Easy A--How to Get One

A+.jpegWelcome to Science 200! I'm Kira, one of your TA's. I took this class last fall--Like some of you, I was nervous about taking on a subject that was not my strong suit, but I found myself excited to blog because the posts were exercises in strong writing and critical thinking in addition to science.

I know. Seeing as this is a GenEd, you want to ask, "is this class easy?" The answer is no. You will have to do outside research. You will have to make connections that are not always visible at first glance. But  I can assure you, while this class requires much thought and effort, Andrew's lectures are fascinating enough to make up for the hours of squinting at your computer. No, seriously. Sometimes you even get to watch videos of bugs eating each other. It's fun stuff.

As non-science majors, it's likely that you weren't exactly fans of science in high school. And I cannot stress enough how much enjoying chemistry is not necessary to enjoy this class. Yes, you are in a science class. However, science isn't limited to lab coats and words that are hard to spell. There is an infinite number of topics that you could relate back to problem solving, critical thinking and realizing how much we don't know. That's all relevant to professional scientists, and it's relevant to you as a human.

So, the real question, how do you get an A on the blogs?

-Start off by going to class and listening to the lectures. While you may still want to use outside sources to get started on your blog, connecting them back to class material is both interesting and impressive. Look for general concepts in both the article and the lecture. Maybe in class, if you're learning about if prayer heals, you could find articles on meditation and tie them together in a blog about biological effects of spiritual practice.

-Write about topics that interest you
It can be difficult to find inspiration for the blogs. I've found that discussions from classes for my major often relate back to science. If you're reading about a particular experiment in a novel, search for similar experiments that have been done in real life. Your major doesn't even have to be science-y for this to work. I'm an English major, and I took concepts from writing/reading courses as inspiration for my blogs. Philosophical topics often fit well into the theme of this course. The topic does not have to scream "hey look at me! I'm science!" in order to be relevant.

-Discuss challenging concepts
A good blog post should not be easily answered with "yes" or "no." Try to find questions that even professional scientists are still pondering. We all know that soda is bad for you, but how much of our behavior can we attribute to nature/nurture? (Human behavior blogs are often well received). Don't be afraid to take on controversy. Challenge and be challenged.

-Offer a differing perspective/source on comments
Your comments should go deeper than "I really liked this post!" or "interesting idea!" Your comments should reflect that you've read and thought about the post, and that you've thought farther about the concept. I'd suggest posting links to a separate article on the comment, and then explain how it fits into the original blog post. Or discuss a class you've had that also discovered the topic at hand, and how the material differed from the blog post.

-Ask a question at the end of your post
This is absolutely essential. One major point of these blogs is to open up conversation. Invite people to comment with differing perspectives.

-Try to blog at least once a week
Quality beats quantity, but do try to keep up with your number of blogs. Two well thought out blogs per week isn't an outrageous amount of work, but it shows that you're keeping up with the course.

-Don't wait until the last blogging period!
Yes, only one blog period counts towards your grade. But it is very unlikely that you well get the grade you want on the first try (which also means don't get discouraged--I got a C on my first blogging period). Use the comments on your first blog grade to improve on your second. But if you wait until you have no chance of improving based on feedback, it's WAY more likely your blogs will be a bit of a train wreck. And nobody likes train wrecks.

If you have any questions/concerns, feel free to email me at klm5866@psu.edu.

Happy blogging!

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