Monday, April 26, 2010

Putting it together

I don't always relish developing a new class. It's a lot easier to take a syllabus that's already developed and tweak it a bit than it is to start from scratch. Until you begin, it's easy to overlook how much goes into that document -- objectives, policies, assignments both daily and long-term, the flow of topics, and of course, readings for the whole semester.

But I'm tremendously excited about the course I'm developing for next semester, "Craft Wisely: The Past, Present, and Future Of Handmade." In fact, I can't remember the last time I was looking forward the hard work of syllabus construction this much. For one thing, it's a course that students have been hounding me to teach for a couple of years. For another, the topic is something I spend much of my free time -- and work time -- thinking about. There's a real chance that I'll learn as much or more in the class as my students. And I believe the course could put into action many of the pedagogical ideals I've come to cherish over the past several years -- about experiential learning, students taking on teaching roles, and class members all working together to support the group's overall goals.

I'm still glad I don't have to start from scratch. A professor at another institution was kind enough to share her syllabus and bibliography from a course with some similarities. That gives me a big head start -- a reading list and some assignment ideas to start with -- and makes the task of putting the whole thing together much less daunting.

But my course will have a larger scope than my model, and will range more into the philosophical and historical modes. The question then becomes how to keep it focused, and how to ground its diverse facets in a common experience.

I've got some great ideas. And the desk copies of my required text arrived today; I wanted to stop everything and read them cover to cover. It's not going to be perfect the first time out. I expect to make a bunch of mistakes, as we all do when mounting a course for the first time. But I'm going to work hard to build a structure with the required specificity and flexibility. And best of all, I'm already looking forward to the second time I teach it, when it will be that much better.

1 comment:

Sandy said...

How cool! Could you post the syllabus from the other class and the one you are creating?