Collaboratively created class guidelines

Below are the guidelines as we voted on them, and below that is some information on using electronic devices in classes. It’s important to at least be aware of some of the downsides!

As a reminder, here is the page where we were creating these guidelines:

You can go and add to them or suggest changes there (please, only if you are in our class!), but I might not know there have been suggestions! I will set aside a specific set of days for adding or suggesting changes if you want, later in the year (so we can revisit these and see if they’re working!).

Collaboratively-created guidelines for seminars and tutorials

What kinds of behaviours would make for a comfortable, effective learning environment for seminars & tutorials?

  1. Open-mindedness, not being judgmental
  • It would help if the attitude towards everyone’s opinions were very open and non-judgemental. This would ensure that no one would be scared of voicing their point of view on a certain topic [said 3 times in different ways]
  • Being able to admit that nothing is right or wrong, always open to discussion – leading to group work
    • CH: I would say that some things are more right and others more wrong, given evidence from the works we are studying, though…
    • student comment: but most things we discuss in seminars will be open to multiple interpretations rather than being clearly “right” or “wrong”


  1. Respect, politeness, appropriate humour
  • politeness; considerate and sincere, especially when giving comments & opinions
  • Respect. Be a good listener.
  • Appropriate humour
  • offering your own opinion without shooting down those of others, support and encouragement by everyone and for everyone
  • respectfully disagreeing
  • common trust that no one will laugh/make fun of anyone’s opinions or ideas
  • Everyone should be able to join in civil discussion without being interrupted or disrespected
  • You can always try to make things comfortable before starting out with the tutorial. For example, things might get awkward at first but when opening up to someone that you do not know will help to be comfortable. You cannot be selfish toward others or be judgmental in any way. Respecting one another is key.
  • A common understanding that we are all trying to help each other improve

3. Having many voices; hearing from multiple people, not just a few

  • not hogging discussion, providing everyone the opportunity to voice their ideas as an equal member of the discussion group [said 3 times in different ways]
  • Encouraging a person to expand on his or her insight. Verbally inviting quieter people within your group to share their own ideas instead of waiting for them to speak their opinions.


  1. Being engaged
  • Engage in discussion; interactive debates and discussions
  • Supporting every opportunity that arises for individual/group discussion/problem solving
  • Enthusiasm
  • Listening attentively to your professor and peers (ex: not texting during class)
    • In class, only use computers, phones, etc., for class-related activities (unless there’s an emergency)


  1. Other
  • May be more effective if groups or pairs are encouraged to discuss then participate in the sharing of ideas

What would not be so helpful during seminars & tutorials (& so we should avoid)?

  1. Disrespect & rudeness
  • Interrupting people in the middle of an explanation; talking while others are voicing something [things about interruptions were said 4 times]
  • Shutting down people’s opinions and not being able to discuss disagreements respectfully; disrespecting another person’s opinion, mocking others’ opinions/questions
  • Personal attacks [mentioned twice]
  • Raising voices/ yelling across tables [mentioned twice]
  • Inappropriate jokes
  • Aggressive talk
  • Such behaviours like selfish, judgmental and not respecting others will pressure the environment to be even more awkward in a sense. This can result in a serious learning deficit which can negatively affect the people around the environment.


  1. Being unprepared
  • coming to class unprepared; don’t waste people’s time [said twice]
    • It would be very unhelpful if one came to class late and unprepared about the topic we as a class are working on. For example, if one had not read the book that we as a class began discussing, it would make the discussion very unclear for that person and they would not be able to give their full input into the classes discussion.


  1. Only having a few voices contribute to discussions
  • Having a few voices dominate the discussion. People should ensure everyone gets some time to speak and long, drawn-out arguments between a few people should be cut short as soon as they become tedious or unhelpful.
  • Ignoring, instead of inviting, quieter people to participate in group discussions


  1. Otherwise not contributing well to discussions
  • not paying attention [said twice] and asking questions that have already been answered
  • talking about thing that are very off topic [said twice] and bring nothing to the table
  • People who are giving opinions when they have a bad attitude about the given topics (you can still respectfully disagree with a topic or argument, though)
  • Viewing one’s own opinion as superior (and not considering that others’ views may also have merit)

What kinds of comments on essays, or ways of saying things, would you find helpful for improving your writing?

  1. Talking about both strengths and weaknesses; look at essay as a whole
  • Both pros and cons are discussed; praising good things as well. Sometimes people don’t realize when they’ve struck gold.
  • Balanced criticism not overly focused on one error/weakness but on the essay as a whole


  1. Giving examples of how to improve, being specific
  •  Ways you can improve are more specifically shown (which parts specifically need improvement?) [being specific mentioned 3 times]
  • Suggestions for improvement with examples to explain
    • I would find it very helpful if the comments made on my essays were advice on how to make my writing better. For example, if I had a poorly written sentence, it would be very helpful to have someone give me advice on how to create a better sentence either with my punctuation or grammar. If there are just circles around certain parts of my writing without explanation as to why that one piece may be a mistake, it is not really going to help me as a writer to improve.
    •  When critiquing someone’s work perhaps give your own personal spin on how you would change it to help add to the pool of ideas and allow for the writer to see other ways of going about writing the essay
    • Giving helpful alternatives to things you think need changing–as opposed to just saying “it’s bad”


  1. Being constructive and respectful with critical comments; don’t be afraid to give critical comments
  • constructive criticism [mentioned 4 times]; E.g., “I don’t agree with you because …(argument/evidence)….”
  • I don’t mind peeps pointing out any grammar errors/typos in my essays, as long as they are respectful
  • If you do not agree with a certain idea, you can present an alternative or a counter argument (in a respectful manner)
  • There’s a fine line between constructive criticism and general attacks. Be mindful of this when offering your interpretation or opinion!


  1. Other
  • Comments that ask for expanding on ideas
  • To be as honest as possible and having the writer’s well-being at heart
  • Don’t be afraid to give critical comments: Critical comments definitely help me when I am trying to improve my writing, mostly because they will stick in the back of my mind while I write.

What kinds of comments on essays, or ways of saying things would not be so helpful (so we should avoid)?

  1. Criticism (or praise) without clear explanation
  • Negative feedback without explanation or vague justification [said 6 times in different ways].
    • It would not be so helpful if the editor were to give a response that is really lacking depth. If it’s just a spelling error, it’s different, but if the error involves the structure or a paragraph or disagreement as to how a quote is placed in the writing, it needs more feedback.
  • Positive comments that are vague or don’t have clear explanations also don’t help: e.g., saying “I like that” without actually specifying what specifically you liked about that part of the paper/project


  1. Not being constructive in critical comments
  • The feedback should be very positive too, it should be bringing the writer up to a better level of understanding instead of bringing the writer down and making them feel insignificant about their work. Think constructive criticism.
  • Rudeness /just generally saying that the essay is garbage, but not really contributing anything constructive; comments that come off as rude, or negative just to give a rude or negative comment should be avoided, especially if they are not truthful comments
  • Unnecessarily blunt comments


  1. Other
  • Saying the essay is bad because you don’t agree with the thesis (you can disagree with the thesis, but shouldn’t reject the entire essay because of that because it might still have valid points)
  • being passive, not giving substantial feedback (not being willing to say what you really think, hardly giving any feedback at all)
    • student comment: if people are shy or having a bad day, they shouldn’t be forced to speak
    • CH: I agree for seminars, but for tutorial the point of being there is to give feedback in person, so in tutorial everyone does need to give at least some feedback!



Some research on using electronic devices in class

As food for thought regarding electronic device use in class, here are some studies that suggest electronic device use in classes, especially if one can’t stop oneself from being taken “off task” with the device during class (doing things unrelated to the class), leads to poorer academic performance. I don’t advocate blanket bans on electronic devices in class, but I do think we should all be aware of what the research says!

There are several studies that show problems with trying to “multitask” and break away from work during class to do other things. There is also evidence that suggests that taking notes by hand is better for learning than taking notes on a laptop.



  • This study talks about the effects of distracting use of devices on students around those who are doing it, saying that the student and the peers around them scored lower on a test compared to those who were not distracted by the device use.


  • The results of this study show that non-academic-related use of electronic devices in classes is correlated with lower academic performance, even when controlling for some other variables that might account for that result.



  • This article points a study that suggests you learn better if you take notes by hand rather than by electronic device. The issue seems to be that when you do it by hand, you can’t write everything down (nor even really try), so you have to try to synthesize the ideas in your own mind first. But if you are using a keyboard on a laptop, for instance, you may be more likely to try to just write sentences verbatim without processing them.

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