The Syllabus

Perhaps one of the first first things that should be discussed (it typically being the first thing students want to see) is the syllabus. I will describe what went into the syllabus for our section of Calculus I and why we choose to keep or loose certain parts of the initial proposed syllabus. I also want to compare what went into the syllabus with what should be in a syllabus (according to Thomas W. Rishel -- author of "Teaching First A Guide for New Mathematicians").

This being the first time I had to help construct and critique a syllabus for a first semester Calculus section, I had expectations of simply stating the crucial components of the class: grading scale, required texts, office hours, etc. As a student I mostly cared for grading scales and for the percentage of my final grade for which homework, tests, and quizzes counted. After reading Rishel's book I understood the need to have a more complete syllabus. Rishel describes the syllabus as a contract between the professor and the students. I very much agree with this! I, as a student have always looked at a syllabus as what was expected from me and from the professor. Rishel continues to describe a syllabus as something that should be more than just a summary of the course.

As for the syllabus created for Barry McQuarrie's Calculus class, much of what Rishel said should be in a syllabus was in the syllabus (and then some!). The syllabus that Barry and I decided on actually came from a past spring semester Calculus I course, and so most (if not all) of the necessary components were in place. This was nice, since that left us with mulling over whether or not we should do applied projects and in-class homework presentations. In retrospect, the completeness and thoroughness of the syllabus is far beyond what Rishel ever advised in his book (which makes sense since Rishel's audience is probably comprised of new first-time teachers). Rishel's recommendations for what should be in a syllabus merely scratches the surface of what is in the syllabus for our Calculus I course.

I planned on describing the syllabus, but instead I find it more useful to simply provide a link: syllabus.

The second week of class I found myself needing to look at the syllabus to remind a student (and myself) of the agreement dealing with late homework. Despite having read the syllabus several times over just a week before I felt the need to keep in mind my part of the "contract."
Having such a complete account of what is expected from both sides of the classroom is not only helpful to students, but also to TA's such as myself. While our syllabus is rather lengthy, it does not set an example of what should be in every course syllabus. Obviously each class varies from subject to subject and from teacher to teacher, and each syllabus should vary accordingly. 


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This page contains a single entry by David Nieves published on February 3, 2010 4:01 PM.

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