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If my syllabus could talk: what would it say about me?

BEFORE YOU PREPARE YOUR SYLLABI FOR YOUR NEXT SEMESTER COURSES, I would suggest that you read Monica D'Antonio's lively article in the July 19, 2007 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education ("If Your Syllabus Could Talk," http:// After I read the article, my first impulse was to review all of my course outlines very carefully. I wanted to know what they said about me.

As I scanned my syllabi, I corrected the errant referencing errors that I encourage my students to avoid in their written documents. And, to make sure the directions for class papers and evaluation mechanisms were very clear, I asked a colleague who is in another academic field to review them for me. I wanted her to clarify the academic jargon that is perhaps understood by other professors (or not) and rarely understood by clinician students.

D'Antonio was assigned the task of reviewing more than 400 syllabi at her institution (a task undoubtedly akin to preparing the self-study for accreditation review). She learned that, through their syllabi, she got to know her fellow faculty--the apathetic and the lazy, the diligent and the compulsive. But most significantly, she found an inattention to proofreading and a failure to check spelling, failures of behavior we find intolerable in our students.

I have always completed my course syllabi just because, as faculty, we are required to do so. However, I have been aware that there are those who rarely prepare their own, who find it acceptable to copy another professor's work without even asking. Is this plagiarism, a behavior that we make sure our students know is unethical? Or does the syllabus, rather than constituting the intellectual property of the professor, belong to the institution?

You may argue that there is nothing unique about your syllabi compared to those of other faculty. But, in fact, good teachers know that it takes creative energy and concentrated work to determine the best readings for each topic listed on course outlines. And it is creativity that is lauded in D'Antonio's essay.

Perhaps there is a direct relationship between creativity in the syllabus and creativity in teaching. After reading D'Antonio's work, I sought out Internet resources to see what else I might need to know. Naturally, I found more information than I would have thought possible, along with some great teaching tips. Have I been taking this teaching activity too much for granted?

I am now looking forward to completely overhauling all of the syllabi for all of my courses. I am confident that the changes I have made--and will make--will have a positive influence on my teaching. Routine course outlines will never be part of my routine again!

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Title Annotation:From the Editor
Author:Fitzpatrick, Joyce J.
Publication:Nursing Education Perspectives
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2008
Previous Article:Embracing education in its broadest sense.
Next Article:Quality and safety education.

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