The structure and organization of the course will be (approximately!):
Note Well! There will be lots of homework problems, and they will be quite challenging. Homework is an essential part of learning physics and must not be neglected. I expect all students to do the assigned problems and keep up with the reading. On the other hand, I have a big chunk of credit out for homework!
Note Well! The lab also makes a significant contribution. I've had students drop a full letter grade on numerous occasions because they did not take lab seriously. The lab in this course will be managed in a new way that more or less eliminates the ``cookbook complaint'' - labs that are boring because all you have to do is follow directions. You will have to invent your own way of achieving the goals set forth for you in lab, with only guidance from the lab TA(s), not step-by-step instructions. This should be really fun and challenging, but it means that you will have to really think and use your creativity and perhaps do some research to figure out the best way to e.g. measure or observe in a gas.
In the scheme above the final exam can replace any one hour exam grade, provided that it is higher. This allows students to make up for their worst single hour exam performance with their final, so one bad day won't hurt your grade. If you get below a 50 (and the curve is otherwise normal) and have not religiously handed in your homework, you fail (F). If you get less than a 60 and have not religiously handed in your homework, you get an D. If you get 60 or more you get a C- or better and ``pass''. If you have religiously done your homework, but have somehow managed to end up less than a 60 or (worse) 50, this will be taken into account and adjustments may be made at my discretion. If you have not religiously done and handed in your homework on time, don't bother me about your grade.
I'm often asked if I grade on a curve. Yes and no. I grade on a 25-year curve with a few absolute points in it - 50 and 60 as breakpoints for F and D, for example. This is often to your advantage. If you get a 90 or higher for your cumulative final average in the course, for example, I will give you an A of some sort even if the class mean is 95. If the class mean turns out to be 70, on the other hand, I'll assume that I have failed you and grade on a B- curve, but that hasn't happened for a very long time.
If someone is very concerned about their grade, they should see me early and often; extra credit can be obtained a variety of ways (especially by doing a project) to help avoid a bad grade or to augment a good one.