Friday, October 08, 2004
1st Impressions and Syllabi
Today in the course portfolio working group we discussed syllabi. I brought up something that I heard at a Wabash seminar, that students make up their minds about professors in the first 15 minutes or so. One of the Wabash seminar leaders, Professor Keith Naylor, informed me that he never spends the first day of class going over the syllabus. I found that idea very intriguing. I’m bored out of my mind reading the syllabus to the students, the students are bored, some even insulted (justifiably in my mind). So this year I skipped the syllabus entirely, and started the first class reading as a group Lamentations and discussing what happened in Jerusalem in 586 BCE and how this was the most important event in the Hebrew Bible as far as I was concerned. I simply let them know how to access my syllabus online (my website and blackboard). I also have them post the first week on their course blogs their thoughts about my course commitments and whether or not they can meet these goals. That reserves class time for more important things in my mind. This way, I hit the ground running and let the students know that I very much want to make the most out of every minute of class time. I was very happy with the way this worked out and will continue this practice. Students mentioned in their blogs how surprised they were with this method of teaching, but in the end I think it worked very well.