The Faculty-Student Course Design Collaboration had its final meeting yesterday. All attending felt that the process was worthwhile. I asked the students and faculty to come to the final meeting with some thoughts on what they learned. Results were interesting, and we are still assessing how the collaboration worked. I hope that we can offer this type of collaboration in the future.
In terms of learning, some of the students remarked that they learned just how much work goes into the development of a syllabus. One went so far as to say she would never again just stuff it in her bag, never letting it again see the light of day. We laughed that perhaps for this class she could get it autographed!
Other comments included how personal professors take our work – and students were not necessarily surprised by this as much as they had just never thought about it. They commented on the vulnerability that faculty admitted to having – we don’t always *know* what will work with a class. One student indicated that she now has a different sense of what it must be like to ask a question to a class and get no response. She says she will forge ahead, attempt to overcome her own shyness, and answer the question in order to help the professor.
Another student commented that having seen the entire process of developing assignments has made her more appreciative of the work that went into creating them. Related to that, students expressed with a bit of surprise that faculty really want feedback on how assignments worked and/or how they could be improved.
I think the faculty learned as much – if not more – than the students. I know that the month has been an enriching one for me in terms of learning how much students truly will do if you explain the reasons for the assignments. They want to know why they are asked to do what we ask them to do – but if they understand the reasoning for it, they will rise to the occasion. My two students were adamant that the research paper be at least 10-15 pages so that they could learn how to develop an idea in written form. Developing learning goals with my students was a good way to get them to think in the larger context of the entire course. Another positive experience for me was the negotiation we had on the weight of the different assignments, as well as working out the timeline for when elements of the semester-long research paper will be due for our course.
And I really do feel like it is “our” course. My two students don’t feel that they have any type of “edge” on the other students in terms of content (something I have worried about a bit). They did not have time to read as much as they will during the actual semester, and I felt that finding readings was my responsibility. But they feel like they had a hand in how the course will run, how the assignments will be weighted, and where the readings should come in the course of the semester.
For that reason, I am happy to begin “our” course starting next week.