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Your approach to the class is very creative, allowing students with different goals to pursue different projects, all of which have some significant value for the student. Further, it is an innovative way to do assessment guided by worthwhile learning outcomes.
I am curious if some students may perceive this to be unfair, given that others will be doing or not doing things they are doing. I do not think it is unfair, but I am curious how it looks from the student perspective.

Jerry Green

Good question, anonymous, and thanks! From what I can tell, the students seem to be on board with the different kinds of work involved, though of course they may have their own thoughts that I don't hear. But I have a pretty friendly, informal relationship with most of the grads here, and we all talked through the set-up in advance, so I think (hope) they'd tell me if there were any major problems.

From what I've seen so far, there are two complications to this way of doing things:
1) Its complicated. You have to sign up for different tracks, and different things are going on all the time. So you have to be more concerned with due dates and the like than you normally would. And you can't rely on your peers to remind you 'oh yeah, we all have a paper due in 2 weeks' or whatever.

2) Its not clear that the tracks are equally difficult. I did my best to make things come out roughly equal, but I won't really know if that succeeded until after the term is over.

Re: (2), I will say that the AoS track looks more difficult than the rest, but that's a least partially misleading. The AoC track requires teaching 2 classes, effectively, and that's more work than it looks. And I'm picky about good syllabi, so that assignment will also take more work than it could (i.e. you can't phone it in). FWIW, I have one student who was pretty upfront about trying to pick the least demanding track, and they went with the exams.

But even if the workload isn't quite even, I think that they think its OK. If you're an ancient specialist, you're going to put in more work anyway, so might as well have that codified. Same goes mutatis mutandis for the others. Tying the differences in work to different, self-selected goals I think helps justify those differences a bit.

But like I said, to some degree we'll just have to wait and see.


Do report out at the end of the semester when you get student feedback. I am not so much interested in the evaluations, but the comments from students on the experiences they had. You may find that one group is more enthusiastic or vocal (or both) about how the course went. If I understand correctly, all the students will "endure" the lectures of those who go for that option. That is, the rest of the class will be the "test-audience" for the lectures. Is that correct? That will implicate them in to the others' experiences and assessment.


I think this sounds great! A lot of professors never give a second thought to the question, "What are my students getting out of this class?" In fact, I think if most professors had that thought there would be far more classes like yours.

Jerry Green

Thanks Amanda!

Anonymous, I will do my best to remember to post an update. And you're right, the teaching sessions will be delivered to the rest of the class. I usually do a detailed course evaluation on my own at the end of class, so I'll be able to use that to see whether there are any big differences between how people thought about the class (though the combined sample size for both classes will only be about 20)

Michel X.

That's a really cool and interesting take on assessment, and I look forward to hearing more about how it goes/went. I especially like the fact that this kind of course design can go a long way towards helping to foster the kinds of skills/prep/professionalization we're supposed to glean along the way (e.g. having sample syllabi, learning to present at and write for conferences/publication, determining AOCs, etc.). I think I would have benefited a great deal from those kinds of exercises.

With respect to the AOC track, do you have any plans to sit down with the student (or have her submit another document) and have her explain/defend her selections, consult with you/peers about how to go about it, revise/refine her work, etc.

Recent phd

I just wanted to say that this sounds really, really cool! Especially having students in the AOC track write syllabi and practice teaching sections. I would think that the other students could also learn a lot from observing their classmates teaching sessions both pedagogically and in terms of thinking about diff levels at which to approach and pitch the material. The AOS track is also really practical in terms of giving students the opportunity to do what we do which is present papers and then turn them into articles. I hope the semester goes really well and I look forward to hearing more about how it went!

Jerry Green

Michael X: Exactly right about the AoC track. The title of this series is a bit of a give-away that I have some thoughts about good syllabus design, so I want to make sure folks at least have the right questions on their radars. I think one-on-one meetings to talk over their choices is the only way to do that.

Recent phd: Thanks!

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