How to Succeed in Dr. Curry's Classes

First, I wish to state that it is my heartfelt desire that every student be successful in my classes.  Why would any professor want otherwise for his or her students?  It much more enjoyable and fulfilling as a professor to have bright, motivated students who participate in class, do well on exams, and complete interesting, well-written papers.  So believe me, I want you to succeed and to find our class worthwhile.  

To some, my class may appear difficult and demanding at times.  But I structure the course and my energy in such a way as to enable anyone who is dedicated and hard working to learn a great deal and to receive a desirable grade.  To help you succeed, read my suggestions below and follow them carefully.

  1. Attend Class: It is absolutely crucial for students to attend class every day, or at least to miss as few classes as possible.  The vast majority of exam questions are drawn straight from the classes.  If you miss more than a couple of days each testing period, I can guarantee that your grade will suffer.  If you miss a class, by all means get the notes from another student.

  2. Come to Class Prepared: In addition to merely showing up for class, you will be in a much better position to understand and learn from classes if you prepare for class by reading the assigned material beforehand.  At minimum, this should entail reading the subject headings and key words and developing an understanding regarding the basics of the subject matter.  Ideally, you will read the assignment in its entirety and take some notes to organize what you have learned. Please see the links on our class website on "How to Read a Book." 

  3. Participate in Class: In addition to reading and reviewing the reading assignment, jot down some notes or questions about issues that you are interested in or don't fully understand. Pose these questions to your professor during class.  Also, do your best to participate in class discussions by responding to questions posed by the professor or other students. If you disagree or don't understand, raise your hand and ask for clarifications, etc.  These activities will not only improve your understanding of the material, they will also improve your class participation grade.

  4. "Don't Lose Sight of the Forest for the Trees:" I am more concerned with concepts and "critical thinking" than I am with isolated details, facts, names, dates, and mere reading comprehension.  I find big issues (the forest) more interesting to learn about and discuss than names and factoids (the trees).  This does not mean that I will never ask questions about statistics and other smaller details from our reading assignments, but it does mean that I will ask more questions that require you to understand concepts, to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and to be able to compare and contrast them with other concepts.

  5. Prioritize your Study Time: Devote more of your studying to those topics and issues that we spend the most time discussing in class.  We pay more attention to certain issues because I feel they are more important to learn about than others.  I then follow through on this emphasis by writing more test questions about these issues.  However, I will also write test questions devoted to issues we spend less time discussing, and to issues brought up in our readings that we may not specifically address in class.  But the issues I devote most of my energy to in class, should be the same ones you spend the most time studying.  This is another reason why it is essential to attend class regularly.

  6. Read Exam Questions Carefully: I do not write "trick" questions that seem to be about one thing but are really about another.  Instead, I write very specific questions.  For multiple choice questions, this means that there is one and only one correct answer.  For essay questions, this means that you need to address the specifics of the question, rather than giving me some vague or fuzzy response that may only have some tangential relevance to the issues raised.  To do well on my exams, take your time -- read each question carefully and make sure you are addressing the specifics.  If you are uncertain about what a question is asking, then speak to me during the exam and I will try to clear up any confusion.

  7. Student Responsibilities: Be willing to work hard and be proactive regarding your performance.  Please understand that your final grade, as well as your grades on exams, papers, etc., are your responsibility.  To succeed in this course, you must work and, on occasion, work hard.  I am more than willing to help students develop a firm understanding of course material and assignments.  But before coming to me, you must try to develop understandings on your own.  Accept that you may have to struggle occasionally to learn and to complete assignments.  This is how you take responsibility and become proactive regarding your progress and any problems you might have.  If, after giving the matter a real effort, you are still having problems, then come and see me.  I can assure you that we will work together to solve any problems you might have.

  8. Don't Wait Until the Last Minute: If you are having problems with exams or writing assignments, come and see me sooner rather than later.  Not only will there be more time to rectify problems, but you will also demonstrate to me that you are being proactive regarding your progress and that you wish to solve any problems you might have (rather than have me solve them for you).   Likewise, if you are having difficulty attending class, if you are missing exams or not turning in writing assignments, you will need to consider whether dropping the course might be your best option and, if it is, you need to do the drop as soon as possible.  If you come to me during the last few days of the course wanting me to drop you or to give you an incomplete, I will likely be unable to help you as UTEP has specific policies on such matters.  Instead, stay in touch with me throughout the semester if you are having difficulties, I may be able to give you some advice that may help your GPA or save you tuition money.

  9. Receiving a Desirable Grade: If you attend class, do the readings, participate in class, work conscientiously and proactively, and take responsibility for your success, then there is every reason to expect that you will succeed in my class.  That is certainly my hope for every student who walks through my classroom door.