Saturday, April 15, 2006

Curriculum, Pt. 2

The reponses to my Curriculum Manifesto are in-- and I'm surprised by the interest (thanks entirely to Josh at Hyku). I was especially glad to hear from the students at other schools.

Curriculum is a tough issue. As a faculty, you have to work together to figure out what students want and need for a career in PR, balance that with rules and recommendations made by accrediting and professional organizations (ACEJMC and PRSA, for example), and then figure out who among you can teach what you want to offer.

For example, the PR Comm class I teach eats up a lot of faculty time and energy. There are 16 computers per lab, so if you increase the size of the major, as we have at UGA in the past few years, it means adding more sections rather than having larger classes (we consider 15 or so the maximum number that a writing instructor can reasonably handle). If you add more sections of PR Comm, you have to offer fewer sections of something else, or make other classes bigger. Or, as I hope to do, you have to figure out a more efficient way to teach it.

So, it's not just a matter of us being lazy or purposely offering outdated curricula. Like everything else, it's a matter of balancing resources (time, money) with all kinds of expectations from internal and external constituencies.

As for UGA, my Manifesto unfortunately offended one of my colleagues, but the others are interested and agree that it's time for some changes, so we're having a meeting in a couple of weeks (it was a poor choice of words on my part that made it sound like I was denigrating a particular class, which was certainly not my intention). I'll post an update at that time.

Hi Karen,

it's pretty refreshing to see a teacher in general, not just in PR, take a moment to really reflect on the overall curriculum and how the students will be leaving the university. Don't get me wrong, I know most teachers have the good intention of teaching us what we need to know, but it is really easy for a student to have graduated without some valuable information which just slipped through the cracks in their college career.

I'm a junior at Auburn in PR, but also in Spanish, and although I am very satsified with the PR program here, I'm not so satisfied with Spanish. I have often thought about sharing my thoughts as a student on how classes need to be taught for us to be able to walk away with a degree in Spanish from Auburn and actually have it mean something. Or atleast not be laughed at when we get into the real world and it turns out that despite our degreee, we really don't know what we're doing. I went to a high school that had an amazing language department and I took amazing AP classes and since I have gotten to college, I have had one or two classes in Spanish at Auburn that have really challenged me.

As a professor at a similarly large state school, how do you think a manifesto would be accepted by faculty from a student if it was written with respect?
Hi Ashley! I've taken a few hours to think about your question because I feel like I'm stepping into a minefield on this one.

My immediate reaction was "of course faculty would be interested." But then I started thinking of a few times when people have been annoyed by student (or recent graduate) feedback--and not because their ideas were bad. Let me explain by giving an example: our graduates always say they wish they'd been able to take classes in the business school. We wish they could, too, but we don't control business classes, and if our students can't get in, there's not much we can do about it. (The business school has their own problem matching faculty, courses, resources, etc. just like we do.) So then you feel as if the person's comments, while sincere, are uninformed and you might have a tendency to dismiss them.

So, my recommendation to you is to talk to some sympathetic or open-minded faculty members you know (maybe the ones who offered the classes that really challenged you) rather than writing a manifesto. You might find out from them why the department is doing what it's doing and provide informal feedback that's grounded in the facts of their situation.

Also, do you know if they offer exit interviews or any other kind of student assessment? We do research on our recent graduates to get feedback. That would give you another opportunity for you to let them know that they could be doing more or try some new things that might be more effective.

Hope this helps! Karen
thanks for the advice, I can see how there is probably a lot to deal with and perhaps there is a struggle going on in the department that I donĀ“t even know about. I will have to check on the exit interviews and graduate feedback. Thanks again
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"More important than the curriculum is the question of the methods of teaching and the spirit in which the teaching is given" --Bertrand Russell

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