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The First Day: A No-Droning Approach to Introducing the Syllabus

Author: Margie Whalen Subject: All subjects Created: 2017-02-06
From The Author We'll all seen it; perhaps we've all done it: on the first day, the professor calls roll, then hands out the syllabus, reads it aloud as students become increasingly glassy-eyed, and closes by asking, "Any questions?" and is met by silence. Not the ideal model for student engagement, right? This collaborative, interactive approach shifts that dynamic. In this model, the reading of the syllabus becomes interactive, personal, and purposeful. - Margie Whalen

Impact on Faculty

Faculty will respond to student questions.
Faculty will establish from the first day an expectation of student engagement.

Impact on Students

Students will read the syllabus actively, processing its information through the lens of their own questions.

Students will work together collaboratively.

Toolkit Survey

Toolkit Overview

In this collaborative approach to introducing the syllabus on the first day, small groups of students come up with a list of questions they have about the course, then read the syllabus to find the answers to their questions, noting those questions that are unanswered or that need further clarification from the instructor. Those unanswered questions are then addressed in a whole-class setting.

Steps To Implement

1. Have students form small groups of 3-5.
2. Students choose a recorder--the person who will write down their list of questions.
3. The groups work together to come up with a list of questions they have about the class. I generally ask for 7 questions.
4. Once the groups have a list of 7 questions, they send a representative up to show the instructor that they've completed their list and to get copies of the syllabus for their group.
5. With their recorder reading their questions back to them, the group works together to find the answers to their questions. (Having the recorder write down the answers is optional; I generally do not require this, but faculty in very large classes might want to do so.)
6. If there are questions that are not answered or that are not answered clearly enough, students are asked to note them.
7. Once all of the groups are finished, the class is re-convened to a whole-class setting, and students ask their questions of the instructor, who clarifies them for the whole class.
8. An optional follow-up would be for the instructor to take up the original questions and use them to create a mock quiz on the syllabus for the next day to insure that students processed the key points. (While we are often exasperated when students do not know all of our rules and expectations, it is useful to remember that they are usually taking multiple courses, each with its own set of guidelines, policies, and expectations.)