Syllabus Shake-Up Day Five

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the fifth and final day of the 2022 Syllabus Shake-Up Challenge.

If you missed the other days of the challenge, or if you want to start from the beginning again, here they are:

Day 1: Syllabus Audit

Day 2: Traditional vs Innovative Strategies for Syllabus Engagement

Day 3: Examples of Syllabus Engagement Strategies in Action

Day 4: Common Harmful Assumptions We Make About Students

Today’s installment of the challenge is all about reflecting on the process.

How it started:

From r/Professors: I can’t blame students for not wanting to read through it. It’s about as exciting as reading the user’s manual to a calculator.

From this December 2021 CNN article: “It is an academic trope that no one reads the syllabus,” Wilson told CNN. “It’s analogous to the terms and conditions when you’re installing software, everyone clicks that they’ve read it when no one ever does.”

To remind you, these were the goals that we were working towards at the start of this challenge: changing our mindset relating to…

  1. Student behavior. It seems that in the last few years, it has become increasingly clear through social media discourse that instructors’ relationships with students fall more on the side of confrontational and adversarial than warm and friendly. It is my hope that by thinking more intentionally about designing our syllabi, and our courses more broadly, our relationships with our students will improve. Often the problem is not with our students but with our own unrealistic expectations of them, and our lack of acknowledgement of our own roles in shaping their behavior.
  2. The role and purpose of the syllabus in our courses. Even when we put a lot of time and energy into crafting the perfect course policies, guidelines, and schedules for our syllabi, the document frequently is set aside and never returned to again. I think we often view the syllabus as more of something that is set in stone when it is completed, rather than a living document that should be constantly revisited and revised when necessary, especially in consultation with students. 

How it’s going:

Hopefully by the end of this challenge you are starting to see that traditional perspectives towards students and our syllabi just don’t cut it.

Did you try out one of the strategies for engaging your students with your syllabus this week? 

If not, I recommend making plans to do so in the near future. Once you do, take a few minutes to reflect on the experience.

How did it go? How did you prepare?

How did your students react? Was there any resistance to your approach? If so, why?

Name one positive outcome of this experience.

Name one thing that you learned or would do differently next time.

Comment below or share your thoughts on social media by tagging @ApothekeBlog or #SyllabusShakeUp!

Just a quick reminder that this challenge is meant to be one that allows you to start where you are. You can put in as little or as much effort as you want. This challenge can be used for reflecting on past approaches, current ones, or being proactive about future courses.

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