Teaching Portfolio: Reflective Essay of a Syllabus
Although I had been given dozens of syllabi over the course of my college experience, I never really thought about what went into one. As a graduate student creating a syllabus for the first time, I captured the experience in a reflective essay.
This is an introductory course and therefore needs to have two types of students in mind. First, this class is the foundation upon which students choosing an Animal Science major build their understanding of basic concepts that get expanded upon in upper level courses. Second, it is a class which can help the undecided or curious and interested student discover the amazing realm of Animal Science.
It needs to have enough subject matter to get the foundation laid for Animal Science majors but needs to be fun and interesting enough for those students exploring their options or using an elective. Thankfully, this is a laboratory class and therefore the hands-on experiences with animals helps carry a great deal of the latter burden.
Although other faculty do not teach the course, they have a great deal of input into the subject matter and the depth of each item discussed because the impact is great upon the subsequent classes. They need to be able to assume a certain level of knowledge was gained during this introductory course.
The structure of the course is based upon two factors. First, because of the lab and the weather constraints during fall, lectures are set up to approximately match the lab discussions. In addition, aside from the initial overview of animal agriculture, we work through the systems of the body and the important current issues in a manner that starts with the broadest concepts and slowly narrows them down to more detailed analysis.
One major dilemma that we face and I believed is faced all over, is the amount of material that needs to be covered. Because farm animals include about five quite diverse species, a lot of information is thrown at the students. Fortunately, I believe we are able to test their knowledge in such a way that learning general concepts alleviates some of the absolute memorization of facts. We try to give them a working vocabulary and a resource, so that they have at least heard the material once. Expansion of knowledge is much easier after that point.
My greatest joy in teaching this course is the shaping of the students. We shape the way they view the world of animal agriculture. We affect their enthusiasm for the material. We are able to excite them about areas they didn't know existed, particularly because most students come in with a narrow view of "ANIMAL SCIENCE = VET SCHOOL" and that is far from the actual reality of things.
Upon reevaluation of the course last year, I have added elements to the lab sections, which are the more versatile areas of the course, that fulfill the more "abstract" teaching goals such as "drawing influences from observations", "developing analytical skills" and "improving self-confidence".