The September Cordes Chairperson for the Wally Cordes Teaching and Faculty Support Center, Stephanie Schulte, chair and associate professor, Department of Communication gave a talk entitled “Keeping It Fresh: Curiosity and Experimentation in the Classroom.” She talked about tactics that she uses to keep her students (and herself!) interested and engaged in class material.
Collaborative syllabus came in response to Adrienne Rich’s call for students to not just “get” their education but “claim” their education. Dr. Schulte considered how the students could claim their education when she was the one picking out the syllabus before she had even met the students. She comes to class the first day only having mapped out the first two weeks of classes. On the first day of class, she offers students a list of thirty topics that they can choose from and answers any basic questions they may have about those subjects. She then lets them add any topics that they want to include in the class. After that, a survey is created that asks the students to identify their favorite topics and their least favorite topics. The students then identify readings and podcasts that they are interested in to go along with those topics. She even allows them to give feedback on how they are assessed on the subjects.
“It is a ton of work, and it’s absolutely worth it.”
Both Dr. Schulte and the students enjoy this method. The students express more ownership of the coursework and sometimes even continue to send her ideas for readings after the semester is over.
She’s tried to include more experiential learning opportunities in the classroom. One of the activities that she does is that she has students read the terms and conditions of their favorite apps from start to finish and write about what they learned. She then has them role play that they are workers at a tech company that are trying to maximize the amount of data and resources that they can extract from users using what they learned by reading the Terms and Conditions. She then flips that and has them role play members of a consumer advocacy group that wants to protect users and their data. The third scenario is that the students are legislators who must make the decision of what restrictions to put on the allowable Terms and Conditions.
Dr. Schulte has tried to maximize the amount that she allows her pedagogy to show. As she moves through the semester she tries to explain what she’s doing with the different activities in class, and how they will benefit the students’ learning. An example of this is how she explains the importance of having a diversified syllabus, because research shows that representation in classes matters, and it leads students to be more able to accept diversified perspectives later in diverse globalized work places.