Pedagogy Now! Teaching Teachers to Teach

Attached is a PDF of the 2012 SPE presentation by Janie, Suz and Angela. This is intended to be helpful in jumpstarting ideas surrounding the topics. It is, of course, missing our fabulous presenter skills! Please note that movies are inactive and not all the links translated as live in this PDF, however there should be enough info to point you in the right direction for further research.


What is a Course Description?

A course description provides a general overview of course content and fills in some of the blanks that learning outcomes don’t address.

It is generally expressed in a narrative way, and, while it may contain some of the same information as the learning outcomes for the course, it contains far more detail about content.  Here is an example of the learning outcomes for an Intermediate Drawing class:

• Students will be able to evaluate and draw objects using correct proportions, perspective and lighting (value contrast) in a series of drawings.

• Students will demonstrate their ability to conduct visual analysis of drawings (in terms of form, color, line, etc.) through oral and written exercises.

• Students will demonstrate in their drawings an ability to use the medium to intentionally express complex ideas.

Contrast that with the following course description for this course:

“The purpose of this course is to enhance the student’s understanding of two-dimensional form and how to communicate with the visual elements of drawing. It builds upon the fundamental visual principals learned in foundations classes, and furthers the student’s ability to use drawing as a means of ideation. Students will be able to evaluate an object and draw it correctly; analyze their drawings and use them in the ideation process; and develop a consistent visual form language for drawing.”

Syllabus for Teaching TAs How to Teach (Quarter version)

Any Fine Arts or Art History graduate student who wants to teach a class in the University of Cincinnati’s School of Art must successfully complete the “Graduate Teaching Workshop” course before receiving any teaching assignment. (This is true for TAs who assist a professor in the classroom, as well as for TAs who are assigned full responsibility for the teaching of a course.) This is the syllabus for that course.

Because UC is currently on the quarter system, this syllabus reflects a 10-week experience. When UC moves to semesters in the Fall of 2012, the syllabus will be revised to reflect a 14-week experience. In semesters, more time will be spent on pedagogical theory, guiding and evaluating group work, and how to effectively critique art work. I will post that updated syllabus in the Fall of 2012.

Elements of a Syllabus

Most universities and colleges have requirements of some kind for what should be in a syllabus. Some even require faculty to use a certain format. Before writing yours, inquire as to the requirements of your institution. Generally, the following elements are contained in most syllabi. Keep in mind that the syllabus is a contract between you and your students.

Top of First Page:

• Instructor name and contact information

• Course Title, number and section

• Time of course (days, quarter), room location

• Prerequisites of the course, if any

Course Learning Outcomes

• Give a clear and brief description of the overall educational outcomes of the course.

• Describe in general terms what the students will be able to do as a result of

having taken the course. Use action verbs for this. (e.g. by learning certain

skills, making presentations, etc.). In other words, by doing certain things,

they will learn to do something that will allow them to achieve the goals of

the course.

Course Description

• Can include general thoughts about the character or “philosophy” of the course. 

• Includes content of the course and a general description of activities/projects.


Course Projects & Activities

•  Major projects/assignments/activities are listed and described, including their purpose and due dates. (If you hand out separate instruction sheets for an assignment, project, or activity, then this section needn’t be too detailed. If not, then include those details here.)

• Briefly describe homework exercises, and activities such as field trips, presentations, working in groups, etc. as appropriate to the course.

Materials and Supplies List

• Include all materials needed for the course (textbooks, art supplies).

• Include costs of materials, if possible. List any supplies provided by you that are paid for from their materials fee. Recommend sources and list prices for these materials, if you wish.

Course Schedule

• Create a schedule of topics/activities for each class session. Include project names and their due dates, homework, critiques, demos, lecture, etc. Note that it is subject to change.


• Clearly describe how the final grade will be determined.

• Clearly describe any policies that might be important to you when  evaluating student performance. These might include how or if students can earn extra credit, any “do-over” policies for exams or assignments, etc.

• Often contains clearly described general grading criteria. This means that you describe what an “A” means, “B”, “C”, etc.

Class Policies (Attendance and Class Participation)

• Describe your attendance policy. When is someone “late” to class? Will there be consequences for coming to class late or leaving class early? Is someone who sleeps during class going to be counted as present?

• Describe classroom rules–what types of things do you allow or not allow in the classroom? Are iPods/cell phones/computers allowed? What will you do if someone is disruptive or sleeping during class? How do you feel about talking during class?

• If you are giving them a class participation grade, explain what will count towards that grade. (Talking in class? Doing homework? Going on field trips? Volunteering? Etc.)

Other Miscellaneous Items:

• A reading list

• A description of technology to be used in the course and why

• Additional expectations or activities not already addressed

• Inspirational jokes, quotes, poems, images, etc.

• Safety information

• Contact info for help with learning disabilities

• Policy on academic honesty

Creating a Syllabus: Step 8- Create a Course Description

Once you have created the learning outcomes, assignments, and homework for your course, you should write a course description that is based on those outcomes. Learning outcomes and the course description are not the same thing!

A course description provides a general overview of course content and fills in some of the blanks that learning outcomes don’t address. Although there can be some repetition, the course description is usually more lively and descriptive of what you will cover in the course in terms of topics.

Here is an example of a typical course description:

Drawing Studio 2: Foundation level studio course in the creation of drawings demonstrating an understanding of color in a variety of media. Building on skills you learned in Drawing Studio 1, you will continue to develop your basic rendering skills in representing illusionistic space while demonstrating your increasing understanding of color theory.  You will experiment with a variety of tonal and color media including charcoal, conte and soft pastel on toned and textured papers.  Technical concepts of accurate rendering, color mixing, convincing color representation, color theory and manipulation of media will be combined with the expressive aspects of drawing.