A contract. A syllabus. A noose.

Before I started to blog myself I figured I would check up and see what other people were saying. You know, peer pressure and all. Lots of us have nothing more special to say than greet the world with open arms in a manner done since 1974ish, if you can believe Wikipedia (we all do, don’t lie). Anyway, my inspiration for this post comes from here (a fairly generic URL, so lets hope Mr. Rhoads doesn’t change it).

I’ve never agreed that a syllabus should be a contract.
– Campbell

We’ve all been in the situation where our syllabus is our contract.  One that we don’t have to sign or agree to.  Its just… there. The guillotine-shaped elephant in the room. Don’t like it? Leave.  It’s a noose from which to hang if things go awry.

But what happens if a syllabus IS a contract? They are, by definition, something agreed upon by both parties.  Hopefully with the input of the aforementioned parties. Why can’t we write syllabi WITH our students instead of FOR our students? Probably because curriculum supervisors somewhere would all have a conniption in unison. “You must cover chapters 1-12, 17, and 23. NO EXCEPTIONS.”

I’m realizing, as I write this, that the above might only be true in engineering/science classes. Can somebody who might be an arts person let me know if not getting to every one of Sartre’s works would be detrimental?

Truth. There IS importance in covering material. But let’s have some flexibility in HOW it’s covered. We all know there are different learning styles and that lectures can’t cover them all. But why the lack of flexibility in the assignments we let students do? (“Let” them do, see what I did there?) Instead of forcing a final, let students pick.  If they’re a) wonderful writers or b) looking to improve their writing skills, why not let them substitute a term paper? Sick of the homework? Fine, skip it. But tell me about one way insert-academic-field-here affected your life today.

When a star athlete signs a contract it is loaded with incentives.  Let’s entice our students to do well instead of demand it. Truly earn a grade, not just get assigned one. Pick your poison; live and die with your perceived strengths rather than my required evaluations.

I can live with a complicated gradebook, can’t you?

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1 Response to A contract. A syllabus. A noose.

  1. egregious says:

    Yup! We have been for so long pressing our students to survive our traditional class-rooms. The onus is on teachers to think of out-of-box incentives and methods on ‘how’ of covering the material!

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