The new semester’s start date, August 26 for Virginia Tech, is in the now-near approaching horizon, and this means that even if we haven’t actually started back-to-school work properly, many of us probably are starting back-to-school thinking. As Fall 2019 approaches, we intend to share a few generative links, resources that have floated by on the social media streams in recent months.
Approaches to class preparation vary quite a bit. What, maybe some reading, a cluster map, or reverse engineering from descriptions of major projects to the daily activities and correspondences with program outcomes that each choice underscores. And then there is the tone setting document de jure, the course syllabus, intricately developed and widely discussed, subject to a great variety of strong reactions (too long! too short! too intricate! too slapdash!). Tom Deans’ January 2019 advice piece in the Chronicle, “Yes, Your Syllabus is Way Too Long,” picks up the too-long commonplace and responds with several invaluable insights about syllabus development, distinguishing the document as something more like a genre set–a collection of documents interdependently designed to foster continuing social action.
Virginia Tech’s Composition Program encourages reflection on syllabi with consideration given especially to how the document initiates and also carries out the basic goals of the curriculum (ENGL1105 and ENGL1106). Syllabi, understood this way, should be written accessibly (see the Accessible Syllabus project) to students (second person pronouns), perhaps even shared with students in such a way that invites their input and co-shaping (in particular sections or overall). And syllabi might also be revisited throughout a semester, read again in part or in whole during Week Five and again in Week Ten. Practices like these treat the syllabus as a living document whose occasional consultation is warranted for its reiteration of what matters most in a college-level writing class.
At hokieswrite.com, we’ve included a link to a baseline syllabus, which is offered to guide, support, and present suggestions for instructors. If you would like to set up a time to discuss your syllabus for Fall 2019 or anything else related to your preparations for fall, please reach out to the leadership team or send questions to composition AT vt.edu.