This is a sophomore-level science course that is quite rigorous and that requires students to think conceptually and critically. It stresses the inter-relationships between processes in the ocean, not role-memory, and it has been my experience that some freshman (or sophomores for that matter), who do not have experience in assessing the connectivity between things, will have a difficult time in the course. There are, however, many learning aids and opportunities provided in this class that can help the conscientious student, who is willing to devote the time necessary, be successful.
The fixed total cut-off scores are based on over twenty-six years of experience giving exams in this course, where I found that curved-grade cut-off's were almost always within two or three points either side of these fixed scores -- this meant that some students with 92 averages got B's -- not a pleasant experience. Also, many juniors and seniors register for this course as a elective -- this generally means that the class average would be higher than if only sophomores took the course. Of even greater benefit to you, fixed grade cut-off's let you know exactly the grade you are earning at any point during the semester.
Yes, but from my experience in nearly 30 years of teaching this course, this will not happen. Those that make use of all the study aids, and complete all assignments, will clearly do well. The general grade distribution is skewed toward A's and B's, but generally around 15 % of the class gets D's or F's.
It is my strong feeling that learning to think critically is not enhanced when students rely on old exams to prepare for their exams -- it only encourages rote memory. The extensive learning materials available in this class are more than sufficient to prepare you properly for the exam by enhancing your learning and by teaching you to think critically, if you are willing to make use of them. This also encourages you to take responsibility for your own learning. Your purpose in learning should not just to get ready for an exam, but to learn to think critically and become life-long learners. You should not be just a 'one-time' student who only wants to do enough to get by.
Related to that above, I do not want anyone to create a file of 'old exams'. If you decide to take the optional comprehensive final exam, I will provide the opportunity for you to review your old exams as one of the tools to help you prepare for this exam.
The purposes of these written assignments are to help you keep current in the course and to provide you with samples of critical thinking questions and give you an opportunity before the exam to learn to answer these kinds of questions. Only eight of the 32 assignments will be graded because I cannot grade them all, and because I want to give you a further incentive to complete your assignments -- if an assignment you did not turn in is randomly selected for grading, you will get a zero for that assignment. All assignments have keys, which you may observe after the due date.
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