Monday, August 15, 2016

Behold the lowly syllabus...

One of the unexpected surprises of starting a teaching career is the syllabus. I don't remember much detail about how they were when I was in school some 30+ years ago, although I know that they would have office hours, exam dates, how grades were determined (% from quizzes, % from homework...) and that is about it. Maybe there was more, but that would have been all that I cared about - and I can't imagine it being different for other students both then and now.

Unfortunately, administrators have a different outlook. The lowly syllabus has now become a document of great significance, almost a legal document, with more and more burdens placed on it. "Course objectives" are now a major concern for accreditation and attempting to change them requires approval from above. "Competencies" must be present as well. Policy statements about academic honesty, disabilities, attendance, harassment and more are required. What should be a simple 1 - 2 page handout becomes a 10-page (or more) monstrosity. The schoolwide policies are repeated verbatim on every syllabus for every class and so I am not surprised in the least that students don't put the effort into reading it. (Or they read it and forget it.)

And it's only going to get worse - we've already been given a heads-up for changes coming next semester.

I would love to split the syllabus into two parts, but that's too large a Gordonian knot for me to slice.

Previous Years

August 15, 2013 - Another Monomer I Won't Work With

August 15, 2012 - Helmet Gels to Reduce Head Injuries in Sports

August 15, 2011 - An Issue on Nomenclature

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