A couple of weeks ago, my CFI colleague Ed Brantmeier and I ran two workshops about the Inclusive Courses review tool that we’ve been working on with Carl Moore, who currently runs the Research Academy for Integrated Learning at UDC. I am calling the survey or whatever it is a “review tool” because we are not sure what it is: partly reflective writing prompts, partly standardized survey, partly rubric. I suspect we’ll develop it in a couple of different directions. Feedback appreciated! (You can get a copy on Academia.edu or by emailing me at my broschax gmail.)
But that’s not the point here. My point is about syllabi. For our workshops, we had focussed on a subset of questions in our tool that dealt with the course syllabus, and in preparation, I looked at a bunch of syllabi that I could find online.
Shout-out to all those who post their course syllabi online: Much appreciated! It’s really instructive and humbling to read the syllabi that people write – so much good work out there.
What struck me was that many syllabi read like rulebooks, long lists of instructions and prohibitions that start right on the first page: attendance policies, deadlines, points subtracted for late submissions, margins and font requirements for papers, and and and. Sometimes it seemed that the professor had added another rule whenever there was trouble with something students did the previous semester. (Someone submitted a paper in 28pt font to meet the page requirement? I’ll put a font requirement on the syllabus!). Sometimes it simply looked like students were sinners in the hands of a wrathful professor.
What type of documents are such syllabi? Rulebooks (in fact, some approach booklet length, so rule booklet would be the right term). A code the professor can point to if a student complains about a grade, wants an extension, a makeup exam, or the like. Maybe a contract in which a professor tells the students what they’ll get from the class and what they’ll have to do to get it.
I want my syllabi to be open doors instead of rulebooks or contracts.