Response to John’s Challenge: My syllabus

Aug 11, 2011 by     2 Comments    Posted under: Uncategorized

This post is in response to John’s challenge of creating an inspiring syllabus.  I had a syllabus that I had worked very hard on, and used it with little to no modification for several years.  It was good, or so I thought.  Honestly, I hadn’t really read it through for a couple of years.  So what changed?  A TON!

First, I am going to try my best at the modeling method this year.  So, my syllabus had to reflect that.

Second, and probably more importantly, my first syllabus really sucked.  The language was a downer, not inspiring at all.  Why did I give that to my kids?!?  The modifications I made to the old syllabus through the years were things like, if you turn things in late you will be severely punished with deduction on points, and other things along those lines.  It was a set of rules you must follow, or else!  I know this old syllabus evolved out of frustration, and I this new syllabus evolved out of inspiration.

Large parts were borrowed from Kelly O’Shea, she is such a fantastic writer, that I had to use it.  In fact, I had to force myself to not copy her entire syllabi, it took me more than a week to write something that I was happy with and not completely copy Kelly.  What a gift to be able to do physics and write!

So here it is:
Gen Physics Fall 2011

The things I really like about this syllabus are:

The first page, although my brother the graphic artist would puke at the layout, I like the message.

I also like the parts I copied from Kelly about using a pencil, honor code, and the part about getting sleep in the homework section.

I like the sustained effort part, also idea from Kelly, but I forced myself to write it in my own voice.


Thank you so much John for your challenge.  You helped me make my class just a tad bit brighter and better.  You and Kelly  rock!!

2 Comments + Add Comment

  • I like this a lot. I particularly like the sections on study hints—I don’t think students get enough specific advice on how to study, and I like how the whole document really speaks to a process of learning by making mistakes and learning from them.

    I totally ripped off Kelly’s stuff to re-design my course description, which I’ll post soon.

    • Thanks John! Kelly is awesome! (and so are you) :)
      A presenter at JPL said today: Increasing the Awesome, and decreasing the suck. I like this saying, and I think I’m going to be using it a lot. You both are doing this.

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