January 02, 2004

How much reading can I expect a student to do?

I just finished my draft syllabi for the West Coast job. I will proof-read them later then email them out.

For the Age of Jefferson, I think I have assigned too much reading. I am used to teaching over a 13 week semester, this is a 9-week quarter. I am used to teaching students who are taking four or five 3-credit classes. These student will be taking three 4-credit or 5-credit classes.

The rule of thumb is to expect 2 hours outside the classroom for every hour inside the classroom. Folks vary on whether that includes time spent studying for special events like midterms and papers, or if that is just for the plain baseline reading. I am expecting my students to spend 10 hours a week reading and doing homework, which means that I can reasonably assign 200 to 300 pages of reading each week. Well, 300 is unreasonable, especially if it is heavy stuff.

Here is my proposed workload for one week.

Week Three: France
Monday: Personal Tragedy
Tuesday: Salons
Wednesday: Revolution
Thursday: Constitution
Jefferson, Autobiography, 1781-1789 54-101
Federalist 1, 10, 25, 29, 38, 39, 51, 72, 73.
Jefferson, Letters, 1783-1790, Peterson 843-919.
Write a 2 page paper responding to the primary documents in some manner.

It is a hefty reading load, but the class is intended for juniors and seniors at a pretty good comprehensive state university.

Expectations are hard to manage, especially because the kids will always complain that you have given them too much work. It can be hard to separate the signal from the noise. I lost a lot of sympathy for poor overworked students the semester where I had some whiners complaining that I was killing them, and then the end-of-year survey showed that half the class was putting in 3 hours a week or less outside the classroom.

Still, there is such a thing as assigning more than the kids can do.

And so to work up Western Civ

Posted by Red Ted at January 2, 2004 10:57 AM | TrackBack