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(1) Talking as an Academic Community: Click here or scroll down.

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Talking as an 
Academic Community
(8-’10; 2-‘16, 7-'17. Copy & use freely.)



Dear students: Here is an important part of policy for our course, one that is required reading.  It discusses how everyone in the course is part of an academic community, and how that affects the ways we communicate with each other.           

What is an academic community? 

It is a group of people gathered together to pursue education. What kinds of groups are included?  Some academic communities are mostly or completely made up of students (e.g., an out-of-class study group or an in-class small group); others are made up of students and teachers together (e.g., a class); and some are made up completely of teachers (e.g., a faculty committee, or a state or national scholarly organization).  Why is a group like this an "academic" community?  Its primary purpose is to share knowledge.  To do so, the members of the community—in this case, for example, our class—follow certain guidelines. 

What are the guidelines for members of an academic community? 

Here are several basics: 

(1)  Speak up, speak out, and speak forth—if you do so in a balanced, objective, caring way. 

(2)   Always show respect for each other and concern for each other’s feelings.

(3)   Accept—even encourage—positive disagreement and differing viewpoints.

(4)   Agree to disagree respectfully—with care for the feelings, needs, and experiences of others. 

Discussion of disagreements and differing viewpoints reaches to the very core, the very heart, of what an academic community is.  It is a place where many points of view, many differing facts, and many differing ideas should be shared so that all members of the academic community—in this case, your class—can increase what they know.  In many ways, the differences of opinion help knowledge grow.  Often, after a class or course is done, people still disagree.  However, in a positive academic community, their disagreement will have been deeply enriched by their knowledge of a variety of other viewpoints. 

What are some methods of agreeing to disagree respectfully? 

Because members of an academic community—such as our class—may sometimes disagree in the pursuit of knowledge, the ways in which class members speak and write to each other are very important.  It is necessary that class members always maintain an emotional environment that supports the exchange of ideas.  Methods to ensure this environment apply not only in class but also on discussion boards, in emails, and in notes on each other’s papers.  Ethically, such methods also should apply when class members are outside of class but talking with others whom they have come to know through class.  Finally, the methods should apply equally to both students and teachers.  Here are some important methods for maintaining and encouraging the class as an academic community:    

·   Speak respectfully in class.  Do so to each other as well as to your teacher. 

·   Show respect for others’ feelings.  Demonstrate your respect for others by your tone of voice and/or by respectful phrases (e.g., “Another way to look at it might be,” “I wonder if,” “Wouldn’t that lead to,” etc.).

·   Encourage the sharing of viewpoints. Protect each other’s right to share viewpoints comfortably, especially if they are opposing viewpoints.

·   Expect the right to speak about your point of view.  You have the right and power to do so in a positive, sharing, helpful tone. 

·   Maintain a caring tone.  A kind, objective tone also is helpful.  At the least, use a neutral, balanced tone.

·   Discourage negative talk.  Accept disagreement, but not hurtful or highly negative or critical talk.  Turn discussion in a positive direction or expression, change the subject, or if necessary, simply state, “I think we need to speak more respectfully of this idea.”

·   Monitor your feelings.  Remember that it is easy to become grouchy and oversensitive when you are sick, overly tired, or under a lot of stress—and college students almost always seem to be enduring at least one of these conditions.

·   Pause before reacting immediately.  This is especially important if someone upsets you.  If that happens, take several deep breaths.  Wait until you are calm and can respond with care, respect, neutrality, and objectivity. 

·   Manage your feelings.  Do so before talking out loud or writing.  If necessary, avoid talking if you suspect you will sound offensive.  Try to let negative thoughts or feelings slip away like water off the back of a duck.  If necessary, withdraw from conversation until you are calm.  If you continue to be upset, write a letter to the person with whom you are angry, describing your feelings, and throw the letter away afterward; or confide your feelings to a good friend; or, perhaps, engage in private physical action—go for a long walk or run, work out at a gym, play a strenuous game of sports with someone, or even find a place to scream in private or beat a pillow. 

·   Reread what you’ve written.  In discussion boards and emails especially, people often tend to write a message quickly and casually without caring how it sounds.  When you write a message, read it carefully before sending it.  If you are/were upset in writing the message, save the message; then wait two or three hours—or until the next day—until you are more calm.  Then reread and revise.

·   Revise messages using academic community standards.  Ask yourself, “Would I be willing to stand up and say this to the entire class,” “Would I talk this way to someone I respected a lot,” and “How might others possibly read or even misread what I have written?”  Then rewrite, as necessary, before showing it to others.  As stated above, you should write as a member of an academic community: respect and express your own viewpoint, but do so with care, respect, balance, emotional neutrality, and objectivity. 

What does Talking as an Academic Community Mean in Online Discussions?

           Good academic behavior on the discussion boards is like good academic behavior in a physical classroom.  Sometimes people writing discussion board messages forget this, but it is of great importance.  To make these boards work well for everyone, we must treat each other with respect, caring, and balance.   

          There is also a tendency sometimes for people to think that discussion boards are a place to complain--to or about each other, the assignments, or even unrelated events--but they are not.  Rather, the discussion boards are a place--as in a regular classroom--to stick to the topics at hand.

         If you have a problem with someone in class or feel you have been unfairly treated or hurt by someone on the discussion board or elsewhere, let me know, but do it by email, phone, or in person.  If you have a question about why the class is being run the way it is, then keep it at that simple level--a polite question--and ask me privately--again by email, phone, or in person.  This is only good academic ethics and polite behavior, just as in a regular, physical classroom at school. 

          Please do not use the discussion boards as a place for emotional disagreements.  In particular, be careful of the words you use and how you put them together in sentences, as they might have an emotional message that you did not intend.  Reread what you've written before sending it.  Show respect to other students and to me.  Stick to the topic, and try to be kind to others.  And be willing to disagree with each other as long as you do so respectfully in a balanced, caring way.

Also, please be aware of IHCC policy about Academic Integrity:

"Academic integrity is one of the most important values in higher education. This principle requires that each student's work represents his or her own personal efforts and that the student acknowledges the intellectual contributions of others.    The foundation for this principle is student academic honesty.  IHCC students are expected to honor the requirements of the Academic Integrity Policy. The following are some examples of unacceptable academic practices that will be viewed as policy violations.

"Types of Academic Dishonesty

"Plagiarism: Using the words and/or ideas of another author without proper acknowledgement so they appear to be your work. This includes quoting, paraphrasing, or copying of part or all of another's work without acknowledging the source. 

"Cheating: Using, or attempting to use, unauthorized materials in any academic exercise or having someone else do your required work: e.g., cheat sheets or copying from another's paper, test, and/or homework."

By following these guidelines, all of us can improve our academic community as a class.  We can learn quite a bit more if we preserve and develop an atmosphere of sharing and mutual support.  And we can continue, in the spirit of fair play, to disagree at times with each other’s viewpoints even as we learn more from hearing them. 


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A Note to PSEO's (Post-Secondary Options Students) (7-08)



            If you are a PSEO--a Post-secondary Options Student--please read this.  It contains very important information for you.  (If you don't know what "PSEO" means, a PSEO is someone still in high school who also is taking this college course.  If you're not a PSEO, you may skip reading this.)  


Dear PSEO's,


            I have some good news and some bad news.  Let's do the good first.


            First, I'd like to welcome you to this course.  I find it a special pleasure to work with PSEO's, as they often are among my best students in a course.  Also, you may find it reassuring to know that there likely is at least one other PSEO in this class.  And if you're taking an introductory required course (e.g., Eng 1108), you may find that as much as 20-25% of the class is composed of PSEO's.  


            I'd like to point out that even though you may have come to this community college for another reason, you actually can get a better college education here for the first two years of college than you could by going to a state university or to the University of Minnesota.  This is because, nationally, 80% of all first- and second-year classes taught in public universities are taught by teaching assistants and by adjunct teachers.  What is a teaching assistant?  Also called "TA's," they are graduate students still working on their own master's degrees or doctorates who teach part-time to make some extra money.  At many universities, they do 50-100% of the teaching of introductory courses.  While some may be good, most are inexperienced, and a majority of them haven't finished their graduate coursework, either.  


            However, at any Minnesota community college, all your teachers (at least, those in the liberal arts, mathematics, sciences, etc.--courses that lead to a two-year degree or are part of the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum) already have master's degrees and/or PhDs.  In addition, they have much more teaching experience.  Third, they usually love teaching, whereas as some public university teachers would prefer to spend their time researching.  As a result of all these elements, community college teachers are, on average, better teachers than the ones you would get in the first two years of a public university.  And finally, in a Minnesota community college, many courses are smaller than they would be at one of the state's public universities.  So, you are getting an excellent college education by being here at this school.


            I'd also like to encourage you to spend as much time as possible at the college and to join one or more clubs.  Research shows that the best way to gain a real college experience is to actually spend time on the campus.


            Finally, here is the bad stuff.  I'd like to give you a warning--unfortunately necessary for a minority of you.  Almost every semester, on average, I have a PSEO student who is unable to graduate from high school because he or she did not finish her work in a class of mine.  A college class is TWO TO THREE TIMES MORE TIME CONSUMING than a high school class!  If you take a four-credit course here, for example, that generally means you must attend class four hours and ALSO do up to EIGHT HOURS OF HOMEWORK ON YOUR OWN!  With this kind of homework load, you can't possibly wait until the last week to turn in your assignments, as you sometimes may have done in high school.  


            Please also be aware of this official Inver Hills College policy regarding PSEO students and attendance: "PSEO students and students enrolled at other colleges must follow the Inver Hills official academic calendar as it relates to their attendance and registration at Inver Hills.  Term breaks, holidays, and non-class days at other institutions and vacations do not supersede the Inver Hills requirements or academic calendar."


            In addition, please know that if you don't keep up and you don't do well in a class, and if you are headed toward flunking it, no college teacher is going to take pity on you and pass you anyway.  High schools may sometimes have a much more lax policy, but a college teacher will give you exactly what you earn, no more or less--even if it means that you don't get to graduate from high school.  In addition, most of the work requires you to work very independently, so if you are not good at working independently, you do not belong here.  So, please do NOT take this class--drop out of it quickly--if you are not prepared to spend a lot of independent time each week working two to three times as much for it as you would in high school..


            So, that's the good and the bad of it.  If you're willing to work hard, you are going to get an excellent education.  If you are not, get out right away, while it's still easy to replace the class with one from your high school.  If you do stay, I hope you also can find the time to hang around the college and get to know it better.  In any case, if you are willing to work hard in this class and do the assignments regularly, I very much look forward to working with you!



Richard Jewell


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Most recent update of this page: 2-7-17

Contents and page design: Copyright (©) 2002-2004 by Richard Jewell

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