You know, I'm not sure why this question never came firmly into my mind before, but I'd guess it had something to do with being an advanced grad student a year ago who couldn't really imagine teaching anyone except undergrads. Here's the question:
How do you differentiate between courses you'd offer to undergrads, and those you'd offer to grad students?
Aside from a few basic meat-and-potatoes courses that one expects to teach in most departments — Introduction to Complexification Studies*, History of Complexification Theory, etc. — I'm not sure what hiring committees expect candidates to display in their syllabus portfolios. I've designed a bunch of syllabi that, for the most part, I envisioned as courses for undergrad majors who had already taken intro-level stuff. The trick here is that I have a fantastic undergrad alma mater (if I say so myself), where major-level course material was reliably challenging, and professors expected us to sweat out tough readings and essays. But that was a tiny elite school at which such work was par for the course. My experience at DOU has taught me that not every place can (or even should) operate like that.
So now I'm wondering: how do other academics decide that one syllabus is a doughty, drink-your-coffee advanced undergrad course, and another is sufficiently difficult and weighty that it should only be offered as a graduate course? I really don't know how much material is too much to expect for one group or another, not having actually taught these syllabi yet. The only comparative example I have seen is History of Complexification Theory, which I took as both an undergrad and a grad student. The difference there — sharp as it was! — was mostly one of degree rather than kind: more readings, more primary sources, more reaction papers, more participation at the grad level.
I don't know if other disciplines will recognize this trend, but in my world, I also note that grad courses often sound way sexier and cooler than undergrad offerings. Look at the catalog, and you'll see undergrad courses like:
Complexification Subfield A
Topics in Complexification Subfield B
Survey of Complexification Subfield C
Flip over to the grad courses, though, and you'll see:
Two Apparently Unconnected Things Juxtaposed to Suggest an Insidious and Fascinating Structural Relationship
Going Beyond All This Subfield Shit
Broadside Critiques of Complexification Studies by Its Own Practitioners
And so on.
So how do I figure out what I'm working with, anyway? I worry that my inclinations lead me to structure undergrad syllabi that seem too difficult for even driven majors to work through. But I've never even seriously attempted a graduate syllabus. What does one attempt to do with such things at each level? I just want to read, listen to, and watch cool stuff and discuss it all with my students. Where does the undergrad-appropriate level end and the grad level begin?
*Yes, I am outright homaging/borrowing/stealing Profgrrrrl's handy term, since I continue to flail uselessly in my attempt to establish my own pseudonymous term for my work.
6 years ago