Recitation Policies

I. Goals
Physics is not just a collection of facts and formulae; it is an organized method of inquiry seeking to understand the world around us through rigorous analysis. As such, it is not a subject, but a skill — and an essential foundation of almost every field of science and engineering. The purpose of the introductory physics sequence is to help students develop those skills — not to become physicists, but to become better in their own major field.
Skills only grow through practice. Passively studying a solution set or watching a TA work an example cannot supply the experience that is needed to develop your analytical abilities. Our goal in recitation is to give you a supervised environment in which to hone your problem-solving skills. Your goal should be to understand techniques well enough that you can generalize them to a variety of different problems sharing similar features.
II. Organization
You will solve a multi-step problem in each recitation. Your TA will begin the problem, to start you in the right direction. You are expected to take notes, which will form the beginning of your solution. After the TA has gotten you started, you will work together in groups of about four students to finish the problem. There will be at least one "checkpoint", where your TA will look over your work to make sure you are progressing in the right direction.
Your work will be graded based on qualitative features of your solution, not necessarily on the rigorous accuracy of your final answer — i.e. it isn't so much what you answer, but how you arrive at that answer, that matters. Scores will be assigned on a five-point scale:
1 Poor needs major improvement
2 Fair minimally acceptable work, but needs significant improvement
3 Good generally good work, needing some improvement
4 Very Good good work, needing only minor improvement
5 Excellent well-organized and detailed work, showing all relevant ideas and calculations
III. Grades
Attendance will be taken in each recitation period. At the end of the term, the recitation score will make up 5% of your final grade in the course.
  • Each recitation will be graded on a scale of zero through ten. The first five points will be for participation. "Participation" is based on arriving promptly at the beginning of recitation, taking good notes as the TA gets you started, and making good progress toward a solution (usually, but not neccessarily, defined as reaching the checkpoint.) Your score on your work will be added to this value, giving everyone who participates a score in the 6–10 range for each recitation meeting.
  • At the end of the term, your lowest recitation score will be dropped, the remaining scores will be averaged, and a final percentage score will be recorded. Note that the drop allows you to miss one recitation period without penalty; after that each successive cut will be scored as a zero, and included in your final average. Please see the makeup policies below, for information regarding excusable absences, and their effect on your score.
IV. Make-up Policies
  1. Absences excused by the Student Academic and Financial Affairs Committee of the Academic Senate (documented by a statement from the Office of the Registrar).
    • In accordance with Student Rules and Regulations IV.B.3, these absences may be made up. Documented requests for these make-ups must be made to Dr. Murray at least one week in advance.
    • Lack of Documentation: Recognizing that advisors, etc. do not always provide copies of the statement from the Office of the Registrar in a timely fashion, undocumented requests should also be made to Dr. Murray at least one week in advance. In these cases, a make-up will be arranged, but the absence itself will remain on your record as unexcused (and no points will be recorded) until the necessary documentation is provided.
    • Lack of Timely Notice: It might be possible to arrange make-ups with less than one week's notice, but it is not guaranteed. If adequate notice is not provided, and it is not possible for the recitation to be made up with another section, it will be considered that you have declined the opportunity to make up the work. Circumstances that absolutely prevent timely notice from being given will be given due consideration.
  2. Absences for which accommodation is requested by the Office of the Dean of Students (documented by an email from the Office of the Dean of Students to Dr. Murray).
    • Make-ups will not be permitted for any reason that causes a single recitation to be missed. In such cases, the absence will be treated as the student's first drop, and any other unexcused absences — whether occurring before or after the recitation in question — will be treated as zeros and averaged into the student's final score.
    • Make-ups will be permitted for the second or subsequent absence for which an accommodation is requested. Note that you cannot drop an unexcused absence AND request to makeup an absence for which accommodation has been requested. In such cases, the absence for which accommodation has been requested is dropped and the unexcused absence is recorded as a zero.
  3. Other absences — Other absences may not be made up.