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Course Documents

Course Handbook


EAP102: Writing about Culture

Duke Kunshan University ~ Spring 2019


Table of Contents


How class will work


Homework assignments

I will post homework assignments under Class Notes and Homework Assignments. I will not necessarily tell you what to do in class. It is your responsibility to check this regularly to make sure you know what work you have to do. 

Unless I write otherwise, all assignments are due the following class meeting. (In other words, if I don’t specify a due date, you can assume it’s due next class.)

Written assignments are due printed out, in class.

(For more details see Types of Writing Assignments. For how to format your written assignments, see Formatting Guidelines for Written Work.)

Announcements and reminders

If I have important last-minute announcements or reminders to make, I will send those out to the class WeChat group (not email). It is your responsibility to check the class WeChat group. If I've posted something there, I will assume everybody has read it.

Contacting me

Different teachers have different expectations when it comes to correspondence with students. For me, I prefer to correspond over WeChat. I'll respond to your message as soon as I am able, though I may not respond as quickly if you message me in the evening or during the weekend. 

If you don't hear from me in 24 hours, please message me again saying, "Just checking, did you get my message?"

Meeting with me outside of class

This semester, my office hours will be by appointment. This means I will not have regularly scheduled office hours; if you want to meet with me, please message me on WeChat and we will find a time.

I will also do my best to be available right after class to answer questions. However, if I'm tired from too much talking, I may suggest we find another time.


In addition, I will require each of you to meet me for a half-hour "check-up" once a session (2x per semester) to discuss your work in this class and the development of your English skills more generally. At the beginning of each week I'll ask for volunteers to meet with me that week, or choose students randomly.

I see these "check-ups" as an important part of our work in this class. They are my chance to give you direct, individualized guidance on your homework and essay writing, and work with you to devise more targeted strategies for improving your English. 

Please come to your check-up prepared. You can prepare by:

  • Bringing your previous writing assignments, with my and/or other teachers' comments

  • Bringing your notebook(s), journal(s), and any resources or books you are using to develop your English skills on your own

  • Bringing drafts of writing we're working on in this class (if applicable)

  • Thinking in advance about what you'd like to talk about

Note: I highly recommend you keep a file with all of your previous writing assignments with teachers' comments on them, particularly those assignments with detailed feedback on your English grammar and usage. We can refer to them in our one-on-one meetings, and they can help you identify what problems you need to focus on in your English writing.

Eating lunch with me

I like having lunch with students because it gives us a chance to get to know each other and talk about things other class. In general, I host a "lunch table" once a week on Thursday. At these lunches we alternate languages: one week we speak English, the next week Chinese, the next English again, and so forth.

However, since not everyone is always available on Thursday, I may occasionally hold my lunch table on different days of the week. 

When I'm planning to eat lunch in the cafeteria with students, I'll send out a message to class WeChat group in advance, either that morning or the night before. If you're interested, make sure to check your messages!

Types of writing assignments

I will generally give two types of writing assignments: writing exercises and papers. Unless I say otherwise, all writing assignments are due printed out, in class.

Writing exercises

Writing exercises are very short writing tasks. Sometimes they may be as short as 3 sentences. In these exercises, I will ask you to “try out” new words or phrases, and give you feedback on whether you’re using them correctly, and how to use them more accurately.

Writing exercises are ungraded. As long as you complete the assignment, do it in good faith (i.e. take it seriously), and follow my formatting guidelines, you will get full credit. Writing exercises count towards the “ungraded writing assignments” part of your final grade.


Papers are more formal writing assignments. On these you will receive a letter grade.

You will have (probably) 4 short papers, a midterm paper, and a final. For the midterm and final paper, you will first write a rough draft, revise it based on feedback from me, and submit a final draft for a grade.

Feedback on your assignments

I will do my best to give you prompt feedback on your assignments. For details about the marks I see use on your papers, see Austin's Editing Marks.

If you have trouble reading my handwriting, or are not sure what my feedback means, please tell me! The easiest way to do this is to take a picture of the thing you're confused about and send it to me on WeChat. 


Every class you will be asked to perform one or more special roles, described below.



(usually 3 per class meeting; you will be a speaker 3x per session)

The speaker's job is to give a brief (usually 2-3 minute) "mini-presentation" on an assigned topic. These may include: summarize a reading, share the main points of something you just wrote, pose questions to the class for discussion, etc.

The goal of these "mini-presentations" is to give you an opportunity to practice speaking at length to the class, and thereby get better at communicating complex ideas orally in English. Unless I say so, you may not use Powerpoint or any other visual aid. (Writing a few words on the board is okay.) 

Grading: These mini-presentations count toward the Presentations part of your final grade. If you are well prepared, finish within the time limit, follow my directions, and communicate effectively, you will get a check-plus. If you do some of these things but not others, you will get a check. If you do few or none of these things, you will get a check-minus. 

What do I mean by “communicate effectively”? Specifically, I’m looking for these five things:

  1. Talk to us, don’t read to us.

  2. Be conversational. Talk in a normal way, not as if you’re reciting a pre-prepared speech word for word.

  3. Look around the room, and make eye contact with your listeners.

  4. Use “verbal signposting” to highlight the main ideas, so your listeners don’t get lost in the details.

  5. When you quote from a text, make it very clear when we’re hearing the author’s words, not your words.

Note: After a class session in which you've been a speaker, please stay after class for a few minutes so I can give you feedback on how you can improve. Don't run off! I need to give you this feedback immediately; otherwise I will forget.

Discussion leaders

(usually 1 per class meeting; you will be a discussion leader 1x per session)

The discussion leader's job is to guide a class discussion -- in other words, to play the role of the teacher. I will hand out a "script" with possible questions for the discussion leader to pose to the class, and a few phrases that students might find useful in answering these questions. 

It's up to the discussion leader to decide how to structure a class discussion. You could ask your classmates to discuss questions first with their neighbors, then share; or you could call on students individually; it's up to you. Sometimes there may be more questions than we have time to discuss, in which case it's up to the discussion leader to decide which questions to focus on. 

Grading: Serving as discussion leader counts toward the Participation part of your grade. As long as you perform the role in good faith you'll get full credit.

Word Museum curators

2 per week (roughly) — you will be a Word Museum curator 1x in Session 1

Every week during Session 1 I will ask two students to work together to contribute an entry to the Word Museum.

The Word Museum is an illustrated, multimedia dictionary of culturally specific words and concepts. When it's your turn to be Word Museum curator, choose an intriguing word in English that seems to you to have interesting cultural background, or whose meaning is quite specific to the culture(s) of the English-speaking world. (You will probably need to talk to some native English speakers to do this project successfully.)

Once you've identified a word that seems promising, tell me first so I can make sure it will be a meaningful word to do.

Working with your partner, prepare a collection of pictures (photographs or drawings) or short video or audio clips that illustrate the specific images and associations that this word calls to mind in the culture it comes from. Include captions showing how the word is used. Present your definition to the class in the form of a Power Point presentation. (5 minutes maximum.)

Afterward, I may ask you to make some small adjustments; then I will upload your presentation to the Memory Palace.

Grading: You will get two grades, an individual grade and a shared grade. Each of these can be a check, check-plus, or check-minus.

The individual grade is my assessment of how effectively you are communicating with your audience. This includes preparation, clarity, manner of delivery, tone and cadence, and how well you engage the audience (such as looking at the listeners and making eye contact).

The shared grade is my assessment of how well you presented what you learned about your word. This includes: Did you use images and words effectively on your slides? Did you accurately and vividly capture a) how native speakers use the word, and b) what culturally specific images or associations that word calls to mind for them?



Attendance and punctuality

Please come to class, and come on time. Repeated unexcused absences or lateness may lower your participation grade.

About missing class

If you need to miss class for any reason, please notify me in advance (WeChat is fine) and tell me about it yourself. If I hear from you after the fact, or if you delegate one of your classmates to deliver the message to me, I will still consider you absent without an excuse — unless it truly was an emergency and you were incapable of notifying me in advance.

About switching sections

Sometimes students come to me asking to attend another section of my class because of time conflicts or other obligations. If I let students switch sections all the time, the result would be chaos. Here are the situations in which I will let you switch sections:

  1. You have some official obligation for DKU or some other important commitment related to your education

  2. You need to travel

  3. You have a medical excuse

If any of these things are true, I will let you attend another section as long as you let me know 24 hours in advance of your scheduled class time. Last-minute requests to switch sections will not be granted for any reason.

Late assignments

Sometimes we don't finish things on time; that's just life! If you need to hand in an assignment late, please leave it in the blue box in front of my office. 

If you hand in one assignment late, it probably won't affect your participation grade. If you repeatedly hand in assignments late, it may lower your participation grade.

You do not need to apologize for handing in an assignment late. I will not think less of you. Just put it in my blue box!

Note: If I receive your assignment any time after I collect assignments in class, I will mark it late. This includes immediately after class. And please, please do not run out in the middle of class to print your assignment. This is disruptive, and it drives me crazy! Budget enough time to print your assignment before class. If you don't print it in time, be a good sport and just hand it in late.


If you know in advance that you will have trouble meeting a deadline, you may ask for an extension. Legitimate reasons for asking for an extension include things like: important school obligations, job interviews, serious medical issues, and family emergencies.

If you need more time to finish an assignment for one of these reasons, you must notify me in advance. Last-minute requests for extensions will not be granted for any reason (except for a genuine emergency).

Plagiarism and academic integrity

One of the most important goals of EAP is for you to learn what constitutes plagiarism in a Western academic context, and how to avoid it. If, after you've been given ample chances to understand the principles of academic integrity, you blatantly plagiarize your assignment, you will fail the assignment.

Cell phones and computers in the classroom

Many teachers ban cell phones and computers completely. I have a different philosophy. Though cell phones and computers can be a distraction, they are often, for many of us (including me), an important tool -- particularly for language learning. You may sometimes need to check a word in a dictionary, or look up a fact online to contribute to classroom discussion. In addition, some of us prefer to keep notes on our computers rather than on paper.

Laptops and tablets: If you want to use your laptop or tablet in class to take notes, that's fine as long as it does not distract you or your classmates. 

Cell phones: Please keep your cell phones on silent. If you want or need to use your cell phone during class to look up a word, or a piece of information if appropriate, please be discreet. Use it quickly and unobtrusively, and return your attention to discussion as soon as possible. 

If I notice that a person seems to be being distracted for a long time by a cell phone or a computer, I may ask you to put it away.

Language inside and outside the classroom

DKU is a bilingual community, which means that we are constantly making choices about which language to speak. 

In class, we will mostly speak English, as per DKU policy. However, it's perfectly fine to say, "how do I say [X CHINESE WORD]?" and I or your classmates can help you out. Occasionally there may be moments when speaking Chinese is more efficient for a particular goal.

Outside of class, in general, I'll respond to you in whichever language you speak to me in. I'm happy to talk in English or Chinese, or a mixture of the two, whichever you prefer. There is no rule at DKU about what language we speak outside of class. However, I understand that many of you have come to DKU with the goal of becoming fluent in spoken English, so when I'm not sure which language you prefer at a particular moment, I'll use English by default.



How your grade will be calculated

Your final grade will be based on the following components:

  • Participation (10%)

  • Presentations (20%)

  • Writing assignments (70%)

    • Ungraded writing assignments (writing exercises) (10%)

    • Graded writing assignments (short papers) (20%)

    • Midterm paper (20%)

    • Final paper (20%)

I will strive to make the grading process as transparent as possible. When assigning papers and other projects I will usually write out detailed instructions in advance explaining how you will be graded.

The participation grade (10%)

It's everybody's responsibility to participate in class discussions in order to create a lively and stimulating intellectual atmosphere. I will not grade you on how much you participate, though. Instead, the participation component of your grade is based on the following:

  • Attendance and punctuality

  • Punctual completion of assignments

  • Following directions

  • Completing ungraded assignments in good faith (i.e. taking them seriously)

If you come to class, come on time, submit your assignments on time, and follow my directions conscientiously, you will get full credit for participation. 

If you miss class without an excuse, come to class late, hand in an assignment late, or otherwise don't follow directions in a way that interferes with the smooth running of class, I will note it on my grade sheet. Repeated violations will lower your participation grade.

Please note that a one or two minor violations will not impact your participation grade. It's when I notice a pattern of a particular student being late, handing assignments in late, etc, that I will lower that student's participation grade.

The presentations grade (20%)

This part of your grade is an average of your performance on in-class presentations. In addition to you (probably) 6 mini-presentations as a “speaker,” you will do several short group presentations based on your contributions to the Word Museum, a research project to prepare for your midterm paper, and possibly others.

The writing assignments grade (70%)

There are two types of writing assignments: writing exercises (10%) and papers, which consist of short papers (20%), the midterm (20%) and the final (20%).

Writing exercises are ungraded. As long as you complete the assignment, do it in good faith (i.e. take it seriously), and follow my formatting guidelines, you will get full credit.

Papers will receive a letter grade. To understand the criteria I use when giving letter grades, see Grading Scheme for Written Work.

In addition, the outlines you submit as scribe will count as a small portion of the “papers” part of your grade.