It’s about time to finalize syllabi for fall courses.
Ah, the syllabus! It’s an essential course document, usually the first a student sees, and yet it’s typically the most boring document in the entire course. How can we make it engaging?
Dr. Barbi Honeycutt presents useful suggestions for creating a syllabus that will engage students. See her online article, “A Syllabus Tip: Embed Big Questions,” Faculty Focus, April 16, 2012). She recommends incorporating the course’s learning objectives as discussion questions in the syllabus — and then using some of those questions to present the syllabus and engage learners from the very beginning of the course.
When I first came to Penn and attended TA training, the trainers recommended starting a course with “the bureaucratic opening”; that is, going through the syllabus as the first item of business. Dr. Honeycutt’s suggestions offer the possibility of transforming that first activity from a bureaucratic procedure into a participative activity that focuses on the participants’ interests in the subject-matter.
Dr. Honeycutt is an expert in instructional design and the founder of Flip It Consulting. She recently presented the idea in the LinkedIn group for Higher Education Teaching and Learning, which is a useful forum for thinking about teaching and learning.