CSC302 2011S Programming Languages : Handouts


Summary: To improve the quality of our discussions of the various readings this semester, students must submit discussion questions and topics the evening before each reading is to be discussed. This document summarizes my policies for responding to readings.



Throughout this semester, I will assign readings from a variety of texts. I will do my best to assign each reading at least two days in advance, although I will usually assign them further in advance.

In most classes for the first half of the semester, you will spend class time working on lab. Experience suggests that lab goes more smoothly if (a) students read assignment materials before class and (b) I spend the first few minutes of class going over any questions students had on the reading. Towards these ends, I require you to submit a question on each reading by 9 p.m. on the evening before the reading is due.

For the second half of the semester, we will be discussing readings from the literature. Rather than repeating this same material in lecture, class time will often be devoted to clarifying topics covered in readings, bridging those topics, and expanding ideas introduced in the texts. Toward this end, students must read assigned materials before class and formulate discussion questions.

Types of Questions

Appropriate types of questions include:

Thus, questions can seek to clarify points of confusion or can seek to expand upon ideas in the reading. Simple factual questions are perfectly acceptable. I will assume that students understand issues not covered in questions. You should be prepared to contribute to class discussions about topics not covered in your questions.

In rare circumstances, you may find a reading perfectly clear. In such situations, you may simply submit a message that says I understood the reading. In those cases, I am likely to call on you to answer questions that your colleagues submitted.


Each reading will have an associated Web page where I will gather your questions. That page will contain a link to a form for you to enter your name and question.

You should submit at least one question for each reading, but you may submit more. Please submit your questions via the linked form before 9 p.m. on the evening before the reading will be covered. For example, if a reading is due on Wednesday, submit your questions before 9 p.m. on Tuesday evening.

I will grade these questions on a Plus/Check/Minus/Zero scale. Most questions will receive a Check. Particularly interesting or valuable questions will receive a Check Plus or Plus. Particularly poor, trivial, awkwardly phrased, or otherwise inadequate questions will receive a Minus. Students who fail to submit their questions on time will receive a Zero.

Students whose questions take the form of I understood the reading will often earn a Check. If they provide particularly good answers when called upon in class, I will increase that grade. If they fail to answer questions when called upon in class, I will decrease that grade.

I will post responses to your questions on the page for the reading or on Piazzza. If your grade on a reading is a Check, I will not send you the grade. If your grade on a reading is anything else, I will send you your grade via email or indicate it on the page.

Potential Changes

Because this is a large class, I may not be able to keep up with the questions. Hence, I may change the ways in which reading questions are to be submitted or the ways I grade them.

I am considering switching to a system based on Piazzza. If I do so, students will receive credit for asking questions and for asking their peers' questions.



20 January 2002 [Henry Walker]

  • Created.

24 April 2002 [Henry Walker]

Unknown Dates [Samuel A. Rebelsky]

  • Updated for SamR's approaches.

21 January 2011 [Samuel A. Rebelsky

  • Added history section. (Whoops.)
  • Lots of minor updates, given that I haven't read through this carefully in recent history. (Whoops.)
  • Updated to focus more on factual questions than discussion questions.
  • Updated for new format (with links to form).
  • Added permission for I understood the reading.

22 January 2011 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]

  • Updated for CSC 302.


Disclaimer: I usually create these pages on the fly, which means that I rarely proofread them and they may contain bad grammar and incorrect details. It also means that I tend to update them regularly (see the history for more details). Feel free to contact me with any suggestions for changes.

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Samuel A. Rebelsky,