2

In my university, every faculty member has to submit a handout at the semester beginning for his(her) course. The handout is basically a list of topics (a syllabus) that needs to be taught to the (to be)registered students. The examination questions must also focus on the topics from the submitted handout.

At the end of the semester, many a time I have been a part of the informal discussions related to the topic "How much syllabus have we completed at the end?"

I do not only find this discussion illogical but also very strange. I believe that the completion of the syllabus depends on

  • The registered student group (their individual effort in the course, their own standard, capability, intelligence etc.)
  • The intention of the teacher (how much depth is (s)he reaching into during the teaching, assignments, projects etc.)

My university and administration often ask this question formally to the students (during their teaching feedback) as well as to the faculty members during the annual appraisal.

I have the following questions and I seek some advice on this aspect.

  • Does it make sense to just say that syllabus is completed in which students get almost nothing?
  • Is it not worth teaching some small amount but in an optimal way so that the students would get the true knowledge from the course and could apply whatever they learned?
  • What do we actually mean by the term "syllabus completed" -- Do we mean "students learned everything that we taught" or "we taught everything, but don't care about students learning"?

Inputs:

  • I am not considering the extreme classes of the students i.e. genius guys and the dull guys.
  • I discussed informally with one of the professors involved with teaching administration, but the discussion was inconclusive.
  • 2
    The completion of a syllabus in many (if not most of the) cases does not depend on the students, but just on what the professor delivers during the lectures. – Massimo Ortolano Jun 25 '17 at 19:50
  • 2
    @MassimoOrtolano But then isn't there an assumption that the students understanding everything that has been delivered. Or, am I wasting more time on this aspect of my teaching? – Coder Jun 25 '17 at 20:08
  • 2
    @Coder It depends a lot on the local academic culture. When I was a student, professors would deliver the lectures and if the students couldn't keep up, well, too bad for them. Nowadays, in many universities, students are more followed, but I would consider very rare the case of a professor who shrinks their syllabus on the fly just because the students show poor understanding of the material. – Massimo Ortolano Jun 25 '17 at 20:18
  • 2
    [cont'd] At the same time, exposure is very good, if we don't try to "test" on it in the usual style which poses as testing "mastery". I do try to distinguish (for grad students and undergrads) what I expect from them, which things are for "exposure", versus basic things. Yes, of course, some undergrads complain that anything not on the final is just an irrelevant burden to them. :) – paul garrett Jun 25 '17 at 20:35
  • 3
    And I'd forgotten another point: especially in undergrad curricula, perhaps especially calculus, subsequent courses (in principle) demand substantial acquaintance with a certain list of topics, expected to be covered in the previous course. Thus, in the earlier course, it's akin to catching a train or a flight: doesn't matter how good a reason you have, you have to show up, in some condition or other. Not to mention "common finals" for multi-section courses. Thus, even if the instructor of one class tries to make-sane the syllabus, this can be a short-term liability for students... – paul garrett Jun 25 '17 at 22:15
6

This sounds a lot like a "rantion". :) I'll try an answer, but most of what I writing is a truism.

Does it make sense to just say that syllabus is completed in which students get almost nothing?

There are two different questions: was everything that was on the syllabus covered in the class? and were the lectures helpful and sufficient to learn the required material?. Both should be asked to the students. They should not be mixed up.

Is it not worth teaching some small amount but in an optimal way so that the students would get the true knowledge from the course and could apply whatever they learned?

Clearly, there is a balance to be found between amount of material covered and depth/effectiveness of the lectures. For each course there are different reasonable balance points, and it's the job of a competent teacher to find one of them.

What do we actually mean by the term "syllabus completed" -- Do we mean "students learned everything that we taught" or "we taught everything, but don't care about students learning"?

The second. The first one is a separate question, equally important (see above).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.