The PhD Chronicles: Semester 2, Here We Go

I just finished the first day of semester two of the program.  We have two courses this semester, Access and Equity in Higher Education and History of Higher Education.  I am intrigued with the content of both courses and feel like they will be engaging and rewarding, but I find myself at the end of the first day a bit underwhelmed.  

To be clear, this feeling doesn't emanate from the program itself or from my cohort.  I'm still ecstatic about all of that.  I'm excited about the two new faculty who are leading these courses.  Rather, I was just disappointed in the execution from the actual classes.  I felt in many ways, these classes wasted valuable learning time and interaction.  Both followed largely the same format, do introductions, and spend the rest of the course talking about the syllabus.  For both courses, that was about 5 hours of much of the same. 
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In a cohort model, where we have met, bonded and interacted a lot, this seemed to be a waste of time for much of the class and to a degree, I get why it was done--because that's how faculty are used to doing their first classes, but it seemed to not maximize the benefits of a cohort model.  

It would seem to me that there is a better way to do it.  One thing I noticed with both these instructors was the refusal to share a syllabus with the students until we were in class face-to-face.  Again, this seems like a missed opportunity.  It would have been most effective if we did the following:

Two weeks from the start of class

  1. Open up Blackboard with Syllabus, readings, and discussion board.
  2. Sent an email to the cohort to let them know it was open and that there were readings for the first day of class (there were, but we never got to them today).  
  3. Inform students that they should read the syllabus and post an introduction to themselves (with picture) to the Blackboard discussion so that the instructor could start to get to know us.

One week out

  1. Send out a reminder about the course that includes an agenda for the first day of class.

First day of class

  1. Lightning round of introductions accompanied with any questions about the syllabus.  
  2. Discuss the big course themes.
  3. Get into the first readings.

However, beyond that, I still am excited to dive into the content of the course and at least from today's explanation of both courses, it seems like there will be lots of opportunities for interaction and engagement.  

Want to catch up on my previous reflections about being in a PhD program?  Check them out:
  1. Acceptance
  2. Orientation
  3. Day 1
  4. Week 1
  5. First 2 Courses Completed
  6. First 2 Courses Finished

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