At its most basic level, the syllabus is used to communicate information about the course, the instructor, learning objectives, assignments, grading policies, due dates, the university’s academic integrity statement, and, in some cases, an increasingly long list of strongly worded admonitions on what is and isn’t acceptable behavior in the college classroom.
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
The ability to teach is not something that one either has or does not have. Teachers are not born. Rather, they are made, through hard work, research, continual learning, and practice. Any teacher, no matter how experienced or new, can improve, and even the best teacher’s skills can degrade if he or she does not pay attention to continual improvement. Teachers are made through hard work and persistence.
How much time do you spend each semester creating, updating or maintaining your course syllabi?
According to a new report released today by the Syllabus Institute, on average instructors spend more than 24 hours creating a new course syllabus. The average instructor also spends 6.5 hours updating their syllabus for a new semester and nearly 3.5 hours maintaining their syllabus throughout a semester.
Fall semester is well underway at my institution. Prior to classes starting I had the opportunity to have lunch with a couple of fellow faculty members. During our lunch, we discussed many topics related to the upcoming term, but classroom management emerged as a common point of contention.
Despite the fact that numerous articles have been written on the importance of the first day, too many of us still use it to do little more than go over the syllabus and review basic guidelines for the course. This year I decided to try a different approach, and the results were much more dramatic than I expected. I taught real material on the first day. Despite that, there have been fewer questions about course policies, with some students actually referencing them without even a mention from me. Let me explain how I achieved these results.
Some years back The Teaching Professor featured an article highlighting Mano Singham’s wonderful piece describing how he moved away from a very authoritarian, rule-centered syllabus (reference below). It’s one of my very favorite articles—I reference it regularly in presentations, and it appears on almost every bibliography I distribute.
The first day of class is an important time. In addition to the usual housekeeping tasks that need to be accomplished, there are other critical functions of the first day of class – not the least of which involves setting the tone for the course.
Do you challenge students to think about why they’re taking a course? Most faculty are discouraged by the very common “because it’s required” response. Equally discouraging is what students hope to get out of a course. Sometimes they seem perplexed by the question! The answer is so obvious—they want an A.
Getting students to participate in class is one of those perplexing instructional problems we all face, particularly when teaching undergraduate classes. Are there significant differences in the graduate classroom?