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.


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.

Evaluating a Syllabus

Once you have written your syllabus, check it against the following questions, which were derived from Gamson and Chickering’s Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education (pdf). How effectively is your syllabus likely to:

1. Encourage contact between students and faculty that is focused on the academic agenda?

2. Develop reciprocity and cooperation among students?

3. Encourage active learning?

4. Give prompt feedback?

5. Emphasize time on task?

6. Communicate high, but achievable expectations?

7. Respect diverse talents and ways of learning?

Make changes as necessary so that your syllabus maximizes the above as much as possible.

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: Steps 9 & 10- Create a Course Calendar & Write the Syllabus

Step #9- You now have enough information to create a calendar for the course, which can include due dates, in-class activities, critiques, titles of lectures, topics, etc. Make sure to fill in any holidays on which you know classes will not be held.

Step #10- Write up your syllabus in an organized fashion, including all the elements required in a syllabus, and tweak it. By now, you will have probably realized that your ambitions for the class have far outstripped the available time! Go back and try to cut out what is really unnecessary. If it doesn’t serve your learning outcomes, you don’t need to include it, no matter how cool it would be to have it as a part of the course.

Whatever choices you make, make sure that the resulting syllabus is as powerful a teaching tool as it can possibly be.

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.

Creating a Syllabus: Steps #6 & 7- Create Assignments & Other Learning Activities

Step #6- Now it’s time to finally create the assignments and projects for the class that will give the students the skills that will make them competent, and thus enable them to achieve the learning outcomes.

As you devise your projects, keep in mind how much time students will realistically need to complete them. Allow for some “give time”. Inevitably, things either take more or less time to cover than expected, plus, you may miss a day due to illness or bad winter weather. Give yourself the freedom to make changes as the course progresses.

Step #7- Next, create in-class and homework activities and exercises to support the projects. Again, be realistic of how much work you can give students before overloading them.

Any activities should be in support of the project at hand. Journal or blogging activities can be used to deepen a competency, and can also be a place for brainstorming or gathering research materials for the project.

NOTE: New teachers tend to cram far too many projects and activities into their syllabi than experienced teachers do. Less can be more!