Last week, inspired by our readings and discussions and by the group of students that I am currently teaching, I decided to rebuild my syllabus and completely change what we do with our class time. I came to class with a new set of requirements and a new outline for our meetings. I was quite excited about this change as I felt like I was changing the classroom to suit the students and I thought that I was actually using the concept of the “open syllabus” to do this.
But a few days ago I realized that even though I changed the classroom to better meet the needs and realities of my current students, I was still creating the requirements, content and direction. Even though they have told me that they like the changes and have been staying engaged and productive, I faced the fact that this change was not student generated.
Some of my training in education and, more specifically, an article by the Carnegie Foundation on teaching and learning from which I have built my teaching practice (http://www.hewlett.org/uploads/files/BasicSkillsforComplexLives.pdf) stated that adults need structure in the classroom. Also, in order to have lessons that achieve any kind of intended learning, I have to plan them ahead of time.
How do we create an environment of structure, intentional learning, and challenge with an “open syllabus”? What ideas do you have or what have you seen that works?