USU 1320: History and Civilization
Group Work: In-Class Discussions
Group Work involves In-Class Discussions during which students assemble into Groups and create Quality Thesis Topics (QTT's). No partial or bonus credit will be given in this part of the class.
Class work on those days designated for In-Class Discussions will be broken into three stages: (1) Formation of Groups, (2) Creation of Quality Thesis Topics (QTT's) and (3) Outlining Papers.
After finishing all three stages, a Pentad is excused and may leave class. Please remember that Papers based on a QTT must follow the outline carefully and the In-Class Discussion Form which has my or a GA's approval on it must be attached to the Paper when it is turned in.
The criteria on which that decision will be made are whether the QTT reflects a positive and professional approach to an important historical issue and whether it can be answered with the data found in course materials. If that is the case, I or one of my assistants will give the students approval to write an outline based on the outline found in the Writing Guide (click here to see that outline). If the same person who approved the QTT (I or one of my assistants) deems that outline suitable, s/he will check off each of the students' attendance sheet with that QTT and outline written on it. That attendance sheet must be stapled to the front of any Paper based on that QTT.
Once Pentads are formed, each student will receive an In-Class Discussion Form to fill out during the in-class discussion (click here to see a sample copy of this form). This form can be turned in at the end of class after the Pentad's QTT and Outline have been approved, or students can hold onto it if they intend to write a Paper based on the QTT and outline on the form. If they keep it, the form must be attached to the Paper when it is turned in. An approved In-Class Discussion Form is worth 30 points of credit whether or not the Paper based on it is turned in or accepted for credit.
There are two important goals in this assignment: learning to think and write critically about the past, and learning to work together with others on a project.
First, one of the most important things to be gained from this class is the ability to formulate penetrating questions and tackle complex issues. We will spend a good part of the class learning to phrase and frame historical questions and thesis statements in a manner which respects the depth and complexity of thought necessary in understanding the past. By nature, historical issues can be expressed as Quality Thesis Topics (e.g. "Economic and military factors represent the principal reasons for the collapse of centralized government in Rome during the fifth century CE."). These QTT's should have a realistic potential for being addressed through the available data (in this case, course materials), should avoid bias as much as possible and should foster a sophisticated, multi-dimensional approach to the past.They should also encompass assertions about aspects of history around which practical debates and realistic arguments can center.
Second, learning to work collaboratively is an essential ingredient in your future success as a professional so I will ask you to hone those skills here. As with all things, good practice begins with good preparation. So before you meet with your Pentad, ask yourself what you personally would like to explore further among many things you've encountered in the latest Part of the class. Think about what interested you most during lectures and readings. Bring those interests to class on an In-Class Discussion day and share them with those in your Pentad. Listen to what interests other people have and collaborate. Surely you will not find perfect consensus so you will have to work together to discover a middle ground where all members get a little of what they want to write about. Learning to be a good partner who willingly shares both interests and outlook will make you a better team member in any future group endeavor.
Here are examples of how to phrase quality thesis topics and the types of issues to aim at:
Finally, when you are working together so closely with others, you will have to make an effort not to copy each other's words exactly. All the members of a Pentad may use exactly the same words in stating the Theme of their Paper, but outside of that you cannot use the exact same words as another member of your Pentad. A sequence of more than FIVE words in the exact same order constitutes plagiarism. So once you've left class and your Pentad, write your Paper independently. Be assured: All the Papers from each Pentad will be read together by whoever grades it. The penalties for plagiarism in this class are strict and follow the University's regulations (see "Academic Integrity").