Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Grading participation/attendence

Since I'm currently a teaching assistant, I can't create my own participation/attendance grading policies. Typically, when I work with an instructor who grades "participation", I take attendance in my section and use that as a way to calculate an impartial number.

The problem is students who come in after I've taken attendance (which I do either by calling roll or by giving a short quiz that is only graded for completion). I make explicit on my syllabus that students, if they come in after attendance is taken, are responsible for talking to me after class and getting their name marked down. Every semester, I have students objecting that their participation grade is too low because "they were there." I do wind up post hoc marking students present if they give me evidence of their being in class, since the point of the policy is not primarily to mark late students as absent, but to motivate them to be on time.

I'm inclined to try using a sign-in sheet next semester. This, of course, means students might sign in their friends, but it would give me a record of signatures that I could point to when, inevitably, complaints arise.

Apart from tracking attendance, I see no way to have a baseline for a "participation" grade which isn't fraught with subjectivity on the part of my memory of student effort. In Socrates' Wake has a nice discussion here about attendance policies which emphasizes their role in getting some students to attend who otherwise might not.

I may also move to additional ways of grading for participation, including rewarding students that come up with questions for discussion of their own, or having occasional group-work that is for a participation grade.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

More XeLaTeX tips

A few tricks I've learned in XeLaTeX recently:

1. Quotation marks. XLTX sometimes gives the ugly straight quotes, like " and won't play nicely with the usual way of making curly quotes in LaTeX, which uses `` and '' to generate “…”. The trick is to make sure you're including (in this order)

\setmainfont{Charis SIL} 
(or whatever your main font is)

I had the font mapping line after I set the main font and it wouldn't allow me to generate smart quotes.

2. Double-spacing and margin size. The article class is nice, but for rough drafts, it can be difficult for my editors to make comments. I've figured out how to insert double spacing and to make the margins a little smaller. If you enable this package
You can insert this line before the body of the document:

And to change the margins quickly, just insert a different paper size when calling the package "geometry"

3. Sanskrit and text-wrapping. This one I have yet to fix. Sanskrit sentences, even when hyphenation has been inserted for long compounds, have a tendency to hang off the end of the paragraph. I don't want to force hyphenation manually, either. At this point, since my translation is a draft, I'm just living with the ugliness at the margins.

Friday, November 4, 2011

XeLaTeX for Indian and Analytic Philosophy

Recently I have begun to use XeLaTeX to compose and typeset my papers, handouts, and presentations. I've benefited from a presentation to the grad students here at UT Austin by Josh Dever, and some personal correspondence with Dominik Wujastyk. Because I had some difficulty getting started, I thought I'd write up a blog post explaining what I've learned for others in a similar position.