Syllabus (de)constructed

Winter break is over, the semester is underway, and the winter doldrums have set in. It’s long past time I get back to this blog. I’ve been mulling ideas of what to discuss but much of it is too depressing (the news) too self-aggrandizing (I replaced the screen on my iPhone all by myself!) or just…. Meh. And then, eureka!

If you’re a prof like me, you likely know your topic very well but never got a day of training in how to teach. When you started teaching, you put together your first syllabi based on what you kept form grad and undergrad (pack rats FTW!) And then it was just a process of trial and error. Been there, done that.

I wish, though, that I had had help figuring how to design a course. When you’re really comfortable with the topic, it’s not so bad. But when it’s a new topic… Ouch.

Anyway, I’m sure there are books about this but:
(1) tl;dr
(2) when you are new to teaching and/or the topic at hand, your time is better spent learning the material anyway.
(3) I have the sneaking suspicion syllabi/course building books are written by people who don’t teach all that regularly anymore.

Point is, I wanna share my hard-earned knowledge. If nothing else, it will help me when I inevitably design new courses. There are plenty of courses/syllabi I’m proud of, but many honestly are very specific to the topic at hand. Some, though, are not.

In particular, a couple years ago, I taught international preservation for the first time. Maybe you’d think I know lots about this topic, having lived abroad for a long time. But nope. Reality is that my professional life has all taken place in the U.S. So yeah, I know a bit more than the average person about France, but other than that, I’m far from an expert on international preservation. A retired colleague had last taught the course. He certainly knew his stuff, but reading his materials, I realized no source was more recent than 1974.

So I found myself having to teach a cour

Seriously, this is my go-to reference when discussing France at work. Fetchez la vache!
Seriously, this is my go-to reference when discussing France at work. Fetchez la vache!
se about a topic I didn’t know very much about, and didn’t have an existing syllabus for – either from a course I’d previously taken or an Internet search. This is going to be my main case study to discuss course/syllabus development. In the weeks to come, I’ll discuss some of the different choices I made along the way: timing, assignments, readings, trajectory. Interested? Stay tuned! And if you want me to discuss anything in particular, let me know in the comments.

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