It’s winter and the new semester either has started or will be starting shortly. This week, I thought I’d compile some resources for those colleagues who may be making their finishing touches on their syllabi. These aren’t intended to encourage anyone to throw out the syllabus they’ve worked for years to refine. Instead, these are designed to foster reflection and analysis that may prompt some minor changes.
1. What does your syllabus say about you and your course? From the Teaching Professor’s Faculty Focus blog archives, Dr. Maryellen Weimer shares a handful of driving questions intended so that instructors can examine their syllabi more holistically. The post also includes a short video clip where Dr. Weimer explains syllabus construction in detail.
2. Wondering about the research on technology usage in class? Laptop and tablet usage always seems to be a hot-button issue with instructors. In two blog posts I’ve written over the last year or so, I examine the research on using laptops in classroom settings and how it impacts student learning. Check out Ban that Student Laptop? and Ban that Student Laptop? Revisiting the issue for detailed analysis of the research on student technology use.
3. Are you considering expanding your office hours to include synchronous tools? In a blog post I wrote a few years ago, I outline several online tools that instructors can use to move their office hours online and better reach their students.
4. How are you using class time in your course? Google workers follow an 80/20 policy where they are given 20% of their time to work on projects of their own choosing. In a blog post from 2013, I discuss the impact of following a similar procedure in collegiate classrooms.
5. Are you starting from scratch? The University of Minnesota’s Center for Teaching and Learning has created a short tutorial that walks new instructors through the syllabus development process. While some of the information is specific to the University of Minnesota, the tutorial provides a great walk through for new instructors who may be designing a syllabus for the first time.
6. What does the tone of your syllabus say to your students? In this study published in Social Psychology of Education, researchers examine the impact of syllabus tone on student perceptions of instructors. Students perceived “warm syllabi” as communicating that the instructor was more approachable and more motivated to teach the class. Specific examples of “warm” and “cold” language are provided in the full study.
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