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Episode 24 | Bonus | SCRIPT

by Kevin Patton


The Syllabus Episode | Bonus

The A&P Professor podcast (TAPP radio) episodes are made for listening, not reading. This transcript is provided for your convenience, but hey, it’s just not possible to capture the emphasis and dramatic delivery of the audio version. Or the cool theme music.  Or laughs and snorts. And because it’s generated by a combo of machine and human transcription, it may not be exactly right. So I strongly recommend listening by clicking the LISTEN button provided.

woman leaning forward

Episode 24 Transcript

Bonus | The Syllabus Episode


Kevin Patton: The novelist, A.S. Byatt once stated: There’s a particular aesthetic pleasure in constructing the form of a syllabus or a book of essays, or a course of lectures. Visions and shadows of people and ideas can be arranged and rearranged like stained-glass pieces in a window or chessmen on a board.

Aileen: Welcome to The A&P Professor. A few minutes to focus on teasing human anatomy and physiology with host, Kevin Patton.

Kevin Patton: In this episode, you’ll get more than you ever wanted to hear about this syllabus. The syllabus. I love the syllabus and so do my students. If you believe that, well, how eccentric do you think I am? Luckily, this is a podcast and you can’t answer that question. Well, at least right this minute, but you can always call the podcast hotline at 1-833-LIONDEN, 1-833-546-6336. Yeah, call the hotline and answer that question of how eccentric you think I am. Actually, do that. I’ll play well the ones that are playable, I’ll put on the air if you’d call in and do that.

Do students read the syllabus? What is a syllabus?

Kevin Patton: Anyway, it’s that time of year when thoughts turn toward updating our existing syllabus or writing a syllabus from scratch for a course that we’ve not taught recently or maybe ever. It’s time for a certain level of panic maybe correlated logarithmically to how soon our course is about to start. As I mentioned in the last couple of episodes, I’ve been preparing for a syllabus episode and I asked for your input. I’d like to thank my supporters and friends, Frank, and Krista, and Michael, and Richard, and a bunch of others for giving me some great ideas and asking some great questions, and really helped me put together this episode.

Kevin Patton: It’s a bonus episode. What that means is it’s got bonus minutes. Really, I’m just trying to put a positive spin on the fact that it’s a particularly long-winded episode. It’s way, way, longer than our typical episode. The beauty of podcast is that you can stop it and listen to the rest later or break it up into tiny chunks if you want. If it’s so long, I guess we better get moving, right?

Kevin Patton: I know what you’re thinking. Do students read the syllabus? I’m guessing maybe half of them do. You know what? Half isn’t so bad. That’s batting 500. I’ll take that. It’s the other half, the ones who don’t read the syllabus who drive us nuts. Speaking of that before I go on, I just want to give a quick shout out to one of my favorite Twitter feeds. It’s @ReadTheSyllabus. It’s run by a group of college professors. Their tweets are cynical and often humorous observations on things like, well, students not reading the syllabus.

Kevin Patton: When I read their tweets, well, I don’t know, it just gives me a refreshing feeling, I guess, but I’m not the only one who gets annoyed with students not reading the syllabus or reading directions, or reading warning signs in the lab, and stuff like that. By the way, while you’re going to your Twitter to follow @ReadTheSyllabus, why don’t you also make sure you’re following @theAPprofessor? While you’re there, why not take an extra three seconds and share the first tweet in my feed? It’s a 30-second trailer introducing this podcast.

Kevin Patton: Check the show notes, the episode page for direct links to both Twitter feeds. Getting back to the topic at hand, I have another question. Do we read directions or do we just ask our chair, or director, or dean, or office administrator, or colleague in the next office or at the next desk? I do that all the time. Instead of looking it up, I just ask somebody, because that’s the quickest thing and I think our students often do that.

Kevin Patton: I’m starting out with the idea that empathy thing that I’m always harping about, maybe we should put ourselves on our student’s shoes. Think about all those times when we don’t read the directions either, and we’re just asking somebody, because that’s the easiest route. When we think of it that way and then put on our warmest, sincerest smile and try to answer them in a voice after then that snarky one inside our heads, then maybe we’re going to connect better with our students. We can also embed in there just a gentle reminder that they could’ve found the answer in the syllabus.

Kevin Patton: Okay, so here’s another question. What is a syllabus? There are different kinds of syllabi or syllabuses, if you prefer that. It could be just basic course policies, plus probably a list of important elements in the course like an overview of the content, or other kinds of things like that. We’ll talk more about what can go into a syllabus later. There’s another kind of syllabus that’s a more comprehensive. Maybe a very, very detailed outline of the entire course, sort of like a textbook or a course manual, or a course pack.

Kevin Patton: That’s not the kind of syllabus I’m going to be discussing here. I’m talking about the first kind where it’s a hopefully rather brief listing of course policies and different important facts about the course that students are going to need to refer back till later. We’re going to want them to refer back to them later. We’re going to hope that they refer back to them later and about half of them are going to refer back to it later. The other half, we’re just going to have to guide them back to it.

Kevin Patton: There are some syllabi that of course are somewhere in between the short just the facts type of syllabus and the long textbook syllabus. I’m aiming at that shorter end of the spectrum. It seems like administrators love the syllabus more than any of the rest of us. Why is that? I think there’s a bunch of reasons. I think it varies of course from one administrator to another. I think a lot of them like the idea or at least are aware of the idea, that it’s a contract.

Kevin Patton: It really does have some legal ramifications if you put down that things are going to be a certain way, and they’re not a certain way, that opens you up, doesn’t it, to student complaints, and maybe even some legal action at some point that you didn’t deliver what you said you were going to deliver. We’re going to circle back to that a few different times as we go through some of the topics that I have for us in this episode.

Kevin Patton: When a student has an issue or complaint, the first place an administrator looks is the syllabus, because that’s where we laid everything out. Often, student complaints are about us not fulfilling their expectations, right? Those expectations really ought to be based on what we’ve put in the syllabus. So, and administrator’s going to go back there and see, “What did you tell the students that you were going to deliver to them or do for them?”

Kevin Patton: That’s why administrators like to have your syllabus on file. Generally, the rule of thumb is if it’s in the syllabus, by golly, you better do it that way. Now, there are some legitimate ways to change things after the syllabus goes out, and I’ll address that later. The point of the syllabus is at least for administrators is that’s your statement of what you’re going to deliver.

Kevin Patton: If a student comes in with a complaint, they have a point if you haven’t been following the syllabus or at least updating them with any changes you’ve made to the syllabus. If you’re not following your syllabus, that means you’re now on the defensive. I think most administrators, they’re expecting when they go to the syllabus to see that, well, the student didn’t really look at or fully appreciate what it was that they were supposed to expect, and they get that all lined out, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Kevin Patton: If you’re not following your syllabus, that means you are now on the defensive as if you didn’t already feel like you’re on the defensive by virtue of the fact that an administrator is handling a complaint against you. That underscores the importance of a syllabus. It gives you a certain mindset you want to have as you’re constructing, or editing, or tweaking your syllabus. It also explains why administrators feel that the syllabus is very important.

Kevin Patton: By the way, it’s also why schools sometimes suggest or demand a certain things be addressed on your syllabus, or even that certain wording be used in every syllabus. Some schools or some programs and departments even have a template where the instructor has maybe very little leeway in what they can do in the syllabus. I think that has a lot to do with this idea that it sets the expectations for the students. I think administrators feel like they want to make sure there are certain things in there so that students don’t have these expectations that are different than what the reality is.

Reading and raiding the syllabus

Kevin Patton: I want to take a couple of minutes to discuss some general considerations about the syllabus. The first one is what I call the read and rate principle, which I also apply to textbooks. The read and rate principle states that students may not always read the syllabus all the way through, but they will rate the syllabus when they need to find something. I think if we keep that in mind, I think we’re going to have a well-designed syllabus, because we know that yes, some students are going to read it from beginning to end, especially if they’re enthusiastic about the course, or even if they’re very worried about the course. Those are both strong motivators to read that syllabus all the way through.

Kevin Patton: We know that half, maybe more than half are not going to read it all the way through. I think most students at some point, rated the syllabus to look for a deadline, if that’s what you have in your syllabus, a policy, how many test are there going to be? Is the exam going to be comprehensive or cumulative? They’re rating it all the time. It’s important whether they’re going to be reading or rating it to do some particular things with your syllabus.

Kevin Patton: For example, I strongly recommend that we organize it as logically as possible. That does two things. It makes it easier to read, because it’s like a little story. I’ve talked about storytelling before and how important that is. If it’s arranged logically where one thing logically leads to the next, then I think students are going to be able to get all the way through it if they’re trying to read the whole thing. They’re going to understand it more clearly.

Kevin Patton: Organizing it logically also does something else. It makes it easy to rate, because organizing it logically means things are going to be easy to find right away when you go in and rate. You don’t have to flip through and read this part and that part, and get all confused and be more likely to go to the dean and complain that your syllabus cannot be read and so how could anyone expect to be able to follow the course, or follow the teacher, or whatever they’re complaining about.

Kevin Patton: How do we do that? Use storytelling principles where you have a beginning, middle, and end, where you have an introduction, and you have a conclusion, and where all of the things makes sense as you move from one to the other. Another helpful tip is to keep the principle of chunking in hand. Chunking of course is when you take a big mass of information and break it down into tiny to adjustable pieces.

Kevin Patton: Instead of having a paragraph that is half of a page long that lists all kinds of information about some course policy, or maybe even a group of course policies, that’s going to be hard to interpret. You want to break it up. Even if each little segment is only one sentence long, that’s better than putting it together into some big long paragraph. Even though we do want to keep our syllabus as short as we can, sometimes a longer syllabus is okay if it’s chunked properly. As a matter of fact, that will make a syllabus longer by chunking, because you’re spreading things apart a little bit more.

Kevin Patton: That kind of length in a syllabus I think is okay. I think that works better than having a short syllabus that’s all packed together and very dense with information and very hard to read. When you do that chunking, of course you want to make sure that you group those chunks together in a way that makes sense to use our storytelling principles. Another thing that helps a lot is to not just put them in an order that makes sense, but use subheadings. Think of them as like little mini chapters in the story book and give a title to each chapter. That will make both reading and rating that much easier, because it gives us an idea what’s in this section, what’s in this section and so on.

Kevin Patton: Consider not only using subheadings, but maybe having a couple of different levels of subheadings where some are indented under the others. Here’s a group and then there’s a subgroup under that and so on. If you do that, you need to make the leveling very clear. A subtle change in the font, or the size, or something. It may not jump out at the reader. Maybe this is just a pet thing with me, but I like very bold headings and subheadings, and I like very clear indents or bullets. If you do use bullets or some other design element like that, make sure they’re simple. Don’t use the real fancy things, because that just clutters things up and makes it harder to follow.

Kevin Patton: So just use very, very simple design, but bold subheadings. Make sure the major headings are big, and the next level under that maybe not so big or not so bold. Make sure that the difference between those different levels can be clearly seen. Do be careful. Don’t have too many levels of subheads, because then you really start to lose your logical organization. It sees as becoming a simple way to organize and start to become a complex way to organize. It makes it harder to read and rate, instead it’d be easier to read and rate.

Kevin Patton: That takes some extra effort to go through it a couple of times and tweak it, and lump things, and split things a couple different ways, and see how it flows, and maybe even from semester to semester or year to year, you go back and find even better ways to do it and revise it and be tweaking that. Always be looking at that. I think we can always improve. There’s that quote from A.S. Byatt that says, “There’s a peculiar aesthetic pleasure in constructing the form of a syllabus or a book of essays, or a course of lectures. Visions and shadows of people and ideas can be arranged and rearranged like stained-glass pieces in a window or chessmen on a board.”

Kevin Patton: I think that’s a very apt description of what it’s like to put together a syllabus. It needs to be thoughtful. The pieces need to fit together in just a certain way of how to be aesthetically pleasing and therefore understandable. Like the chessmen on the board, it matters where they are. It makes more sense if you put them in a place where they belong and a place where they’re going to be able to get your objectives met. Another bit of advice is to keep the language simple. I think this is a really hard one for most us academic types, because we’re trained in scholarly work.

Kevin Patton: Even other educational activities like writing up policy statements and accreditation reports, and things like that we feel like we need to use highfalutin language. For a syllabus, I don’t think that’s a good idea. Remember, even though your dean wants you to write a syllabus, your audience is the student. One of my things that I really harp on a lot is do not utilize the word utilize. If you have a word that ends in I-Z-E, think about it again and you probably don’t need it. Why would you utilize anything when it would be far easier to just use it?

Kevin Patton: Use the word use. Don’t utilize the word utilize. That is an over-utilized, oops, just overused term I think. You and I understand it, and that it doesn’t jump out at us necessarily. I’ll be honest, it jumps out at me, because I just hate the word utilize, but other kids of highfalutin language don’t necessarily throw me off. I can follow it. I can understand it just fine, but beginning students, especially those I teach at the community college. There are a number of them that have a variety of challenges. Maybe they’re under prepared. Maybe they’re struggling with English period.

Kevin Patton: We want to use the simplest language possible. That takes extra effort for those of us that have reached a certain level of education and go back and simplify the language. I like to use informal language, now not super informal. That includes slang and other kinds of things. Because number one, slang terms and things like that are not always understood by everyone. We want to leave it out for that reason, but we don’t want to get overly informal, but somewhat informal. I think is more likely to engage a student. It’s more likely to draw them in. It’s more likely to give them a warm, fuzzy feeling about you.

Kevin Patton: I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but as you hunt around, surf around on websites, you will notice that there’s a trend and even very serious websites to start using playful language and informal language even in the little pop-up warning notices and so on. Instead of saying, “You have done this wrong.” It’ll be, “Oops, it looks like something went wrong.” It’s a little more informal. I suggest we try to find ways to apply that to our syllabus.

Kevin Patton: Going hand in hand with that is a principle that I think is very important for all of our teaching, but certainly for the syllabus. That is to try and try to think like a student. I think most of us don’t really take that extra step. I catch myself all the time forgetting to do this, to think, “What does this look like from the student perspective, because I’m me, and so I look at it from my perspective.” I know all kinds of stuff. I’ve been in a lot of classes. I’ve taught a lot of classes. I’ve been in workshops where they talk about course materials and things like that. All of these makes sense to me. I know what the lingo means. I know the kinds of things that are going to be important to me as a student, because I’ve done it before, and I’ve run into issues before, and I know the kinds of questions I want to ask and so on, but a beginning student and a student who’s not necessarily very competent as a student, competent being a student isn’t going to be there.

Kevin Patton: You need to stop and think like they think. Whenever I’m thinking of this concept and trying to develop the skill myself, my mind always goes back to one of my heroes Temple Grandin. I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with Temple Grandin. There was a movie that won a, I don’t know a Golden Globe or something. Claire Danes played the role of Temple Grandin. She is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, but she is on a high-functioning end of the autism spectrum.

Kevin Patton: I first got to know her work through her animal science. As I’ve mentioned a number of times in previous episodes, I used to be a wild animal trainer. I’ve always had an interest in this. In my study of animal training and in my observation of animal trainers, the ones who are really good are those who are able to think like an animal. A lot of us with our pets, we anthropomorphism and think, “Why did he do that? That’s a silly thing to do for my dog to do. That’s a silly thing for my cat to do.” We project on them the feelings and the thought processes that we as individuals have.

Kevin Patton: Not only is that wrong to a sign that kind of thinking to another species, it’s wrong to do that to other members of our own species. Temple Grandin, if you’re interested in any of these, and I think even if you’re not going to apply it to animals and I think probably many of my listeners have animals in their lives anyway, but even if you’re not going to apply it there, read it in the sense of how we deal with other people, our colleagues and our students.

Kevin Patton: The book I would start with is one called, “Animals In Translation.” I’ll have a link to that in the show notes and at the episode page. That’s how I first got to know about Temple Grandin. Most people know her from her other work and that is as an autism spokesperson. Because she is on the autism spectrum herself and she’s also very well-spoken in terms of being able to express what it’s like to live, and work, and deal with the world. Being on the autism spectrum, she’s a very popular speaker and she’s written several books on that end. If you’re interested in that angle too, and I’ve read some of her work to that way and I’ve heard her speak even I had a brief conversation with her about animal training onetime.

Kevin Patton: I think that you’ll find that she really gets it. I think that the professors that I have run into who really get it, who are really successful in connecting with their students, they have that same view. They have that same ability to at least occasionally step out of their own mind and try to figure out, what is it that’s being an obstacle for my student to understand something? If you have that mindset while you’re doing your syllabus, you’re going to have a very logical syllabus. It’s going to be very simple. It’s going to be very plain.

Kevin Patton: Now, in a few minutes, I’m going to show a method I use to help figure out things that I’ve missed, or hadn’t foreseen, how students are going to read things. Wait for that.

First-day activities | A syllabus quiz?

Kevin Patton: Syllabus day. That’s what most students think the first day of any class is going to be, right? It’s syllabus day. We just go in. We get the syllabus, we go out. I think in a lot of classes, that really is the way it is. No wonder students think that, but that’s not the way my first day is. I think a lot of you listening probably don’t do exactly that either. The syllabus I think is an important element of that first day, right? Because that’s a summary of what the course is and what it’s going to be like for the student. I think at least sometime needs to be spent in at least distributing it, but probably spending a little bit of time with it. Maybe not the whole class, but a little bit of time with it is a good thing.

Kevin Patton: Now, my friend Krista Rompolski sent me the power point that she uses on her first day, where it outlines how that first day is going to go. It’s a variety of different things that she does. One of the things that she does that I really like is that she pulls out of the syllabus some key facts. What are the essential facts that students are probably wondering about anyway? Even if they hadn’t thought of it themselves, things that Krista knows they’re going to want to know right away.

Kevin Patton: Basic things about how many exams they’re going to be. What they need to do first before they get any further. Struck out that important information like I can read the rest of it later. What do I need to know for this week? What do you need to know now? That’s always a good thing to emphasize. Another thing that Krista does that I think is an excellent idea is she spent a few minutes with some general tips on how to succeed in that course.

Kevin Patton: One I really like, she has a slide that recommends the students, be a two-year old again. Ask why. She emphasizes to the students that when you’re doing your reading, when you’re working through your problems and your questions and so on, when you’re doing your lab work, when you’re listening to an explanation of something, imagine that you need to be able to explain to someone, maybe a two-year old the how and the why of what you’re learning. If you can do that, that’s going to take you where you need to be to see that big picture of what’s going on. That enables you I think to see the connections and so on.

Kevin Patton: That’s an excellent bit of advice to start students off is to give them a mindset. If nothing else, it’s going to get them to do a little metacognition, right? They’re going to start thinking about how they think about things. They’re going to get knocked out of that typical pose of, “I’m just going to read fact after fact and somehow it’s going to all fit together.” She’s saying, “No, don’t do that. Think about how it fits together, what’s the why behind it. What’s the how behind it.” I think that’s a great part of the first day process. That fits in with what’s going on with the syllabus.

Kevin Patton: I’ll have to say, the last slide that she puts up there on that first day is great. She states on that slide, “I am always,” and always is in capital letters, “I am always here to help you.” Then she says, “It’s the fun part of the job,” and I totally agree with that. Then she follows up with, and this is important, I think, “but first I’ll ask you to help yourself.” She refers back to her first slide, which has a quote that says, “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” That’s a great way to end this so-called Syllabus Day, right? I think so.

Kevin Patton: Now, I’ve done some weird in my classes. This is something that I picked up at a Hops conference many, many years ago. My friends, Michael Glasglow and Richard Faircloth who are retired from Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland, they presented what they did. I changed around adapted it for my course and the way I do things. The general principle is a great one. Basically, what students do is they just immediately come in and they introduce themselves quickly and say, “Form a group of four or five or depends on the size of your class and the way the furniture is set up and so on. Just get into a group and start and introduce yourself, and tell each other not only your name, but why are you here? Why are you taking A&P?”

Kevin Patton: Then have them write down questions about the course that they have coming into it. Everybody who walks through that door has questions. What’s the teacher going to be like? What’s the course going to be like? Are we going to have to read the book? Is spelling important? How many tests are we going to have? How much are they worth? We retake a test. All kinds of question.

Kevin Patton: If they’re doing it in a small group, they’re going to have a lot more questions than if you ask them to do it silently to themselves, or if you do it to the whole group, because they’re going to interact with one another. They’re not going to be afraid to interact with one another, because it’s just the handful of students. Once they start they’re going to, “I’ve seen this happen numerous times and all the time.” That is they just really start going to town like, “I heard that. I had a professor that once did this. Let’s ask him if he does that.”

Kevin Patton: Sometimes that’s good and sometimes that’s bad thing that they’re anticipating. Then and only then they give out the syllabus. Now, what I have my students do is appoint someone to come up and get the syllabus for their group. They bring it back, and then their next task is to take all those questions they wrote down and try to find the answer. I’m asking them right then and there to do some rating before they even read it. I’m asking them to rate the syllabus and get the answers to their own questions. It gets them familiar with the syllabus. It does hopefully answer most, if not all of their questions. It tells them that there is a place that they can find the answers that they’re looking for and that it’s not really so hard to answer. If I’ve done my job well, I’m making it logical and easy to rate, it’s not so hard to find the answers there.

Kevin Patton: I think that makes up much more likely that they’re going to hold on to that syllabus and really think about it as being a useful resource that they want to keep handy rather than those instructions that come with assemble it yourself furniture that I always throw to the side and try to put it together and it never comes out right, and then I have to take it apart and find out, figure out what I did with the instruction sheets. That’s what a lot of students do with the syllabus and now they won’t, because you’re making them go through it right away. They’re going to say, “Yeah, this is actually useful stuff here.”

Kevin Patton: After they do all of that, then I regroup the whole class. Now, we’re all together as a single class and I’m addressing them. I ask them, “Okay, what questions couldn’t you find the answer for? What questions are you not sure about the answer that you found in this syllabus? What can I clarify for you?” Okay, so this is the part where I figure out where I messed up in designing my syllabus like, “Oops, that is an important question and you’re right, that’s not in the syllabus anywhere. I’m going to write myself a little note right now.” I always have a pocket, below three by five cards.

Kevin Patton: I pull out my little deck of three by five cards and I write it down there right in front of them. I’m modeling a behavior I hope that they’ll do is when they have questions, write it down right away and then they can ask me and not forget about it and totally miss something. I do that. I write it down and then next time around, I’ll add it to my syllabus or something that wasn’t clear like, “Oh, you’re right. That part of the syllabus is not clear. Let me clarify it for you. I’ll make sure I update my syllabus.”

Kevin Patton: That’s how I find things that I’ve missed or messed up or whatever and then I put it in the next time. That’s part of my first day activity. By the way, I have a link to that in the show notes and episode page, if you want to go and see exactly what it is I do on that day. It’s the handout, actually two handouts, because the one I do for A&P, one’s a little bit different than the one I do for A&P two.

Kevin Patton: My friend Krista who sent me the power point that I just mentioned, she also asked the question about, what about a syllabus quiz? Now, the question she asked is, would that come across badly to students? Could that seem maybe a little bit paternalistic or maternalistic, or I’m thinking maybe even condescending to have a syllabus quiz sort of like, is this great school or what? I think she’s got a good point. I think that we need to keep that in mind so that if we do a syllabus quiz, and I do, and I’ll explain how I do it in a minute. It’s not exactly a syllabus quiz, but it is one.

Kevin Patton: We do it in a way that isn’t condescending, that we don’t inadvertently go off in that direction. Boy, that’s going to give a really bad first impression of us in our course on the first day. That’s going to be really hard to reconnect with the students that are put off by that. Very important question to ask ourselves. There are some things like a syllabus quiz that are a sideways approach to a syllabus quiz that I’ve used, that have worked well for me.

Kevin Patton: For one thing, I have something called a “student understanding.” This is something that is either in my syllabus or is linked to from my syllabus. It’s its own standalone page. It’s a list of five to ten things that I really want my students to understand, things like, “I understand. I am responsible of my own academic integrity. I understand that I will be held responsible for not following the honor system and so on.” There’s that.

Kevin Patton: I include things like, “I understand. It is my responsibility to solve problems with my computer connection or with my textbook or with my ride to school or whatever it is that it’s up to me to solve that.” If I need help with it, you can ask the instructor, but it is my own responsibility. Things like self-responsibility. Those really core things that we want to make sure that we’re all on the same page with. Again, I have an example of that in the show notes and the episode page. You can look and see the kinds of things that might spark some ideas for the kinds of things that you want to list in the student understanding.

Kevin Patton: What I do is I take that student understanding and I put it in the form of an online quiz that’s in my learning management system. You could do this on paper too, and I’ve done that before, before I started using my learning management system many months ago. You list each one of them as the question part of a quiz item. Then for the answer, they get a choice to either mark on their, “I understand” or “I do not understand” in terms of the technical aspects of how the quiz is set up in the learning management system, I understand is marked as the correct answer. I do not understand is marked as the incorrect answer.

Kevin Patton: If they mark “I understand” to let’s say 10 out of 10 items, then they will get a hundred percent on that quiz. That’s how the learning management system will see it at least. If you use that language “I understand or I do not understand,” they’re not necessarily agreeing to them. They are saying, “I understand that this is so.” In other words, this is the way it is. It’s not that you should agree to it or none to agree to it. It’s whether you understand that that’s the way it is and think about the way it’s worded. They have no choice, and they’re stating that they understand.

Kevin Patton: The way I have my learning management system set-up is that everything else in the course that comes after that, and that’s at the very beginning, is locked up. It’s set so that they have to get a hundred percent on their understanding quiz in order for everything else to be unlocked. I want them to understand that before the course starts, not at the very end. It’s very important that they get that done first before they do anything else. They have to get a perfect score in that understanding quiz.

Kevin Patton: What that quiz does is well at least two things. One is it forces them to read at least those major items. Even if they slept through that first day activity or missed it, or something like that, or didn’t pay attention to what was going on, or forgot what was going on, and that happens. It forces them to read at least those major items or at least it comes as close to forcing them to read it. I guess they don’t have to read it, but it comes close to doing that. It really highlights what you think is important for them to understand.

Kevin Patton: Another thing it does is it serves as a record of their acknowledgement. Later on, when you catch them cheating or they said, “Well, I couldn’t do anything last week because I couldn’t get a ride, or my internet was out.” Then you can say, “Remember this item in understanding where you said that you understood, that you acknowledge this, that it’s your responsibility to find some alternative if you can’t get a ride or find some other place to connect to the internet, if your usual internet connection is down. That’s the flip side of using that understanding quiz.

Kevin Patton: Now, another thing that I do that is a sideways approach to a syllabus quiz is what I call, “test zero.” I’ve mentioned this in at least one previous episode. Wow, I’ve done enough episodes now that I can’t remember off the top of my head how many times I, or in how many different episodes I’ve mentioned this. I guess we’re pretty far along here.

Kevin Patton: Anyway, test zero. I start off each course with an online test that reviews either what they should’ve mastered in their prerequisite course if it’s A&P one or what they should’ve mastered in A&P one if we’re now entering A&P two. It’s a review of concepts. That’s what test zero is. I also put in there some syllabus questions. It brings that up again. They’ve already done this on the first day. They’ve gone through that and they might off the top of their head remember some of the answers.

Kevin Patton: They’re things that are important that you put in there and if they, and my online test are open books, so if they don’t remember the answer, they can go back in their syllabus and find it. By doing all of these things, the understanding quiz, the test zero, the first day activity that my friends Michael and Richard came up with originally all is a layered approach to really getting them thoroughly familiar with at least the central elements of what’s in my syllabus.

Kevin Patton: By the way, that test zero does let you ask them things that go to a deeper level or more detailed level than just the core concepts or core ideas that are in the student understanding. Another thing I want to mention about that test zero before I leave it go and that is I sometimes put the questions in the form of a case study item. For example, I’ll say, “Liliana finds herself in this situation, what should she do?” Maybe she’s been asked by another student to help her by whispering her answers during the exam or holding your test out so that the other student can see what her answers are. What should she do? What’s the right thing?

Kevin Patton: Of course, that’s an obvious one, but sometimes there are some grayish areas that students really don’t know what the right choice is. This will help them see that in certain situations what their choice ought to be if they’re following the principles of the course. I use a lot for academic integrity items. By the way, with academic integrity and I’m going to make that a topic of another whole episode, some students really just don’t understand certain forms of cheating are cheating or that they’re wrong.

Kevin Patton: There are even a handful of students who think, don’t understand that cheating is wrong. They think, well it’s okay, because everybody let us do it in this course, or that course, or in high school or whatever. We’ll get to that in another episode. Another thing about that test zero again before I leave it, and that is, yes boy I’m always doing that.

Kevin Patton: One more thing, by doing the test zero, it gets them used to how I do my online test. They get used to the learning management system, how that system handles online test. It gets used to the way I write my test items and I make sure to include the different kinds of formats of test item that I usually put into my online test. So, it’s good practice that way too. Yes, they do get a grade for test zero. That is part of their grade. It’s part of their online testing grade that then later gets added to other components of the course like the mid-term and final exams and so on.

Basic elements of a syllabus

Kevin Patton: What exactly goes in a syllabus? This is where it gets a bit dicey, because all kinds of things can go in a syllabus, and all kinds of things are appropriate to go on a syllabus. It depends on your institution. It depends on your program. It depends on your course. It depends on you. It depends on your students. It depends on which semester it is. It depends on some spots, all kinds of things can affect what exactly goes into a syllabus.

Kevin Patton: This is too long of an episode to begin with, but even if we had all semester, there’s no way we could cover every kind of thing that could go into a syllabus and could be appropriate in one syllabus or another. Let me hit some of the major points. Some or all of what goes into a syllabus may be dictated by your institution as I’ve mentioned before, or maybe by your department, or your program, or whatever. Maybe a group of professors have gotten together and maybe even in concert with various teaching assistants. So if you have those or with the students themselves and have come up with some basic principles, let’s all agree to all include this part or that part in our syllabus. So that it ensures you in a formatting maybe, if that’s something that’s important in a particular area or maybe it provides clarity, or maybe it’s just a good way to describe something about your own particular program, or location, or whatever.

Kevin Patton: If you get “advice” from a dean or a department chair, or senior faculty, or any other VIP, that I’d put it in there. If you’re chatting with somebody who’s important and they say, “I’d put this in your syllabus, I’d put it in my syllabus, unless you have some really good reason not to.” Maybe go back and say, “Look, I’m going to do this instead. What do you think about that?” Not in a challenging way though, but in a sincere way like, “What do you think?”

Kevin Patton: Any of that so-called advice is an indirect order, I think. That say, “Yeah, you better put this in there. I want to see you put this in there.” They’re just being cordial with you. Sometimes, you want to include things like the availability of counseling, title IX procedures. By the way, what I mean counseling like mental health counseling or something like that, or academic advising. Various items from the student handbook, sometimes those are suggested or required in everybody’s syllabus.

Kevin Patton: One of the institutions I teach at, some of that stuff is actually involuntarily pushed into our learning management system courses. Everybody’s course gets these little things injected into them whether we want them to or not, because they want to make sure students are aware of that. I think I’m not sure that that’s the best way to handle it. Maybe it is, I don’t know, but I think the idea of it is a good one.

Kevin Patton: Speaking of advice from your dean or your chair, or whatever, even if they’re not giving you advice that I recommend that you follow, then I would still go and ask them for advice. I would say, “What do you think I should do here? How does this look to you and so on?” Why do you do that? It makes them part of your team. They feel like they’re part of your team. If there are any issues later on, you can say, “Well, you and I talked about this and you didn’t say anything that about there being a problem. So can you help me fix this, because you helped me create it.” I think that’s good. I think that’s also a good opportunity to nurture relationships with the people you work with and the people you work for.

Kevin Patton: Something else that I think really must go in there and it’s probably pretty obvious, but I’ve seen syllabi where it’s left out surprisingly. That is faculty contact info. I know a lot of professors like to be very limited in how the students contact you. I think that every time you put your faculty contact info in there, well number one, check it for any updating that needs to be done. Because that’s usually, if you get a new phone number, or email, or something else changes, that’s probably the last place that you think of to update while you’re updating things.

Kevin Patton: Not only that. It’s a good opportunity to review and also to see, are the choices I’m giving my students really the choices that are going to make it most likely that the students who are really at risk of failing in my course or at risk of having problems in my course? Are these the ways that they’re really going to be able to get a hold of me?

Kevin Patton: Also, think about how do students prefer to contact their professor. Because if you don’t give them one of their preferred methods, they might just opt not to contact you at all when they’re struggling. We want them to contact us when they’re struggling, right? I think a lot of today’s students prefer emails or even more like direct messaging through the learning management system, or some other way to do direct messaging. Maybe your college has its own direct messaging system. Discussion boards.

Kevin Patton: For example, the discussion boards in your course maybe have a student café or something like I’ve mentioned in the previous episode where they can pop things in. I also have a Kevin’s virtual office discussion always open in my course. So I can go in and ask that way. Many students today don’t like picking up the phone and having a direct conversation. I don’t know that students have ever really had as their first choice stopping by your office during your office hours, and asking you questions there.

Kevin Patton: If all you have is a phone number and where your office is, yeah, you might be losing some students, because they want to be able to email you, direct message you. Even though those things may be available, you should list them under your contact info, because when they’re wanting to get a hold of you, they might not think of the discussion board that’s in their learning management system. That’s something to consider. Your contact info.

Kevin Patton: Something else to consider would be the resources needed. A lot of schools require that you put this in there. Not just the required textbook, if you have one required lab manual, any other kind of supplements that are required, but think about maybe some optional things like it suggest that, “Well, it might be a good idea to bring some colored pencils and a sketch pad with you.” If we’re going to be doing those kinds of things in anatomy, not necessarily is a required activity, but students may want to do that as they’re taking notes, or bring a couple different colored pens with you to take notes with, because then you can underline underscored certain things if you’re drawing a diagram more than one color may help you and so on. Things like that.

Kevin Patton: You might want to tell them, “Okay, you need a textbook,” but tell them whether you expect that textbook to be brought to class or not. Whether the lab manual needs to be brought to class. I always put in my, if I was teaching a lab, I always put in there not only that they need to bring their lab manual, but they need to bring their textbook, because a lot of lab manuals really don’t have all of the information, and all of the diagrams, and illustrations that are in the textbook.

Kevin Patton: Now, a lot of those illustrations are very helpful in the lab. So, I tell them to bring their textbook. You might also want to list in there what the learning management system is, and if you’re going to use it, how much you’re going to use it. Give them some information on where they can go to figure out how to log in for the first time if they’re a new student at the institution. Maybe even give them some resources on well if you run into problems with the learning management system, here’s who you call first. Here’s the help desk number or the help desk email, or whatever it is.

Kevin Patton: Something else to consider to put into the syllabus would be a schedule of topics and activities plus the due dates. This is where, oh man, there’s a million different ways to do this. It’s going to depend on the way you do things. It’s going to depend on the needs of your students that you can figure out and tweak over time. It’s going to depend on what your program or department expects of you. This is where you could get into the other end of the spectrum of syllabi where it’s like a little mini textbook.

Kevin Patton: You might want to think about how much detail you put in there. Is it the overview like, “This week, we’re doing this. That week, we’re doing that,” or is it very specific and different styles work well for different kinds of courses. The more firm the schedule that you can put in there, the better it is. If you put a schedule in there, you better stick to it. My schedules that I put in there was always a little bit loosey-goosey.

Kevin Patton: We always knew what was coming next and roughly when it was coming, but it also gave me some wiggle room if we wanted to stop and do something different for little while and then move on or something took a little bit longer, and I knew that we could catch up with that time a little bit later in the course. That’s up to you. Think about how you want to construct that.

Kevin Patton: You might want to think about adding in there in the scheduling section, what do we do if there’s a weather emergency or some other kind of emergency that’s going to require cancellation, or shortened class, or something like that and build in the contingency or at least how any change due to those reasons will be communicated to the students so they know where to look.

Kevin Patton: If there’s a hurricane and they can’t come to campus and they’re trying to figure out is this course still even going on right now? What should I be doing? What are my needs in terms of this emergency? Something else that you want to consider putting into your syllabus are the course objectives and/or learning outcomes. I think it’s a good idea to put it in the syllabus or at least link to a separate list of them from inside the syllabus.

Kevin Patton: I know a lot of A&P textbooks and lab manuals, and different things have objectives in them already. Do we really do all of those in our course? Aren’t there some that we skip or maybe we do them a little bit differently? Maybe there are other learning outcomes that we’re expecting that aren’t in the book anywhere. I think it’s a good idea to maybe start with those as your basis, but then massage them a little bit to make them fit your course, and then put that in the syllabus or addendum to your syllabus.

Kevin Patton: Don’t forget the HAPS learning outcome. If you’re a member of the human anatomy or physiology society, HAPS, then go to the website and download the learning outcomes, and take a look at those, and use those as a model that you can adapt to your own course. Now, those are meant to be a guideline. They’re not meant to be commandments, or requirements. They’re meant to be just sort of a place to get started like, “Here’s a whole bunch of ideas. Why don’t you start with that and take some out and put some in and combine others and so on?” I would recommend that. Very good resource.

Kevin Patton: Something else you might want to think about putting into your syllabus are safety procedures. We talked about the idea of if there’s a weather emergency, what’s that going to do to our schedule and how’s that changing the schedule going to be communicated? Okay, that’s one aspect. The actual safety advice itself I think is important to put somewhere so that the students have it, I actually go through a little drill on my first day. I feel like a flight attendant where I’m pointing out where the emergency exits are, and where the fire extinguisher is, and where the fire alarm is to be pulled, and how you’ll lock the door if there’s an intruder on campus or something like that, and where we’re going to hide, and what we’re going to do when we hide, and where the safest place to go when a tornado is.

Kevin Patton: I live in the Midwest where tornadoes are the most likely issue. We’ve had a few fires in the building that I teach in, so I really talk about where to go in case of a fire. If that part is blocked, where else can I go? Earthquake, wait, I live in an earthquake zones. We don’t have a lot of earthquakes like they do in some other areas, but we do have them. What do we do in this room in an earthquake? How are we going to react to that?

Kevin Patton: What if somebody gets sick? How are we going to deal with that? You put that in the syllabus or some course document. Link to the syllabus. I think you’re really serving your students well.

More things to put in a syllabus

Kevin Patton: What are some other things to consider putting in a syllabus? Here’s a tip that comes from my colleague Frank O’Neil. He shared this with me and said, “I like to add video clips where I explain certain things in the syllabus. I think it gets the message across better, and that they start to get to know me better as well.” My students know how much I care about them in their success, but you’d never would’ve guessed that by reading my syllabus.

Kevin Patton: He’s talking about the fact that sometimes our syllabus, because we’re trying to keep it brief and to the point, that empathy doesn’t always read through, but when you do a video walkthrough, and I have a link to previous episode where I talked a little bit about the idea of a video walkthrough. If you do a video walkthrough of a certain parts of the syllabus maybe showing them where to go in the LMS or different parts of the college website or various things like that, then it adds that element of your voice in there and your tone of voice, and can really connect with students in that very early part of the course where you’re trying to make the kind of impression that you need to make to have really effective and useful connections for your students.

Kevin Patton: What are some other things? If it’s bigger than a few pages, then you might want to consider a table of contents at the beginning, or maybe and a so-called executive summary like Krista does with her power point presentation on the first day. Maybe have a little, here are the main facts you need to know now in a little box at the beginning. Then maybe a table of content that shows all your headings and subheadings to give the lay of the land so that students know where things are.

Kevin Patton: If you want to take the time to put in page numbers and so on then go ahead and do that. Maybe have an index at the end. By the way, if you’re using Microsoft Word or some similar software program, these all have built-in table of contents functions and indexing functions, where all you have to do is highlight the subheadings or at least mark them as subheadings and maybe highlight a certain terms or whatever if you’re going to do an index. Then you just create the table of content in a populated self. Even as you make changes, the page numbers change on a rolling basis as you edit your document.

Kevin Patton: If you’re doing this online or in the form of a PDF, or even a word document, if you’re providing it in a digital form, you’re giving the students the file of it maybe in addition to a paper version of it, then you conclude hyperlinks. That’s where the student can click on any element in the index or in the table of contents, or even in the executive summary, and then be taken right to that part of the syllabus. That makes it even easier for the student to rate your syllabus.

Kevin Patton: Now, something else to think about too is make sure your supervisors know what’s in your syllabus. In many schools, it’s required that you turn in your syllabus either before the course starts or early in the course, so that takes care of that. If you don’t work at a school where that happens, I’d send them a copy anyway, especially if you have anything out of the ordinary that is something that maybe is innovative, or unusual in some way out of the mainstream, then they’re going to see that ahead of time.

Kevin Patton: If anything is called into question later, then you have a backup and say, “Well, I gave this to you. I ran this by you first and you didn’t say anything to me then. So, let’s start at that point of conversation and move forward from there.” Realize that you’re going to be held to whatever you put in your syllabus, so keep that in mind. You might want to consider adding a disclaimer statement, somewhere in there. A disclaimer that admits the idea that there might be a mistake in here. The student shouldn’t expect the instructor to be held to a mistake like, “Oh, I forgot to put this test date in.” You can’t add it later, because it wasn’t in the syllabus. Well, yeah you can.

Kevin Patton: As long as you communicate that early enough and clearly enough, you don’t want to blindside your students, but you do want to be able to fix mistakes. You might want to have in that disclaimer not only, “I reserve the right to correct mistakes,” but you also reserve the right to make changes, because there’s all kinds of reasons why changes need to be made. One of those weather emergencies I spoke of in an earlier segment, or there’s some other situation on your campus or in your school, or in your course that requires a change.

Kevin Patton: Maybe the required textbook didn’t come in on time, so you got to make some changes. All kinds of things. Then tell them that it’s their responsibility to be watchful for changes. Make that part of the disclaimer that students are responsible for keeping track of the current version of the syllabus, or for announcements that announce changes to the syllabus. As long as it has in it what you think should be in it, and it gives you enough wiggle room, and it also alerts the students that what is in the syllabus is not written in stone, it could change. We want to be flexible and you’re telling them that ahead of time.

Kevin Patton: Another thing to remember about the syllabus is it evolves. You get better at it. Someday, I’m going to be really good at it, but my skill in putting together a syllabus has evolved. I’ve made mistakes and fixed them. I’ve made things clearer than they were before. I’ve made them simpler, easier to understand than they were before. Sometimes, I muddy them up and then find out I muddied them up and go back to my previous version. Keep that in mind as if over the years, over the semesters that it’s something you really want to look at and really fine tune and tweak over time.

Kevin Patton: I think it’s like anything. I get better and better making syllabi. I get better and better at teaching. I get better and better at everything. If you come back to this podcast in 10 years, it’s going to be really good. I think it will. Also, another thing about this evolution of syllabi is institutional policies change. Departmental policies change. Program policies change. Your own course policies change, and so you want to always read through every letter and make sure that you don’t have the old information.

Kevin Patton: I just was tweaking a syllabus of mine and found that I had some old information in there that I didn’t realize I never updated. I thought I did. I guess I didn’t. Maybe I, at some point, used the wrong copy or something. I don’t know, but it’s a good thing I was looking very closely, finally.

Kevin Patton: Another thing that you might want to consider putting in your syllabus is a question in there asking your students if there’s anything that you as the instructor should know about them as individuals. I’m not talking here about things that are nice to know to get to know you type thing. If you want to have some activity like that in your course that’s fine, but what I’m saying here is is there something that you really ought to know like some kind of medical condition, some, “oh” situation they’re in.

Kevin Patton: I’ve had students that have court orders against stalkers. These stalkers follow them to school and have been seen on campus since on. I think that’d be some useful for me to know. I’m going to be especially careful about what I say to whom, and how I react to people that seemed to be looking outside the classroom door. There are a variety of different kinds of things. I remember having students who said, “I don’t typically do this, but I have my phone on in class and I have a spouse, a son, a daughter and a combat zone right now. They can only call me every once in a while. If I did get a call from them, I’d like to be able to leave class and take that call. Is that okay?”

Kevin Patton: Something like that they need to tell me, or, “I’m pregnant and yesterday was my due date.” Things could happen at any moment. I thought you might want to know. Things like that. You don’t necessarily have to give all these examples, but just throw it out there. If there’s anything that you think would be helpful for me to know, then come and tell me. I would also stress, do not tell me in class. Come and tell me directly privately, after class, before class, in my office, whatever.

Kevin Patton: Another thing to consider in your syllabus is to consider making it a bit playful. Now, I’ve taught this in several previous episodes about how adding playfulness to a course while at the same time being serious can really be conducive to learning, can make the teaching and learning much more effective than it would be otherwise. You can do in your syllabus like that little playful thing I do at the end of most episodes where I’ll say something like, “Minor imperfections and hands, the handcrafted uniqueness of this, well in this case, syllabus.”

Kevin Patton: I actually have a little things like that in most of my syllabi, where it’s mildly humorous, annoyingly humored, attempt of humor. It also is a disclaimer saying, “Look, this is something a human did and it’s going to have mistakes in it. I’m telling you, there’s going to be weird things in it.” You might say, “No animals were harmed in the making of this syllabus, or somewhere thing in there.” It lightens the mood, makes that syllabus that’s very straight and narrow to maybe lightens it up a little bit and breaks the ice a little bit.

Kevin Patton: Sometimes you could include maybe some little cartoon or playful clip art in there. Make sure it’s something you have permission to use, but that can lighten the mood a little bit too and make your syllabus that much more engaging. What do you mean more engaging? Syllabi aren’t engaging, but it at least attempts to make it engaging, doesn’t it? Then something I’ve mentioned in my podcast and in my blogs before is a book I ran across many years ago. I think it’s from 2003 or something like that, but it’s still relevant. It’s called, “Professors are from Mars. Students are from Snickers.”

Kevin Patton: The subtitle is, “How to write and deliver humor in the classroom and in professional presentations?” If you’re not naturally joke writer and you want to add some humor or some lightness or playfulness in there, read through this book. Ronald Berk does this and he’s got a lot of really great ideas. I guarantee you, they will spark some ideas for how to lighten up your syllabus and your other course materials. I have a link to that in the show notes and on the episode page.

Study strategies, extra topics, & FAQs

Kevin Patton: Oh no, I’m not done yet. I still have more ideas. I’ve alluded to this all along in this episode. I really think that a good way to handle some of the information that you’d like to put in the syllabus, but it would just make it too long and complex, and nobody’s ever going to read it or rate it, because it’s just too big, a way to handle that is by putting in a hyperlink. Maybe not in your syllabus, but maybe on a course webpage and new learning management system or something like that, but it can be maybe an addendum to your syllabus, an extra page or something in your syllabus. It’s just link to this information.

Kevin Patton: You can create that information yourself in your own course blog, or in your learning management system put up pages or something, or on your school or department website, or something. You can find external resources that you can link to. For example, I think it’s important to link students to places where they can find good study strategies. I know that a lot of us have this mindset of students should already know how to study before they get to my course. My role is to teach them anatomy and physiology, and related scientific concepts. My role is not to teach them study skills.

Kevin Patton: Now, I disagree with that. I think that is part of our role. I think that’s part of being a coach. I think that’s possibly our primary role, because the content that can get in all kinds of places other than out of our mouth, but this how to access it, what to do with it, how to interpret it, that’s our role is to help them figure out how to do that. I suggest that you put in links. Does your school have courses and study strategies, or seminars, maybe even a lunchtime seminar or something on various study strategies? Put a link to that in your syllabus or other document.

Kevin Patton: Do you provide study sessions? Put that in there. There’s all kinds of external resources. Two of them I’m going to give you, because they’re mine. I’d like you to use them, because that’s why I do them is for people to use them. One is called the A&P Student. It’s a blog, and I have a link in the show notes, and in the episode page. It’s really easy to get to. It’s just the apstudent.org and that’ll take you right to it. That’s for students. You link the students to it and they can explore all kinds of topics in there about how to study the skeleton, how to study histology, how to prepare for exams, how to do all kinds of things.

Kevin Patton: Then another one that I have is Lion Den, which is actually the first website I ever did. It’s lionden.com. That’s because our school didn’t have its own website back in the olden days, but I knew that would be a good place to put links to external resources, all kinds of things. I have a very large library. Study skills helps that’s geared particularly toward A&P students at Lion Den. I have a link to that in the show notes and episode page, or just go to lionden.com.

Kevin Patton: Another thing that you might want to provide links to are explanation of things that students should probably know if this were an idea world. We know this is not an ideal world and mine is not an ideal course, and I’m not an ideal teacher, and I don’t teach ideal students, so there are things like issues of academic integrity, where it continues to surprise me that students think that certain behaviors are okay and they’re not okay.

Kevin Patton: I just really don’t understand what plagiarism really is. I have a link to a site on why be honest? Why is that important to you besides the fact that you can get in trouble for not being honest. I have that link in my show notes and episode page. So you can just use that same link to that little article on why be honest. You might have some other links that you found that explained plagiarism and academic integrity or you might want to write your own.

Kevin Patton: Another one that I link to is little blog article I did called, “Why deadlines are important.” Because I think sometimes students don’t really understand how that affects their own learning, how it affects the operation of the course, how it affects other students when people aren’t meeting the deadline. So that might be worth linking to. How about why correct spelling is important? That’s going to be a topic of our future episode and where we can discuss that in more in depth, but take a look at the link that’s in the show notes and you might want to link that in your own syllabus.

Kevin Patton: There’s all kinds of links you might be able to find on classroom and online etiquette and professionalism that might be helpful. Maybe links to how to do certain kinds of assignments like term papers and here’s some help with research methods. How do they link to the school library where they can get help with some of the research and so on? Another kind of link you might want to consider is how to use the learning management system or other course tools, or probably video tutorials and user manuals and so on that you can link to so the student can find them easily and go to them, and get their answers answered right away, without having to wait for the help desk call them back at an inconvenient time.

Kevin Patton: You might also want to link to resources on how to navigate your school like the campus map and things, and how to find resources in your school, and where the learning center is, and are there tutors available? Where would I go for them? Are there any open labs available? Where would I go so you can link to all of that. Something that I started doing awhile back that I found very useful is to have a page of FAQs, frequently asked questions about my course.

Kevin Patton: Some students are going to look at those frequently asked questions on their own. I think most students just ignore it, if they don’t have to look at it, they’re not going to. At least, you can refer the students there when they ask questions. Say well, I explained fully why I do that in FAQs, go look them up. If nothing else, you can use the FAQs yourself as the instructors. When a student ask you a question and drops a little thing like, “I just don’t understand why you give so many test,” then you can just go into the FAQs, copy the answer that you posted there and paste it right into your response to that student and say, “Oh, you mentioned something about so many test. Here’s why I do it,” and just drop it right in there.

Kevin Patton: What kind of FAQs do I put in there? Things like, why do I insist in correct spelling? I explained my rationale. It’s not just because I’m being hard on them. Okay, that’s part of why I do it, but mainly I’m doing it because of the accuracy and the professionalism issue. You can read that when you look at the link. Another question I put in there is, why am I harder than any other teacher they’ve ever hard? Don’t you encounter that comment a lot? I get As in every other class except this one with the implication that that’s somehow the teacher’s fault.

Kevin Patton: Here’s another question, why do I have to learn about neurotransmitters if I’m going to be a nurse? In other words, that’s a stand in for the generic question of, why do we need so much detail in A&P? I’m only going to be this or that and they don’t see why they need it, and so therefore they must not need it. You can address that with them. Another question, why do I give test in the format that I do that’s different than some other teachers do, or different than what I’m used to and so on? Another question is, why is your attendance policy so strict? I can give my rationale for that.

Kevin Patton: Oh, one of my favorites, what is “desirable” difficulty? Why is it important in learning? I’ve brought that up in some past episodes and I’m going to bring it up again later.


Kevin Patton: You made it all the way to the end of this really long episode, or you skipped all the way to the end of this really long episode, which might have been the smarter move. I don’t know, but I really appreciate all the support that all of you have shown me as we push into a new academic season here.

Kevin Patton: I do want to remind you that there are many links associated with this show, and the links of any episode are always available in the show notes of the app that you’re listening in or on the episode page if you’re listening on the web or on the blog. So just go to the approfessor.org to see the regular episode page and get all the show notes there. Stay in contact with me. Please do send me ideas. Please do call me, email me, and give me your questions, ideas, comments, and so on. I’ll see you next time.

Aileen: The A&P Professor is hosted by Kevin Patton, professor, blogger, and textbook author in human anatomy and physiology.

Kevin Patton: I reserve the right to change anything I want in this course without telling you, but still hold you responsible for it on the final exam.

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Last updated: June 15, 2021 at 18:06 pm

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