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Syllabus Overhaul

This week is a short week in my IF class, Art: I Know It When I See It.  We had only one class meeting, since it’s fall break, so I had to make the most of it.  First, I’ve already had to overhaul my syllabus – the groups’ progress has been slower than I had anticipated, and I thought that I had already planned for it being slow.  Two factors have exacerbated my troubles in moving the groups along: (1) I’m asking them to do high-level theoretical thinking, which is tough when most of them are used to concrete thinking; and (2) they’re first-year students who have been in a college environment now for exactly one month.  Their question is “what is art?” and I’ve asked them to produce 5-7 possible responses.  I’ve also given them readings, explained the process of coming up with a definition, given them tools to test their responses, and coached them along the way.  Still, each group has nearly one decent response, two responses that might be workable into something decent, and three or four more that they’ll rightfully jettison at some future date.

I began last Tuesday’s discussion groups by facilitating one of the discussions myself, with my student assistant facilitating the other group, which we did for about 10 minutes.  Then we handed facilitation over to the groups’ facilitators.  I thought a bit more modeling was in order, since the students didn’t really seem to be grasping the art of facilitation.  In my individual meetings with facilitators after their discussions, about half of them don’t really get what is expected of them, and half get it, and can be rather self-reflective.  I have them each fill out a self-assessment prior to meeting with me, and I review it and share my own evaluation of their facilitation, emphasizing what they can do next time to improve.  All of them say they understand the value of learning to facilitate, but of course they’re going to tell me that – I’m the professor.

My biggest job now is getting them to the end of this “What is art?” module, and figuring out how to design the next module, which needs a complete overhaul.  I’ll post again when I’ve figured some of that out.

Michael Gettings