Teaching Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

by John Bandler

If you are landing here you are probably a student of mine in a formal academic course (college, university, law school).

Remember that most of these questions are probably answered in your existing course resources, including:

  • Syllabus
  • Learning management system (LMS, e.g., Blackboard, Brightspace, Classes, Canvas)
  • Course announcements
  • Your notes from class/watching videos.

So start there. Many of the below are tongue-in-cheek, but may provide additional guidance.

I have organized this by:

  • General
  • Final paper project
  • Online courses
  • Grading
  • ??


1. General

There are not enough instructions for me to do the assignment/discussion/paper project milestone/etc.

Remember that life is full of uncertainties and you need to make decisions about the best way to go after weighing instructions and options. Part of the education process is wrestling with ideas and processes and practicing your skills, including decision making.

So read the instructions available to you, reread as needed, ask in class, email me, meet with me during office hours, etc.

Always remember the goal is your honest effort and learning.

Then do your honest best.

There are too many instructions for the assignment/discussion/paper project milestone/etc., I am overwhelmed and don't know where to start

First start with the priority instructions. The clues for that is they are in the syllabus, and on the website they come right after "In Sum" and others are bolded.

Focus on the most important things first. When when you feel you have done those, move onto more details if you have time.

Reread as needed, ask in class, email me, meet with me during office hours, etc.

Remember that life is full of uncertainties and you need to make decisions about how to prioritize what to focus on, after weighing instructions and options. Part of the education process is practicing this decision making.

Always remember the goal is your honest effort and learning.

Then do your honest best.


2. Paper project

I never write papers with an outline/early title/like this, it's too hard and just not the way I do it

More and more, I hear even law students say they have never done an outline before.

Learning how to organize and plan your thoughts is an important skill, so now is the time to start practicing that.

A builder needs to pour a foundation and then frame the house before other work can be done. A researcher and writer and thinker needs to do that also.

You also need to be able to communicate initial thoughts and research before you go down one path too far. That's what the phases are for.

Yes, it's hard to come up with a title early on but it is worth the work. The alternative would be devoting a semester's worth of work on a title and subject that does not fit in with course requirements or otherwise puts you on the wrong path.

I never write papers by covering what the law is (right after my introduction), it is just not the way I do it

Now is the time to try it and learn about it.

We have talked about the general legal writing concept of IRAC and CRAC.

It is important to first show that you have researched and know what the actual law is.

Once you have done that in the paper, you will be freer to analyze how that law is applied, what issues are involved, and perhaps even what the law should be.

So remember to focus first on what the law is, and where we find that law.

Will you read my draft?

Unfortunately I cannot read drafts, but please ask specific questions or talk through any issues with me at office hours, in class, after class, or email me.

Here's why I can't read drafts. I have found that many of the issues I see on final papers are things students can address based on my prior feedback, the resources on this site, what we discuss in class, the resources of the school, and with your effort.

They can be fixed by you with your proofreading, editing, effort, and research.

Also, it is part of the project for you to consult with school resources: the writing center and librarians. So please take full advantage of existing resources and your self-editing. This will result in greater long-term improvement to your skills than using me as a proof-reader.

Also, I find that additional feedback sometimes has diminishing returns.

Please also consider how much time it has taken me already to read and provide feedback on everyone's topic assignment, outline assignment, and build all of these resources. I devote an a lot of time to teaching, even though I am an adjunct (part time), and have (what seems like) several other full time jobs. The financial compensation is extremely meager for adjuncts, and needless to say I don't do this for the money. But with teaching a part-time pursuit for me, and not being on your school's full time staff, I have to use our time together efficiently.

I know you said I need to consult with the school's dedicated resources for research (library) and writing (writing center, if it exists), but do I really need to do that?

Yes, it's part of the paper project.



3. Online courses

My course is online asynchronous and you have created some videos to watch: They will be as fun as watching Netflix/HBO/Max/Hulu, right?

No, you will still need to keep your streaming services for entertainment. Life would be too easy if work and study were as much fun as play and entertainment. I provide information, and am not an entertainer or edutainer.

I will never have a show on Netflix/Max/Etc. I would if they asked, but I am sure they will never ask.

Despite the lack of entertainment value, even the folks who don't enjoy my courses seem to concede that I am knowledgeable. So I am happy to share some of that knowledge, research, and work with you.

You put a lot of time and money into the editing, visual effects, and special effects, right?

No, I can barely edit a video, and don't have time to try. I do straight-through recorded lectures, with a PowerPoint slide deck. You get it warts and all, no editing, no fancy effects. Any graphics are my own creation or properly sourced and public domain.


4. Grading

Where can I find information on grading?

The syllabus, assignment instructions, other course materials, my feedback to you with each assignment submission.

Is there extra credit I can do? Can I have extra credit work"

I generally do not provide extra credit, and if I do, I need to make it available to the entire class.

So "extra credit" really is just "extra work" or "extra assignments" that everyone will feel obligated to do.

Often, students seeking extra credit are having trouble keeping up with the existing work, so my advice is to concentrate on putting in solid effort into the existing reading, classes, assignments, and submitting quality work in your first (and only submission).

Can I resubmit that for a higher grade?

You generally cannot resubmit for a higher grade because we need your first submission to be your best (and only submission), after putting in solid effort with paying attention, doing the reading, and preparing and editing the submission.

Grading takes a lot of time and work, and allowing resubmissions would only increase that, and reduce the incentive for students to do their best work the first time.

Sometimes students submit the wrong document to the LMS, that's a different story.

Is it OK to copy someone else's writing without attribution? (other writer, ChatGPT, etc)

No, it is never OK to do that. Please take another look at the course syllabus so you can see how that is laid out, and also see the course resources.

I copied someone else's writing without attribution but it's not a big deal, right?

Wrong. It is never OK to do that. Please take another look at the course syllabus so you can see how that is laid out, and also see the course resources.

5. Lateness, absences

Can I get excused for this submission, deadline, class?

Remember that all assignments must be completed to pass the course, and timeliness and attendance is an important course requirement and for life as well. Of course, life happens. And of course, honesty is expected. So being untruthful about an excuse is far worse than owning up to the truth.

The general rule is that missing three classes means you cannot pass the course. A general rule has exceptions. Any absences or lates can affect your grade.

All lates and absences are assessed at the end of the semester, in the interests of fairness and justice. Not every absence or late is equal. We are all people and life happens.

But you need to make your own choices about what to do with your time, and I cannot make that choice for you. And I need to be fair to all students, including those (1) that are on time and present, (2) that have issues they need to address, (3) who are chronically late or absent without good reason.

Conclusion and Disclaimer

I hope this is helpful. Remember this is general guidance, please check course resources which may be more authoritative and up to date, starting with the syllabus, learning management system, and announcements.

Course related links

This page is hosted at https://johnbandler.com/teaching-frequently-asked-questions. Copyright John Bandler, all rights reserved.

Page posted 12/23/2023. Updated 4/9/2024.