Wednesday, 15 November 2006

Sales job

For the first time in my life, the spirit moved me to create flyers for the Congress class that I am teaching next semester. I’m not entirely comfortable with advertising “no prerequisites” as a selling point, but then again there are no prerequisites—indeed, I don’t think our intro to American politics class, despite its popularity with undergrads, is actually required for anything at all in our curriculum at present.

The next step is to finalize a syllabus; I have an outline that I think will work well, but I’d like to nail down the dates for each topic and the content of the assignments.

Incidentally, I haven’t taught a MWF class since my days as a graduate instructor—if even then—and next semester I’ve lucked into two of them (Congress and intro). I am not at all a fan of the 50-minute class, and it's going to play havoc with my in-class exams in intro, but I suppose I will adapt. At least methods is only scheduled MW…


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I LOATHE MWF classes. In lower division classes it interrupts the lecture/discussion pattern and in upper division classes the student discussions are watered down and disjointed. And forget about regular quizzes. On quiz days you will only get through half of something at best.

I have to give exams over two days in upper division courses and re-scale my lower division courses to have about 25 MC, 3–5 short answer(answerable in 3–5 sentences), and 2–3 short essay (answerable in 2–3 paragraphs)....even then there are always two or three who can’t finish in 50 min.

Like I said…I absolutely hate them (and I’m teaching three this semester….)

No prereq for Congress? Am Gvt – with a grade of C or better— is a prereq for pretty much every American and Public Admin/ Public Policy course here.


I do my quizzes online in intro, so class time is less of an issue, but the MWF schedule is still a bit choppy for me.

Yeah, we don’t have any prereqs for most things in the curriculum; that’s probably one of the first things that will be changed after they make the new hire—at least if it’s me ☺—because 110 (Intro) needs to be a prereq for a lot of upper division American classes.


Count yourself lucky that these are the first MWF classes you’ve had in a while. We alternate semesters here – one semester TTh, the next semester MWF. It is a royal pain – not only for exams but also for lecture/class outlines (how do you fit a topic that you have outlined to take up a 1hr and 15 minute session into one or two 50 minute classes? I’ve figured it out, but I’m still not happy about it.)

As for exams – I have had to cut down the amount that I ask. I generally will ask for some short identifications (4–5 sentences) and a longer essay (2–3 pages.) In the 50 minute classes I had to cut down the IDs from 5 to 3 and I also had to cut down my expectations for the essays. I tend to ask a question that simply requires regurgitation of material from the lectures and textbooks whereas in the longer class period I might actually ask them to apply a theory to some actual events. It’s not ideal but unless I took up 2 class periods with the exam, I didn’t really have any other option.

Another solution I’ve tried is to have more frequent exams – instead of one mid-term and a final, I’ve done 2 mid-terms and a final. Again. it’s a pain – the students don’t like it and it’s more grading.


Yeah, I’m not all that sure on the alternating schedules thing either. Most people seem to be on the TR or MW afternoon schedule for next semester; perhaps if I’d complained enough I could have done that too.

I actually liked the WF schedule I had at Duke; it was particularly good for working around job interviews. I don’t think the students liked it much though.

[Permalink] 5. DukeAlumna wrote @ Wed, 15 Nov 2006, 9:13 pm CST:

Hi Chris,

Speaking of Duke, KC Johnson and a couple of other profs have an interesting discussion going on about the behavior of the “Duke Group of 88” around the Lacrosse Incident. I know once upon a time you followed that pretty closely; do you have any thoughts/feelings/comments to add on that discussion? ( and read the comments….

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