Classroom Minutes and Syllabus Design

I am dividing my Corporations casebook to fit the fourth different classroom schedule I’ve had this decade.  It is a taxing but valuable exercise, from a pedagogical standpoint.

At Boston College from 2002 to 2005, my 3-credit class met twice weekly for 90 minutes and I tailored my syllabus accordingly.  From 2007 to 2010, at George Washington, my 4-credit class met thrice weekly for 75 minutes, and I re-sliced, and slightly expanded, my course.

Visiting at Fordham this term, my 4-credit class is meeting twice weekly for 100 minutes; the syllabus I’m designing this week is for my visit at Cardozo in the Spring, where my 4-credit class will meet once per week for 110 minutes and twice per week for 50 minutes.  And at Cardozo, the Corporations course includes a mandatory separate sequence on Accounting, so the syllabus design is a bit more complex yet, as I incorporate material from another book.

In each exercise, the task entails assigning a set of materials, each defined as a teaching unit.  The pros and cons of the various combinations emerge, revealing how a given topic can be either expanded or contracted or linked in new ways with other units.   The exercise adds perspective on the materials for the teacher which should enrich the student experience.

Particularly interesting is how, at least as the book is designed, some topics are best suited for 50 or 75 minute units while others are better suited for the longer 90 to 110 minute slots.  That  knowledge will help me as I revise the book for its 8th edition next summer, trying to provide materials that can be readily sliced into separate series of 50 versus 75 versus 100 minute blocks.

As you can guess from the fact that I just diverted 20 minutes to writing this post, syllabus redesign to accommodate teaching minutes is not the most stimulating of activities. It is less interesting and less valuable than switching books, and is hardly as taxing.  Still, the exercise shows the value of variety.  Time to get back to it.

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2 Responses

  1. I face this dilemma as a casebook author. I wrote the book based on what I knew: 28 classes of 75 minutes each. But this semester, I’m teaching the same course as 13 classes of 120 minutes and 13 classes of 55 minutes. Meanwhile, I had a colleague ask the quite reasonable question of how to pare the book down to be suitable for a seminar format meeting once a week for 2 credits rather than twice for 3. That pretty much shredded my ideas about having only self-contained units. Modularity is a virtue, but at the same time, there’s a real value in having a class session cohere, with the different materials reinforcing each other.

  2. A.J. Sutter says:

    I just wish I knew enough about teaching to be able to plan adequately for my one class format — my hat’s off to both you and Jim!