The first section contains the course description, the learning objectives, and all the boilerplate administrative stuff, which continues to grow. This semester, for the first time, I’ve had to include a clause notifying students that they cannot photograph or record any class sessions unless they have a documented disability that would be mitigated by having a recording. And of course, they must have my “express written consent.” I don’t teach when I’m drunk, but nonetheless, I’d like to avoid the kind of fame this guy has gotten.
The second section is a very detailed course schedule which is probably a bit too hand-holdy, especially considering where I teach. It includes one or two guiding questions for the day, what the student’s should have read, and the homework for the following class. It’s meant to be airtight because I have . . . shall I say inherently litigious students. Litigious and quite literal. Excellent students, yes. Better than any students I’ll likely have when I have a “real job,” yes. But also quite good at finding and exploiting loopholes. And man, do they care about their grades. Hence their adeptness at finding those loopholes, because it’s often easier than doing the actual work, and their workloads are insane. Understand that it’s not uncommon for an undergrad at my institution to have two majors, three or four minors, and still graduate in three years. We have very smart, very motivated students—many international—and they aren’t charged more if they take more than a full-time load. So, to save money, and to get back home more quickly, they’ll often take seven classes per semester. And my class is typically (read: always) at the bottom of their long list of priorities. So why title this post “Sylla-bliss” when all I’m doing is complaining?
Here’s the bliss. We discussed Toulmin arguments today and a full third of the class was able to identify warrants by the end of the discussion. A third. And these were pretty hard-to-identify warrants, too. I’m still amazed.
Edited to add: It appears that even five or six pages may be too long. One bloggy student says (not about my class; I just found this on Technorati):
There are two very simple reasons that I will fail this class. The first is that it is incredibly hard. We are all literally sitting there with no clue what's happening. Our syllabus is literally five or six pages long; so long in fact, that we had to sign a contract assuring our professor that we'd read it.
This is why AcadeMama might be right, though this student might object to a quiz, too. I quiz sounds like a great idea partly becuase I think having students sign a contract makes for an even more litigious atmosphere.