alternative approaches to theory, at that. Also, you need at this point to consider your career options as to whether your needs are more for deep study for future reading and writing in social theory, or a broad approach that will serve you as a practical theoretical background and prepare you to follow advances on your own. By refusing you dialogic answerability I would be forcing all of you to take the same road. Not something my philosophy will let me do.

    2. Do the five C's offer you an opportunity to count efforts towards your learning that have not been counted before? How do you feel about that?

      Consider:Academic Assessment in Credited Course Learning Do you figure your chances for a good grade are better when you are offered a variety of different kinds of measures or when you're offered just one measure, like a test? If you're studying for the comprehensives this means you can document that study and consider it part of your learning in this course. Just don't forget to document it.

    3. How do you feel about being told that you have to be creative to get an A? How different from that is any traditional grading system?

      Consider the originally intended concept of grading, that an A was exceptional work. This is often the explanation that professors give for limiting the number of A's they give. Consider also the routinization of grading in which an A is simply the top of a grading curve, where those who get the highest scores, however they are calculated, get the A's, few or many. How would an A be affected by a class group that was pretty mediocre? By a class group that was outstanding? There are advantages to routinization. But there are major disadvantages. Routinization tends to inhibit creativity. Though it does support the mindless activity that conveniently covers those moments when we're really just sitting. Every now and then we need that discretionary time.

    4. Why is computer literacy essential for effective work in this advanced theory course? How do you acquire that literacy?

      Computer literacy is essential in keeping with the university's recognition of the computer as a valuable tool for the dissemination of information. You must be able to access our lectures, preparatory readings, discussion questions, and announcements. Having them available on the computer means that we lose minimal time to such dissemination of basic information in class, so that our time in class together becomes discretionary time for us to spend in more meaningful and learningful discussions.

      You acquire such literacy early in the course from the directions given with the Site Map, and help from our computer labs. If you are having trouble, you need to see jeanne or Susan or Pat within the first couple of weeks to resolve that problem. If you do not have a computer, the university provides labs in which you can access the site. You will need to take that extra access time into account as you plan your study time.

      In an advanced theory class, you have so many different focuses that no text can cover them all. We have two texts so that we can all be on the same page for some of our class time and Internet discussions. But you need a much broader array of social theory choices to satisfy your more personal needs. Much of that material is now becoming available on the Internet.

  • Some Recommended Activities for Academic Assessment:

    1. Show and Tell: Bring a photo or a picture or whatever to the first or second class and share its story with us. A picture of your dog, your cat, your mother-in-law. A newspaper or magazine picture that tells us something about you: maybe where you wish you could go, what you would do there, etc. This is called answerable communication.

    2. Share Your Skills: Help someone who's having trouble with the computer. Just sit with them for a few minutes and let them access the site and practice moving around it. Offer to meet them for coffee or a coke and do it again. It's gonna take practice. This is called cooperative learning, and sympathizing with the "Other."

    3. Answer the Utterance or the Act: Look at the theoretical explanations of the aesthetics of answerability. Think of how the measures fit your learning. Share with the class what fits, what doesn't fit. This is called engaging in the aesthetic process of sympathizing with Others in search of community.

    4. Ask a Question to Which You'd Like to Hear the Answer: How about "How will I know when I'm being creative?" Consider that our aesthetics is based on answerability and you'll have a clue, but we'll need to answer this many times before it stops popping up in your head unbidden. This is called courage, when you know we've said it or written it somewhere, and yet there's that question again, in your head? Ask it. Maybe this time a classmate will have an answer. And just maybe the classmate will have some of the answer, but not quite all of it. And as we discuss it, we'll all get our aesthetics down a little clearer.

    5. Answer Creatively: Notice someone who seems unusually silent. Say "hello." Encourage them to talk by sharing one of your own utterances in the patio or the hallways. Listen. This is called creating community for a nurturant climate of learning.

    Then make sure that your participation is either entered in our class book, or send us a short e-mail. Details count. "I had a good time in class today" won't cut it.

    Example: "I practiced creating community for a climate of learning by talking to a classmate. Brief details: we had a coke and agreed the class approach is weird, but we do like being able to use many different approaches to measurement."

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    Minimal Requirements in Theory: First and Second Weeks

    Week 2: Week of September 1, 2003
    Topic: Re-Interpreting Sociology through Aesthetic Process (Bakhtin) and Feminism (Pia Lara)

  • Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, June 2003.
    "Fair use" encouraged.