Assignments and Assessment

Updated info

Because of everything, the administration has agreed to an alternative grading system (pass/fail). Here’s the official information about that system.

Our course will be divided into two major parts: Reading Stories and Telling Stories.

We’ll be learning about topics relating to American explorers, and then we’ll be thinking together about how to tell stories of what we’ve learned in unique ways, culminating in the development and production of an education podcast. In many ways, what we’re doing is also highly experimental. You should be prepared for some ideas to fail, some plans to change, and some outcomes to be unexpected. But you should also be prepared to take ownership of both your successes and failures, and the rest of the class (including your professor) will own the final results right along with you.

Part 1: Reading Stories

During this part of the semester (before spring break) we’ll be doing a fairly quick survey through various ways in which Americans have explored the universe around, below, and above them. You’ll have a few conventional readings, as well as some more unconventional ways of learning about these explorers and their world.

Your responsibility during this time is to exercise some curiosity: ask questions, take some time to wonder about what these people were doing and why they matter. You’ll be asked to do some formal responses to them, but you’ll be much more successful in this class if you go beyond the formal responses and start to ask questions on your own.

You’ll also begin individual research on an expedition during this part of the semester. You’ll be working closely with a partner, but the whole class will be providing resources and encouragement for everyone else.

Part 2: Telling Stories

Part 2 is the more experimental part. During this part, we’ll be working together as a class to produce a podcast about the topics we explored (ha) in Part 1. This part of the class is highly collaborative, and everyone will need to pull their weight in order for us to have an excellent final product. We’ll be learning about writing, sound, drama, and a number of other things that aren’t explicitly “historical,” but will help us to tell an interesting historical story.

Your responsibility during this time is to work well with your classmates. Not everyone will necessarily be doing the same thing at the same time, so it’s even more important that you keep on top of your specific tasks so that others’ work doesn’t get delayed. You should also be prepared to hit some road-blocks along the way. If you do, that’s ok! But you need to alert the class to these struggles as they happen.

Different people in the class will have different roles in our podcast production. You will all be writing, but aside from that, everyone’s job may be different.


This class is not the type that works well with traditional grades. So we’re going to try a different grading system: contract grading. You’ll be signing a grade contract the second week of class, where you contract to receive a specific grade for the completion of a certain number of tasks during Part 1 of the class. We’ll revisit these contracts at the beginning of Part 2, when we’ve assigned tasks for our podcast production. At that time, you’ll add some items to your contract to reflect the tasks you’ve been assigned and you may change the grade you wish to contract for.

At the end of the semester, you’ll write a reflection for me that tells me whether you think you met the contract stipulations. I will have the option to raise your grade by a third of a letter grade if I think your work has been exceptional, or lower it by a third of a letter grade if I think it has been less so.

Specifics of the grade contract

Your written contract will detail:

Every contract must include these elements:

Contract for an A

If you wish to receive an A in this course, you must agree to at least these things:

Contract for a B

If you wish to receive a B in this course, you must agree to at least these things:

Contract for a C

If you wish to receive a C in this course, you must agree to at least these things:

D and F grades

You may not contract for a D or F (obviously). These grades are reserved for if you fail to meet the terms of your contract in a systemic way. If you maintain contact with me and your classmates about your struggles and needs, you should not fear getting a D or F.

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