Wednesday, August 24, 2005

How long is your syllabus? 

Sorry to be late today, but we're beginning the period where more faculty are around, syllabi are being prepared, meetings are occuring, and in general summer is ending. (Sorry Tiger Lilly.) We have a limited budget, so we try to watch how many pages get printed. At some schools, we learn, printed syllabi are discouraged. I find putting the piece of paper in someone's hands vital. A syllabus is suppoed to be a course description and a contract between student and the professor. And, as Erin O'Connor notes, there's more.
Syllabi can be very revealing documents, and online syllabi that are expressly charged with replacing paper--and which must therefore be particularly detailed about assignments and so on--will be exceptionally so. As public concern about what really happens in college classrooms increases, online syllabi stand to become key documents in a debate that is hindered by an overall lack of documentation about how college teachers actually use their classrooms.
As an example, University Diaries discusses as well lengthy syllabi. My mentor used to give very long ones in graduate school but only a fourth of those articles listed were actually required, and truth be told, I didn't read even all of those. The recommendeds came in handy, though, when it was time to prepare for qualifying exams for the doctorate.

Anyway, the beauty of long online syllabi is finding nuggets like John Rosenberg does in this course from DeAnza College in Cupertino, CA. You can actually see assignments like this:

Week 8 Race and Higher Education

What should be done to level the racial playing field in higher education? There is an organization at UC Berkeley called BAMN (the Committee to Defend Affirmative Action By Any Means Necessary). A link to the BAMN website is here. On March 3 (Thursday) they are holding an all day teach in on affirmative action. Either go to this teach in, or read their website carefully to find out their position on affirmative action, what they think it means, why they believe it is important. (If you DO go to their teach-in, etc. for the day, you will get an extra 30 points of credit here.) After informing yourself on these issues, write a letter to the Governor explaining what YOU think should be done to deal with the issues of racial imbalance within the UC system.

And Governor's address and phone and fax numbers are provided for good measure. So this week we have faculty on campus preparing similar syllabi. One of our sociology professors was a member of a workshop several years ago that had this description:
The goal of this workshop is to share and discuss specific exercises, techniques, and resources which may assist us in integrating multicultural and global awareness into the sociology classroom. We will focus on classroom tactics designed to overcome student resistance to multicultural issues, the use of games/exercises in understanding the intersections of oppression/identity, the emphasis of privilege when teaching multicultural/global issues to dominant group members, and using the Internet and WWW as tools for multicultural/global education.