6002: Week of April 20-Syllabi, Crowdsourcing, and Real Learning

I found the Cardozo article especially interesting this week. As a new instructor, I know that I am no expert, and Cardozo’s assignment allows me to show that I am no expert, and include my students in course planning. I have done collaborative assignments and rubrics with my students before, but the idea of letting them plan a whole course is both daunting and interesting. The one issue I have with Cardoza’s syllabus is that the students create and present the syllabi, but they do not get to do any of the assigned readings or writing assignments. I am more aligned with Cathy Davidson’s idea of crowdsourcing assignments. Each group of students gets to run a class period, and discuss what interests them most. This seems more useful than having undergraduate students create mock syllabi. This type of assignment is more useful in graduate level courses. I would like to implement an assignment that was a combination of syllabus creation, and crowdsourced assignment presentation. I think that this would be of greater use to the students, but may also be too much work for one semester.

Cardozo’s syllabus assignment, moreover, forces us to encounter disagreements and differences in our classrooms. These are issues I have come up against before. My students have often asked why we have to read specific works, or why we write about specific assignments. Encountering difference in our classrooms also allows both instructors and our students to practice what Gadamer calls “real learning” (412). Real learning comes from experience, and there is no greater experiential assignment than creating a syllabus. This experience, according to Cardozo, shows students that the syllabus, instead of being some sort of rules/calendar, is actually a genre. This sort of assignment may have been helpful to some of my former classmates. When I first started college, I majored in Biology. I loved the literature and composition courses I took, but many of my classmates did not. This is because they could not see the point of literature courses, especially. If we had been taught that the syllabus can function as a genre (Cardozo uses the examples of a legal document, an organizational tool, and as a means of communication) would help students such as those to see how the syllabus has value outside of the literature classroom.

Cardozo also discusses how the syllabus assignment allows students to share our pain and practice a transparent type of pedagogy. The assignment allows students to interrogate what they include in their course, and gain insight into how we construct our courses. For me, it is also interesting to think about how syllabi preform the courses for which they are constructed. They not only guide the performance of the course, but also dictate how the students preform their various roles in the classroom. As Cardoza points out, the syllabus assignment “reveals discipline trouble by highlighting the performative, and therefore revisable, aspects of professing literature” (415). I like the revisable aspect, especially. I think it is important to understand the syllabus, and the course, as a fluid thing—one that can change with student interests and needs.

Overall, I plan to consider some of the aspects of Cardozo’s syllabus assignment as I continue to craft my own syllabus for this course, and then later consider some type of blended assignment as I mentioned above.

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