University Diaries
A professor of English describes American university life.
Aim: To change things.
Contact UD at: margaret-dot-soltan-at-gmail-dot-com

 
 
 
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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Confessions of a Syllabus


UD has once before turned her attention to the subject of college and university syllabi -- a subject which does not seem to her one of the more important facing today's society ("today's society" is one of the American college student's favorite cliches). On the other hand, she and her university colleagues have to include copies of all syllabi in their annual reports, so there must be a very busy inspection committee.

Tim Burke says:

Syllabi should all be posted, we should have a way of making teaching practices more transparent, there should be a relatively neutral professional body interested in observing and collecting data about classroom practices. (I do NOT want that body to be education scholars, by the way, because I do NOT want college professors to have their teaching be evaluated by ed-school jargon.)


I like the idea of posting syllabi. Just as I anticipate that things like Rate My Professors will make in-house course evaluating obsolete, so I anticipate that Syllabi.com or whatever will make costly absurdities like multiple levels of syllabus review obsolete. The economist Richard K. Vedder is, Inside Higher Ed reports, about to inaugurate a center for the study of why college costs so much, and certainly much costly and time-consuming program and department and faculty review could and should take place in public on the web.

For a modest instance: Rather than have me list my enrollments for each class on my annual review -- information my university has, but which it asks me to inform it about each year -- why not have me copy onto the web the online enrollment pages for all of my courses? I'd update it, too, so you and anyone else interested can see how many students drop or add in the course of a semester, etc. Names of students would be removed.

Virtually no one is interested in any of this, of course; my various course-related pages would be clicked on by local administrators only, I'd guess. But if any prospective students, or syllabus-constructing professors, or UD readers, would care to get an idea of how I teach, how I present material, how popular my courses are, etc., they'd have easy access to it too.