Finally revisiting the subject of feature creep:
I revise my syllabi every semester. Typically I change twenty to thirty percent of a course’s content and assignments each time I teach it. After nearly two decades (eek!) of teaching undergraduates, I now find myself stripping things out. My philosophical approach to syllabus-building has changed from “what do I think students should know about X?” to “what might make students want to learn more about X?”
The long and jargon-laden peer-reviewed journal article by a famous theorist in the field? Gone. Students will regard the time and effort spent trying to decipher the terrible writing as wasted because the article is irrelevant to why they enrolled in the course.
Similarly, I no longer think about assignments only as tools for finding out whether people have learned something. Instead I try to craft them as opportunities for students to become interested in solving unfamiliar problems in creative ways. Some students seize these opportunities and run with them. Others don’t. But they decide this; I can’t make the decision for them. I suppose my next post will need to explain this a bit more.