Regardless of our academic discipline, we all recognize that too many students do not have a habit of closely reading our course syllabi. With the goal of reframing this frustrating problem into a pedagogical opportunity, I sought to transform the syllabus itself into an object of study through the creation of an online Syllabus Quiz. This proposed presentation focuses on the many ways in which a Syllabus Quiz can help familiarize students with our courses, as well as immediately engage them in the co-construction of our shared learning environment. My original intention in developing a Syllabus Quiz was a practical, basic one—to signal the document’s importance to students through the mechanism that most consistently signals importance to a university student: a grade or a mark. However, while experimenting with this tool over four years, I came to recognize a wide range of other learning goals that it may also help address. This proposed presentation is based on my ongoing research, which (1) situates the use of a Syllabus Quiz within broader scholarly research on syllabi and student engagement, (2) introduces the particular pedagogical strategies used to develop the questions and format for this quiz, and (3) employs a grounded theory approach to analyze qualitative survey data collected from my students in an effort to better understand their perceptions of the Syllabus Quiz and its relative value.
Richard Holtzman is an Associate Professor of Political Science and the Coordinator of the Political Science Program at Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island (USA). He received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin and his B.A. from the University of California, San Diego. Holtzman’s research and teaching focus on American Politics and he has published on Presidential Rhetoric, Narratives and Discourses in American Politics, and on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.