In his description of the promising syllabus Ken Bain asks the question:
Can a change in the syllabus stimulate deeper and more enthusiastic student learning? What kind of syllabus do highly effective teachers use?
Far more than just a map to the activities and topics of the semester, I’ve worked to evolve my syllabi into ways to inspire and guide the learning in my classes. You can view the progression of syllabi for my courses over the course of my time here at JMU. I’ve selected several to demonstrate my progress as an instructor.
Syllabi for the Portfolio
As an example of evolution, I’m submitting my syllabi for ISAT 348–The Multimedia Industry. I team taught this class with Jeff Kushner in the fall of 2006 when I arrived and it has undergone a dramatic transformation since then:
- ISAT 348 Fall 2006 Syllabus
A minimal, boilerplate syllabus that uses threatening language (see the attendance policy). It barely provides a feel for what the class entails, let alone inspiration.
- ISAT 348 Spring 2007 Syllabus
The first time that I had full control over the syllabus–a bit deeper description of the topics and learning objectives to be covered, but still sparse and minimally informative. There are the beginnings of some warmth in the “Words of Wisdom” at the end. This was a challenging syllabus to produce because of all the topics we could possibly study in this class, I realized I had no strong feelings about what topics students spent their time on. This marked the beginning of my departure from an autocratic approach to course design.
- ISAT 348 Fall 2009 Syllabus
Beginning with a call to self-reliance that immediately challenges students to make the course relevant to their own lives, this syllabus provides an extensive list of topics but makes it clear that students have the freedom to tailor the course to their own interests or to push into topics not explicitly listed. It provides concrete guidance as to how students can make effective use of their time both in and out of class. There is a lengthy description of my teaching philosophy that includes links to interesting videos and articles. I make it clear to students that I am available to them by providing my cell phone number, Facebook account, Google calendar, and letting them know that it is okay to send me text messages. The implicit message is that I care about you and your learning experience.
- ISAT 348 Fall 2011 Syllabus
Fully online, the syllabus website begins with examples of all the cool things you can do as a multimedia developer. It also provides detailed descriptions of the hurdles students must clear to be considered beginner, proficient, or expert in the main course topics.
By comparing the syllabi above, you can see a clear evolution of my teaching practices.
Breadth and Diversity of Courses Taught
- GISAT 131–Technology, Science and Society: Spring 2011
- GISAT 160–Critical Thinking: Fall ’08, Fall ’09
- GHUM 252–Cross-cultural Perspectives Japan: Summer ’10
- ISAT 252–Programming and Problem Solving: Spring ’07, Spring ’08, Spring ’09, Spring ’10, Spring ’11
- ISAT 340–Software Development: Fall ’07, Fall ’08, Fall ’09, Fall ’10, Fall ’11
- ISAT 440–Social Aspects of Computing: Spring ’07
- ISAT 640–Data Mining (Malta SERM Program): Spring ’11
- JAPN 111/231/233–Beginner/Intermediate Japanese: Spring ’10