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Posted on Saturday 10 April 2010 at 10:15 am

Syllabis are fun


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I'm working on the syllabus for my class in the fall and have come to the conclusion that I really like making syllabi. I know that I like teaching more than research, which is proving to be a problem for making progress on my dissertation, but I hadn't realized before just how much I like designing the syllabus for a course.

At basically every American university, most students are required to take one or both halves of the American history survey. The first half is beginning of time through the Civil War (1865) or Reconstruction (1877). The second half goes from wherever the first ended to the present. I am a colonialist and when I taught before I had to do the second half. That was a huge problem. It wasn't insurmountable and I got through the class and don't feel I did the students any great disservice, but the class would have certainly been better if I had more familiarity with the material. Because I was out of my field, I didn't know what readings were the best to select and just went with a prepackaged book of primary sources and stuck close to the main textbook for my lectures. In the fall I will be teaching the first half of the survey. Granted, there are still parts of that which I would consider outside of my field, but I'm pretty well read on the entire colonial period through the early republic so I'd say I'm well versed in the material for all but about a quarter of the course. That is making the process of designing the syllabus very different. I have so many things I want to convey and deciding which are the most important and what combinations of lecture topics and readings can best communicate it all to the students is really fun. Whereas before I stayed with the textbook, now I'm looking at the textbook and seeing places where it is deficient and plotting additional readings or lectures that can fill the gaps. I actually have something to say and putting it all together is fun. Big problem is now I want to flesh out all the vague class ideas floating around in my head when I really need to finish this up and get on my dissertation!

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