What Happens When You Give Students Control of the Syllabus?Historians in the News
tags: teaching, academia
Brenda Thomas and Leslie Lindenauer teach two very different courses at two very different colleges. But there’s one thing they have in common: Many of their students don’t want to be there.
Thomas, the university colloquium program director at Florida Gulf Coast University, teaches an introductory course on sustainability that all undergraduates are required to take. Many students, she says, are resistant to the idea that the course is in any way relevant to their major.
Lindenauer, a history professor at Western Connecticut State University, teaches an introductory course on American history, which meets a general-education requirement. That, she says, combined with students’ preconceived notions that a history class consists of boring lectures and facts they have to memorize, makes for a skeptical audience.
That common problem led both instructors to try something similar to win over students: asking them to help design the course. Sometimes called a “negotiated” curriculum, this approach is based on the idea that the more you put students in charge of what they learn, the more excited they’ll be to dive in.
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