Be sure to log on to the ELMS website and complete Participation #1 (signing off that you've read the syllabus either here and or the printer friendly file). You must also come by my office and check your name off a list I keep there. Failure to do either of these things will mean a deduction of 10 points from your participation grade!
This course is intended primarily for juniors and seniors and ambitious sophomores who are not majoring in the physical sciences and who have successfully completed either ASTR 100 or ASTR 101 along with the CORE Distributive Studies Requirement in Mathematics. The course will provide a general scientific foundation to try to answer fundamental questions about the Solar System, such as:
Traditional texts would often start "Chapter X. Mercury" "Chapter Y. Venus" and so on. But for you to answer these questions, we will consider important geologic, physical and chemical processes across the Solar System and illustrate their universality and their limitations with examples from real planets, moons, and small bodies. We will consider historical ideas which have failed, been modified and/or survived over the centuries, as well as discuss modern controversies and the most current data.
We will use a little bit of mathematics in this course and a lot of physical reasoning, and we will use information from geology, meteorology, and physics as well as from astronomy. Your challenge will be to master this diverse and extensive body of knowledge in order to create a large scale understanding of the past, present and future of the Solar System.
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You are STRONGLY encouraged to keep track of your grades using ELMS website as each homework and test gets graded. I grade on a point scale with different weights weighted as shown in this table:
Letter grades will be assigned based upon your cumulative score, and I do not curve lightly. Having taught various classes for over five years (some multiple times), I have found these grading guidelines below to be about right. I reserve the right to adjust the following based on class averages. However, any adjustment will make it easier to get a given grade, never more difficult. Here is a rough guide as to how your points relate to your final grade:
As you can see, missing 100 points of the class participation can drop your grade a whole letter. So DON'T SKIP THE LECTURES! Let me know in person or by email as soon as possible if you are planning on missing lectures due to a religious holiday. Letting me know after the holiday will not work.
The point scale makes it possible for everyone in the class to do well. For example, if everyone scores above 80% in the course, you would all receive either a B or better letter grade. Unlikely as it may be, the entire class could potentially get A's. I will be using +/- modifiers for the final grade. Past experience has shown that my assignments and tests are pitched about right, to where the average total score in the class is in the 80% range of points, the B/B- range.
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(or "Why did you have me buy this silly clicker?")
The text is "required" as well as a Turning Technologies response device of one kind or another. See clickers.umd.edu for more information. If you already have a clicker, you will STILL need to reregister it (sorry!). Be warned that laptops are not allowed in class (see below) unless specifically dictated by a DSS form. This class has lots of students; each of you brings your (sometimes unique) perspective and it is often worth sharing your insights (right or wrong!) with your neighbors and classmates. Learning is usually far more effective when you try to persuade your neighbors and yourself using your comprehension. I use clicker questions nearly daily; your responses give me immediate insight into how well the material is understood and by how many students. This informs my lecture on the spot, allowing me to go over difficult material sufficiently and to move on only when I deem that comprehension has become universal. You WILL NOT BE graded on your clicker responses, only docked points if you fail to respond.
Within a few weeks, I will actually know many of your names and faces (and even occasionally both at the same time!). In order for you to succeed in this course, I expect you to try to attend all lectures. This is very important! The homework assignments, tests and final (or final project) are based upon the material covered in the lectures and text. The very few people that have ever earned bad grades from me usually had (not coincidentally) terrible attendance. The lectures are punctuated with in-class exercises and discussions with your neighbors which most students find very helpful in reaching comprehension of the material. That said, the official University policy on how to deal with excused absences can be found here. Note the required advanced warning to the instructor if you plan on missing class due to religious observances!
If you do have to miss a lecture be sure to look at another student's notes and make sure that you understand what was covered or come to office hours. Essentially, you should assume that EVERY LECTURE during the semester will include a variety of group discussion questions and clicker questions and while your responses don't have to be initially correct, you often have to answer them using your clicker. Within the schedule adjustment period only, you may let me know that you are there after class to avoid losing participation points.
This participatory aspect of the lecture will be worth points, and part of your overall grade (see above table). With that said, please see me (in advance whenever possible) if you plan on missing lecture(s) for any reasons, including religious holidays so that your grade will not suffer.
The first bit of participation grade involves:
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Tests and the Final Exam
(On left, Titan's surface; art: David Aguilar, Harvard-Smithsonian CfA)
A single midterm is a travesty of assessment; multiple quizzes would serve
both you and me better. However, for time considerations there will be only
four unit tests (call them midterms if you must, but only one is in the middle
of the term). These are closed book with no notes and no calculators allowed
(nor, as you'll discover, are they necessary). You'll be given the entire
lecture time to take the test.
Each test will consist of short answer questions (true/false, multiple choice, short definition) and a few longer questions. These tests are incremental (i.e., non-cumulative) checkups on how well you have learned the material up to the lectures prior to the related homework. The Lecture Schedule (periodically check for updates!) shows what material will be covered on each test. If, for whatever reason, the University is officially closed on the test date, the test date shifts to the next lecture date.
PLEASE NOTE that many of the questions on the tests and final exam will NOT be exactly the same as homework questions but will challenge your comprehension of the material.
The final exam is cumulative, i.e., it will cover all material discussed in this course. The final will include a mixture of short answer, long answer, and problem solving questions. This exam is also closed book with no notes and no calculators allowed.
DSS students, see § Disability Accommodation below.
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Missed Test Policy
If you are not able to take a test due to a VALID EXCUSE as outlined in the
Academic Information section of the schedule of classes and you wish to take a
full credit make-up test (which may be considerably harder than the original
test and, for example, may consist only of essay questions), you must:
There is rarely an excuse for not being able to at least call me and leave a message. For the record, the official University policy on how to deal with absences is here.
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(Mars - strong evidence for water? NASA)
There are a total of five (content-related) homeworks in this course. Homework
#1 will be online on the ELMS
site by the evening of the first day of class. If you have trouble with the
first homework, consider it an ominous sign and consult with me as soon as
possible! Future homeworks will be also become available on ELMS as the term
Although you are HEAVILY encouraged to discuss the homework problems with your friends, the final writeup must be in your own words. Copying from a friend's homework, copying from a book without citing, or allowing a friend to copy your homework is academic dishonesty and will not be tolerated in this class, and you may receive an "XF" on your transcript. If you consult a reference other than the course text, including websites, please acknowledge or cite it in your homework! (See § Academic Integrity below.)
Deadline. You must turn in a paper copy of your homework on the duedate at the beginning of class sharp. The duedates are listed on the Lecture Schedule.
DO NOT email me your homework under any circumstances. There is no way to turn in late homework; that is what is meant by a "deadline."
Neatness counts. Sloppy handwriting, incomplete reasoning and ragged paper edges are subject to point penalties. Homework which is not stapled properly is subject to a penalty. This isn't high school and we should not be responsible for loose sheets.
Every effort will be made to get your graded homework back to you quickly. However, sometimes the homework closest to a test will not quite get back to you quickly enough to be very useful. Solutions will be posted right after the deadline, and as always I urge you to use the "Discussions" feature on ELMS.
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There will be no extra credit.
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Course Expectations (and Suggestions!)
(Image on right from America's Finest News Source, The Onion). Show up! You are expected to try to attend all lectures, and your grade depends (weakly and weekly) on participation.
Pure "lecturing" doesn't actually work that well. The advantages of attending lecture are to interact with students and ask questions: i.e., to be an active participant in your learning, not a passive, "empty vessel" awaiting the brilliant words of the professor to fill your head with knowledge. (Believe me, you'll be waiting a long time if you think that's the case.)
However (and this is where my contribution is priceless), attending lecture will help you gain important clues and caveats, especially if you don't understand the text. Demonstrations can often get an explanation across far better than diagrams or text in a book. And heck, if you do understand everything, you'll have opportunities to share your unique perspective during lecture with the people around you, so be there! (See § Class Participation above for more details.)
All that said, I try to run a fun class and crack jokes (sometimes even good ones) to keep the tension low and your spirits high. Looking over years of course evaluations, most people seem to like the tone of the class, but I have been accused of overt sarcasm and even downright snarkiness. If at some point I say something rude, please either let me know 1) right away or 2) after class or even 3) anonymously by reporting it to the physics department so they can tell me. Berating me on the course evaluation generally leaves me scratching my head (what did I say?), and never really gives me the chance to make amends, apologize or explain.
Laptops are banned (see below) unless specifically dictated by a DSS form, or I specifically ask you to bring them.
Preparation: I expect you to be prepared to work. You will get more out of the participation during lecture if you preview the reading assignment (listed in the Lecture Schedule and updated during the semester). You'll also be more aware of what you don't understand and can come to class with useful questions.
I rarely expect the text to make perfect sense the first time you read it. But reading it beforehand regardless will help the lectures bring it all home. A more careful second reading is recommended after lecture. It is also good to peruse your class notes sometime before the next lecture to make sure that everything is clear. I STRONGLY encourage you to ask questions in class, during office hours, and on the ELMS Discussions for our class. The only dumb question is "Why didn't I ask in class when I had the chance?"
Study Habits: A HUGE mistake made by many students (especially frosh?) is to misjudge how much time they need to study outside of class.
According to time-use surveys analyzed by professors Philip Babcock, at the University of California Santa Barbara, and Mindy Marks, at the University of California Riverside, the average student at a four-year college in 1961 studied about 24 hours a week. Today's average student hits the books for just 14 hours.
-- Boston Globe, 4 July 2010
"So, what?" you ask, "maybe we're more efficient than you old fogies were. We can multitask." Alas, that argument belies itself. Although this Colorado State weblog focuses on student "multitasking" in class, it's not hard to extrapolate how effective multitasking is in general.
"Ok, you grumpy old man, how many hours should I really be working?" There is a decent rough calculation for how much time you should spend working based on the 20th century idea of a ~40 hour workweek. Multiply the number of credits you're taking by 3. (You'll note that the number of "credits" for a class very roughly corresponds to the number of hours spent in lecture). So a 15 credit semester means you should be working (both inside and outside) class 45 hours/week. (20 credits means 60 hours which is why those kinds of course loads are frowned on!) If you're taking five three credit classes, each class should use up 9 hours/week on average. Obviously, some weeks are heavier than others. Since, for most classes (Tu Th 75 min class\es or MWF 50 min classes) you're only inside class for 2.5 hours/week (75 min/day x 2 days/week = 50 min/day x 3 days/week = 150 min/week x 1 hr/60 min = 2.5 hours/week), this means you should be spending about 7 hours per week per class outside the lecture. That should be a mixture of discussions with colleagues, professors and TAs, wrestling with homework, and, of course, some nose-in-book/laptop reading.
PLEASE ask for help when you need it. If you rely on cramming the night before any test, you are not likely to do well. It is better (and easier) if you keep up with the material on a nearly daily basis. Make it a point to read the chapters in pace with (or even ahead of) the lectures; this is one of the best study habits you can have. If you have questions, please see me in office hours and/or post them on the ELMS Discussions. I troll it frequently to make sure people aren't left hanging endlessly waiting for insight. BUT DO NOT WAIT until the day before an test!
Discussions! Usually the best way to understand something (or check that your understanding is correct!) is to try to explain it to someone else. I encourage collaboration (but not plagiarism!) and discussion inside and outside class and online on the ELMS Discussions. I generally "troll" those boards to make sure questions are getting answered, so unless it's to remind me that I haven't trolled in a while, please avoid the temptation to email me directly: if you have a question, chances are a large number of other students have the same question and answering it in the ELMS Discussions is more efficient.
Other Classroom rules: No newspapers, mp3 players, etc. And please turn off all cell phones or risk ridicule by me. In short, show respect to your lecturer (me), your neighbors and yourself.
Further advice: I'm an easy going guy who tends to be sympathetic, but before you come to office hours, please check you're not about to make one of these comments for which I will have no sympathy courtesy of Dr. Steve Dutch of the University of Wisconsin).
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I have been praised to the skies by some students and reviled by others. In the end, it makes no difference to me if you love me or hate me. What matters to me is that you broaden your horizons by learning something new in my class. I also hope that you see how passionate I and my colleagues are about physics and astronomy and I hope you develop an inkling of that passion yourself.
Good professors and lecturers put as much effort into designing a course as good students put in to learning the material in it. And we try our best to avoid bias when it comes time to grading. However, there are a few things you can do to also help triggering any frustration on our part (which, to be utterly honest, can sneak into our perception of your achievements... as unfair as that is). For instance, here are Jorie Scholnik's Five Things You Should Never Say to Your Professor (USA Today, 10 Jan 2013) along with my snarky answers.
Is he asking: "Dear God, why?!" or just "Now where did I leave my Hawaiian shirt?"
To balance that out, here are some things you absolutely should ask or tell (far in advance, usually) a lecturer or professor:
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Students with a documented disability who require academic accommodations
should contact me as soon as possible. If you suspect you might require such
in this class or any, please feel free to discuss this with me during office
hours, or head straight to the Disability Service Support office for more information.
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The University of Maryland, College Park has a nationally recognized
Code of Academic Integrity, administered by the Student Honor Council.
This Code sets standards for academic integrity at Maryland for all
undergraduate and graduate students. As a student you are responsible
for upholding these standards for this course. It is very important
for you to be aware of the definitions and consequences of cheating,
fabrication, facilitation, and plagiarism. For more information on
the Code of Academic Integrity or the Student Honor Council, please
http://www.shc.umd.edu/ or go straight to
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Copyright Issues and Your Notes
Selling or distributing copies or modified copies of instructors' course
materials or assisting another person or entity in selling or distributing
those materials should be considered a violation of the University Code of
Student Conduct, Part 9(k). In general, only some of the overhead
presentations shown in class will be available on the web. They won't
necessarily make a lot of sense by themselves, however, so don't use them in
lieu of coming to class! (Besides, then you'd be missing out on easy points -
see § Class Participation.) Students may
always request a reviewing of them during office hours on a face to face basis.
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CourseEvalUM will be open for students to complete their evaluations later
in the semester. Students can go directly to the
website to complete their evaluations. You will be alerted when the
evaluation sites are ready closer to that time via your official University
Students who complete evaluations for all of their courses in the previous semester (excluding summer), can access the posted results via Testudo's CourseEvalUM Reporting link for any course on campus that has at least a 70% response rate. You can find more information, including periodic updates, at the IRPA course evaluation website.
The expectation is that all students will complete these. This is YOUR chance to anonymously evaluate this class: please use this opportunity! I have altered courses before based on constructive criticism from students.
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