Thomas Bertonneau discusses the reasons why course syllabi have been mushrooming over the years: students are less and less accustomed to academic work, more inclined to complain if things aren't spelled out for them in minute detail, and apt to engage in plagiarism if written assignments are not carefully crafted to militate against it.
Texan professors who thrive on taxpayer funding are irate about a state law that requires them to make course content clear to students before the latter are, as Accuracy in Academia labels it, "trapped" in the classroom. To whom do we owe this salutary development? One, to University of Texas (Austin) junior Taurie Randermann, who lamented to her boss that her course titled "Communication and Religion" was actually about trendy cults such as Wiccans and Heaven’s Gate; and, two, to her boss, Texas Republican State Representative Lois Kolkhorst, who put forth a bill requiring public, online access to course information. The state chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), among other status quo academic groups, has protested this new law. As AIA notes, "They usually like to exercise their academic freedom behind closed doors where they can deny everyone else’s." Kudos to Randermann and Kolkhorst, and may Texas' victory for transparency a trend make.
In today's Pope Center piece, Jane Shaw writes about a favorable development at one of the UNC-system schools, Fayetteville State, which has adopted a policy of requiring professors to post their syllabi online. That's an idea the Pope Center has been advocating for some time. It's not uncommon for students to sign up for a course, only to later find out that the course title doesn't match up very well with what the prof intends to cover. Perhaps this policy will reduce the tendency among professors to use what should be a broad course to cover whatever their current research interests happen to be, educational malpractice that serves students poorly.
The November-December issue of CCA Advocate contains a front page story on how Lassen Community College is challenging Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) with the California Public Employment Relations Board:
In what may be the first test case, the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) will decide whether a college can require instructors to submit Student Learning Outcomes without having bargained them into the contract. The case stems from a charge brought by the Lassen College Faculty Association against the Lassen Community College District in December when the college administration unilaterally changed its policy and started requiring certificated employees to submit a student assessment plan whenever they submit a course syllabus. When the administration topped off the demand by proposing that faculty be evaluated based on its Student Learning Outcomes, (SLOs) the chapter took the matter to PERB.
For the full story, click here.