Developing courses for others

Yesterday, I found myself hip-deep in course planning at the undergraduate, masters, and doctoral level. The doctoral course is for a major initiative that is on my plate this year, the undergraduate course helps the Division of Teacher Preparation with one of their curriculum initiatives, and the third is from a very clear need for redevelopment of the masters-level course on the American education system. In the last case, I was not going to ask colleagues to do something in a course where I’ve committed almost all the possible sins over a quarter century. And since no one else volunteered, I experience the glory of being a department chair or division director: you occasionally get to volunteer yourself for things.

But there is one important difference between my involvement in these three courses and all the other times I have designed or redesigned courses: I am unlikely to be teaching any of these courses in the next semester.

Until this year, I have not created courses where I was not going to teach them immediately. I usually design courses with the intent of being the first to teach them or one of the first to teach a multi-section course. In the first case, I have a very personal perspective on course development: what would work for me as an individual faculty member? How could I take advantage of this week in the schedule? No such indulgence now. With the size of our college, I am not alone in this relationship with courses: especially for teacher education, we have a number of course coordinators who are responsible for supporting full-time and part-time colleagues teaching courses. It just is new for me.

I take some comfort from the perspective of University of Texas Austin classicist Jen Ebbeler, who has been involved in major redesigns of the general-interest classics coursework in Austin, with all its pleasures and frustrations. While planning an online course last year, she wrote that faculty roles are already shifting with online course development, and one important change is that we will sometimes be developing courses for our colleagues rather than for ourselves. That shift has hit me in spades over the past two months. I took more time than expected to develop a reading guide for Dana Goldstein’s The Teacher Wars in part because I found myself second-guessing the discussion questions: is this question good enough for my colleagues?

I am not developing/designing the courses in isolation: One colleague is co-developing the course for the Division of Teacher Preparation, other colleagues have been very active with the masters course in various ways, and the doctoral course is in the context of a large team working on the entire program. But in a semester where my administrative duties mean I am not teaching a class, I am still working on teaching, and doing it in a different way.