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Thursday, August 25, 2005

What's in Your Syllabi? (compliments of SCSU Scholars)

It's that time of the year - a new crop of students has arrived. Along those lines, SCSU Scholars has a post titled "How Long Is Your Syllabus" that discusses several things syllabi-related. In particular, they note that the online versions that many professors now use are longer and more revealing about the professors approach, biases, and personality (or lack thereof).

A related issue is what to do on the first day of class. In my case, I have an extended syllabus online (over 8 pages at latest count, and growing every semester), but cover very little "admistrivia" on the first day. There's nothing that sucks the life out of the first day like going through all the minute details of the class. In any event, with add/drop going on for the first week, you'd just end up repeating it anyway. So, all I do in this vein on the first day is give the barest details - the grading, my office hours, how to contact me, and where the class website is. Then it's on to some substantive work. It's always good to get things rolling right from the start.

Robert Bruner of U. of Virginia's Darden School has an excellent piece on how to conduct the first day of class. Like much of his writing, this piece (titled "Opening A Course") can be found here on SSRN. It's chock full of advice from some very, very good teachers (and short, too).

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