Instead of a list of ground rules or policies, I’m changing the name of that section of my syllabus to “How to Succeed In This Class.” My goals is to clearly link each policy to a learning goal. Here’s a draft of a goal that’s most on my mind at the moment:
Learning How to Evaluate Your Own Progress
Before college, students often receive continuous feedback about how they are doing. In high school, you might take an exam as frequently as once or twice a week. After college, you will face a job market where most employers or clients will want you to show individual initiative, solve problems on your own, and ask for help when you need it. So college is about shifting from relying on external feedback and supervision to being able to evaluate your own progress.
In this class, I will expect you to show initiative, solve problems on your own, and get help (including from people other than me) when you need it. I’ve helped run a business, and know those are the character traits we expected of our employees. It’s also part of what it means to be an intellectual: to evaluate evidence carefully and come to your own conclusions. Like many professors, I think I respond well when those conclusions are different from my own, provided that you’ve earned those conclusions—that you’ve thought them through carefully, can respond to counter-arguments, and can back them up with concrete evidence.