Monday, May 23, 2011
A need for structure
As I think probably became clear last week, I'm a details and process person. I spent my time last week trying to logistically account for the six different courses we're trying to offer next winter. How will we be able to "prove" to the administration and other departments that students are meeting the guidelines for a 4- or 5-unit course? I *think* I figured out a way, and I shared it last week. To me, nothing can move forward until we determine this issue, whereas other people thought I was crazy. But accountability matters in issues like these, and if we want to convince faculty and students to participate, I think we have to show them how it might work. We're talking about 100 students here--the positive impact could be huge, but so could the negative.
I am still struggling to figure out some logistical details, and realize that I still don't have a good sense of how "Sustain" time will work. For instance, if we're saying that 2-5 M-F is Sustain time, what does that mean in terms of classroom space? If Physics 121 and PSC 101 can meet at the same time with the same instructor, where will they meet? Will there be a room big enough for 70 students? And will the space be conducive to active learning (i.e. not lecture, but other types of classroom activities)? Space constraints are a huge issue in my department, as we do a lot of groupwork and are often "stuck" in classrooms that have immovable desks. What about labs for these 70 students? Will there be lab space to accommodate them all during the Sustain times? And, how will students know where to go each day? That is, if HIST 216, PHYS 121, COMS 102, and PSC 101 all meet from 2-5 M-F, how will students know which classroom/lab to go to on which day? And, if some students are taking COMS 102, but others are taking ENGL 134, what will the ENGL 134 students be doing during the Sustain time that focuses on COMS 102? Presumably they will have already had that course, so what would they do with those hours in the day?
These questions seem picky and small to some--like details that can be ironed out later. But in my experience with curriculum planning, it's details like this that can make or break a project. I don't need to know what will happen in each of those courses; I agree that what unfolds will be un-plannable to an extent. But I need to understand the structure for students and for faculty--where they will go when. Or I at least need to see a possible plan for structure, rather like my possible plan for how these courses could be scheduled during those hours. I think a good many faculty are in my position, and I think the project will be more successful if we can demonstrate that we've thought these things through as far as possible. There will always be hiccups along the way, but planning is key.