by Stacey Goguen
Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU), lower-division gen. ed. course: “Ethics”
I teach at a medium-sized public university (7,000-8,000 students) which caters to a racially and socio-economically diverse population of mostly Chicago-area residents, especially (a) students looking to transfer, either from more expensive nearby schools or community colleges, (b) non-traditional students who are either working part or full time or who had to take a break from completing college, and (c) first-time college students who need a fair amount of academic support and advising, often because they’re first generation college students.
Class sizes for our lower-division classes are capped at 35 students, and since my teaching load is 3/3 and I often have at least one course under 20 students, my grading load is manageable in itself, which means I can assign more writing than I could with a larger grading load. However, because a lot of my students are under constant time-crunches (mostly from working), and they don’t often have experience with writing long papers (5+ pages), I tend to assign shorter writing assignments (usually 1-2 pages, 3-4 pages max).
I have taught an introduction to ethics course (called “Ethics”) four times over the past two years. Two things I do that are unusual are that (a) the content revolves around applied ethics, though I still incorporate metaethics, and (b) the major writing assignments do not focus on building and critiquing arguments, though students do some of that, too.
Below are my course goals, and I’m going to try something unusual with them, too: breaking them into primary, secondary, and tertiary goals—because I think that will help explain how I think about this course. Primary goals are what I put on my syllabi; they are what I consider absolutely necessary for myself and my students to accomplish. Secondary goals are things I want at least some students in the course to get, especially if they are planning to be majors—but it’s not crucial for all students to meet them. Tertiary goals are ‘frosting on the cake’: it’s great if students meet them, but if not, I don’t consider it a huge problem.