In our continued efforts to improve the base syllabus requirements for use in English 106 and 108, and respond to student feedback about our courses, we have updated an important portion of this year’s syllabus checklist: the syllabus approach description. Rather than simply asking instructors to include a version of the official syllabus approach description, we are asking that new syllabi take that description a step further and include a statement on how the approach will be enacted for that specific course, and how assignments reflect the approach’s enactment. These simple additions offer a new level of clarity for students entering the composition classroom, and allow instructors a point of reflection on their course and assignment sequences.
Not only do these improved syllabus approach descriptions offer students a better understanding of the purpose of the syllabus approach, they are a professional development tool for our instructors. Explaining ICaP’s syllabus approach system can be difficult, especially in relation to how it impacts course design. A more robust description on the syllabus gives instructors a chance to think about those connections long before the necessity of explaining in an interview. Here’s an example (for a Digital Rhetorics syllabus):
During the course, we establish digital rhetorics as an umbrella term for the way in which we interact with information today, beginning with the professional email assignment (exploring a common digital genre) and technology literacy narrative, a prompt which requires self-exploration into connections to technology. This course does not aim to study digital rhetorics as a type of cultural studies separate from ourselves, but instead as the very grounding of our ability to find, interpret, and use information in the digital age. With more and more information being stored and created digitally, students need to develop a research literacy—skills fostered by our extended research project—that will help them not only understand these issues, but overcome and utilize them as well. This does not mean simply covering these concepts during class lectures and discussions, but rather putting these ideas into practice with the ways we write and design.
Guidelines will be available when the syllabus checklist goes out later this week, but if instructors have any questions, we will be happy to help develop this adjustment to syllabi.
Also new this semester: Linda Haynes has developed a syllabus template which integrates the checklist. This new version, based on the materials given to new instructors, offers instructors a second way to check their syllabus, and provides robust examples of policies and possibilities. Not sure how to frame something? Check the template for examples. The traditional syllabus checklist will also be available; this new template is meant to be a resource to help instructors build their own documents.
We welcome instructor feedback and continued suggestions for resources which can support teaching.