I was just talking last night with one of our sages, Laura, as she prepares for the start of the new semester with faculty meetings and development sessions. Meanwhile, I am preparing for the new academic year to formulate a presentation I have been asked to give to incoming faculty members on the syllabus. I am including a copy of that presentation here for your viewing.
I will be revising my syllabi this week, and the thought of how much ones syllabus stays the same from one semester to another has been dancing around in my head. Of course, THE question I ask myself is … am I making enough changes to my syllabus to keep me up to date, or will I slip into that stereotypical professor of using notes and the same jokes and examples he/she created a decade ago to teach?
Well, I am certain I will be using some of the same examples this semester … as they just work well to help students master complex material. Yet, this semester, like all other fall semesters, will be met with changes in my syllabus for my behavioral statistics class. Just an example of one of my major changes will be the addition of a service learning activity. I dabbled in a service learning project last spring and again in the summer (for a Business Statistics Class) and found that spending as little as one class period (50 minutes) off campus collecting “real data” seemed to help students have a sense of learning more, increasing their understanding of the benefits of statistics and psychometrics, and further helping them to get a sense of sampling error, in a way that my M&M demonstration and poker chip demonstration simply doesn’t. I’ll be talking about service learning and statistics more in the future (as will Laura, as I know she too makes use of such pedagogical practices).
With only a few precious days left before the start of the semester, I will be spending the week taking a serious look at what new activities I should try, how (if at all) I should change assessing students, and what mechanisms I should put into my syllabus to (1) assure the students actually read it and follow it — a syllabus quiz maybe (2) that all assignments are clearly described to minimize confusion (and emails) (3) to help shape my students’ behavior to assure that they maximize their learning of statistics.
My syllabus for my behavioral statistics class is now 15 pages. However, I often think back to a presentation I saw at APS in 2009, that has more recently has become a Teaching of Psychology article (see below for full citation). I realize that the syllabus is the first great tool I have in assuring I maximize student learning, not only by helping them to keep track of what will be covered in class, but for them to begin to believe that I truly care about their learning, and that I believe they will be successful this semester.
As you prepare for this semester, I hope you will share with us your challenges and successes throughout the academic year!
Syllabus Detail and Students’ Perceptions of Teacher Effectiveness
Bryan K. Saville; Tracy E. Zinn; Allison R. Brown; Kimberly A. Marchuk
Teaching of Psychology, 1532-8023, Volume 37, Issue 3, 2010, Pages 186 – 189