Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Your Lecture Questions

I've entered the grades for the first four of your lecture questions into Blackboard. If you have a "2" for your grade, then I gave you full credit. If you got less than a "2," then I will expect more out of future questions from you. My grading on these was generous in acknowledgment of your learning curve. It will become less generous as we get further into class.

Some things to consider when writing your questions:

  • I'm giving you plenty of time. Don't just produce something slipshod so as to exit the classroom as quickly as possible.
  • If it is unintelligible (I can't understand what you are trying to say) I cannot give you credit.  See bullet point #1.
  • The question itself should not contain errors of fact. 
  • You should use proper grammar and, ideally, spelling in your question.
  • Your question should not be virtually identical to the one turned in by the person sitting next to you.
  • No hypothetical questions, like: "What do you think would happen if the French had ESP?" Not even if they aren't this silly. Stick to the material.

Think about the big picture. Just don't scissor some small fun fact out of the lecture and expect to receive credit. In the future, a question like this will not receive credit:
"What did Spain get back from England after the Seven Years' War?"
"Where did the free press first emerge?"

Why not? Because these aren't analytical questions. Your lecture question requires you to think about the greater meanings in the material. Here are a few examples of actual student questions that I received over the last four classes. Not all of them are perfectly correct with regard to grammar, and all are not completely clear in their meaning - I would edit these before I used them on a test for both content and clarity. Yet, these questions come close to the spirit of the assignment:

"What was Nathaniel Bacon's issue with Gov. Berkeley? How did Bacon's rebellion contribute to the expansion of slavery in North America?" (Actually, the second half of this question is sufficiently analytical. On a test I would expect some elaboration of how the conflict came to be, including a description of the background and aspirations of the rebels, and the reasoning behind the move toward African slavery in the Chesapeake.)

"In what ways did mercantilism change the dynamic of European countries and ultimately aid in the starting of the Seven Years' War?" (I would edit this, but it contains analysis as it invites the respondent to draw connections between mercantilism, colonialism, and global conflict.)

"How did the commodification of the world in the end of the 15th Century influence the trade, economic, and social standings in Europe, Asia, and Africa." (This actually has grammatical errors that cloud the question's meaning. But the underlying question is an important one. If we rephrase it, we come closer to an invitation to a discussion on global commodity. We could even narrow it down. How about this: "How did the commodification of human beings alter the social standing of the poorer classes in Europe and Africa (not so much Asia) at the end of the 15th Century?")

"What did Carl Linneaeus's 'Great Chain of Being' teach? What effect did it have one Europe's worldview and foreign relations?" (Again, this question beckons us to think deeply about the connections between scientific classification, emerging ideas of race, and how these ideas translate into governmental policy in Europe. I might word it differently, but this question shows me that the student is making connections in the material.)

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