Teaching Notes: May 2007 Archives

Planning my LING 404 Syllabus

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I'm teaching again, and so I'm in the midst of the first chore - planning the syllabus.

I’m sure every instructor at Penn States goes through some version of the process I describe below, but it’s worth noting how much administrivia may be involved, especially if you are not a full time instructor.

1. I do actually plan the learning objectives first, although I suspect most instructors think in terms of topics.

2. Now, I check with the Registrar academic calendar to see how many weeks I have alloted to me and when Thanksgiving comes. I enter dates into a spreadsheet. This year, I will lose a week at Thanksgiving (actually I had always canceled that Tuesday class anyway).

3. Now I determine which topics I teach, balancing breadth vs. depth. Every semester I go out of town for some reason, so I have to work around that. One time I assigned a field research assignment. This time it will be a "study period" for the midterm.

4. Final assignment? For phonology, I've settled on the take home exam. For other classes, it may be research papers, but now I'm requiring bibliographies in advance.

5. Percentages? Attendance = 10% always, but the others vary depending on the structure. I prefer to emphasize weekly assignments so that students have an incentive to keep up and not cram. Weekly assignments are about 40-50% and Final assignments are about 20-30%.

6. How many weekly assignments? The Penn State tradition tends to be to allow students to drop one, so I usually do 11 assignments with one drop (10 total). But that 11th assignment usually comes right before a paper is due, so you have to be a little generous there.

7. Grading - I do a 1000 points scale so I can cope with Excel. So point values for each assignment correspond with total percentages (this helps with grading weekly assignments). It gets a little weird for papers, so then I have to do a rubric and convert the letter grade points.

8. Adding boilerplate statements for academic dishonesty and access to disability services. Fortunately, I've gooten mine from the College of Liberal Arts and can cut and paste.

I usually get this done in early August. After that, I only have to develop lecture notes and assignments....