Classhacks: Syllabus Surprise

PapersIn the August 26 edition of the online magazine Slate, education columnist Rebecca Schuman decries the current bloating of syllabi in college courses. Her article, “Syllabus Tyrannus: The decline and fall of the American university is written in 25-page course syllabi” details how these gargantuan documents came to be, and opines that the really important material can still be covered “in a page or two.” No wonder instructors have resorted to syllabus quizzes in an effort to coax students to read the darn things.

Schuman has come up with a nifty little trick to encourage her students to read the whole thing. Here’s how she describes it:

“My own method is to simply assign my syllabus as the course’s first reading, with the warning: “I will know if you haven’t read it.” Half of my students think I’m bluffing, so they don’t read all the way to the end, where I’ve put both sincere congratulations and a directive to email me with a question, for credit. Imagine their horror when their first grade in my course is an F for an assignment they didn’t even know existed. (Since my syllabus explains that I accept late assignments, though, the F is fleeting.)”sorpresa

What do you think? Is it worth a try? You can read the entire article, which may have you pounding your desk and shouting “Amen to that!” by clicking here.


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