Too explicit? No such thing.

Following on Heather’s post last week about the key (and required) elements of the syllabus at the University of Sasaktchewan, I wanted to add a point of emphasis that I think saves time, saves confusion, and may even save you some heartache.

That point is: be explicit with your students about your expectations.

Sometimes, as instructors, we may forget that we too  had to learn about academic expectations and norms.   If we were lucky, we caught on quickly, probably in our first or second years of undergraduate study.   Our new students (new to our disciplines, our institution, our jargon, our everyday language, our Saskatchewan and/or Canadian ways) will benefit from clear instructions and rules about how to complete the work required, and especially the work we will assess for grades.  When we want individual work, we should explain what that looks like and what it does not in the context of our course.  Examples help a lot.  When collaboration is permitted, we should explain what we mean by that and what we would regard as collusion in the context of our course.  Again, examples are very useful.  When we expect students to use outside resources, we should explain what we mean by originality and what we mean by proper referencing, by proper paraphrasing.  Referring students to library and other resources so that they may quickly  learn about these important practices is vital.

It’s also important to note that what we expect may differ from what students have experienced in other programs, in other courses, and with other professors, even those in our same hallways.  The expectations we have can, to some extent, reflect our own beliefs about students and the role of assignments in their learning.

While this GMCTE video sets this same message about being explicit within the concern for academic integrity, you may find a view of this short piece gives you the reminder you need about stating, what may be to you but not to your students, the obvious.

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