Spring semester syllabi shifts

The SF State Academic Senate recently passed a policy that will require faculty to include on their syllabi University-approved student learning outcomes.

These outcomes will be linked to assignments students must complete to demonstrate their competency.

“The policy was proposed with an interest to create a common understanding between students and faculty about academic goals,” said Shawn Whalen, chairman of the Academic Senate.

The new policy, he said, will apply to GE courses in the “entire undergraduate experience” and will serve as a guideline in helping the senate determine how students learn course objectives best.

However, Fram Paiz, 20, a junior and pre-nursing major at SF State, believes the new policy will add unnecessary work to each of his GE classes.

He assumes that professors and lecturers will have to give a number of assignments that is equivalent to the number of learning outcomes.

“Now there’s motivation to excel in GE classes,” he said.

Even though the senate passed the policy on Nov. 2, President Robert A. Corrigan waited until the morning of Dec. 7 to sign it. The policy will take effect at the start of the spring 2011 semester.

Whalen said the senate revised and renewed the University’s baccalaureate degree requirements last spring and as a result, agreed to enforce the syllabi policy.

Professor Margaret Lynch, who has a doctorate degree in psychology and teaches a general psychology course at SF State, believes the new policy will benefit students more than anyone.

“It is essential that students have a variety of ways to demonstrate academic achievement. For example, through writing and testing,” Lynch said, who is currently reviewing more than 700 papers from her students.

A document available through the senate’s website shows an example of what GE course syllabi will constitute in the spring as a result of the new policy.

As of fall 2010, all course syllabi required the instructor’s name and contact information, office location and phone number, office hours, the course title and number, a list of texts and materials to be used throughout the course – including any additional fees or costs – as well as a description of the grading policy and teaching methods, according to the SF State Academic Senate website.

With the new policy in place, GE course syllabi in the spring will also include a chart that shows each assignment and its grade value followed by one or more learning outcomes students will meet by completing the assignment.

For instance, one of the learning outcomes for lower division written English communication is, “Articulate, in written essays, (the student’s) understanding and appreciation of multiple forms and variations of human diversity, both within the United States and globally.”

The senate’s revision of GE course syllabi will now require faculty to assign an activity to the students in order to prove they fulfilled the student-learning outcome.

“The recently approved syllabi policy will provide a record to the University that will allow the Academic Senate to ask, ‘did these assignments really help a student’s learning?'” Whalen Said. “But it won’t mean a great deal of change.”

According to the University’s website, each GE course has its own list of student learning outcomes.

Paiz, who thinks of GE courses as an opportunity to relax from his demanding science classes said, “I’ll have to be more attentive in class and probably put (in) more effort.”

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