How do you bring your content to life and create a sense of wonder?

Along with a list of topics organized by date, the course calendar, or course schedule, traditionally includes reading assignments and assignment and exam due dates. Students rely on this information to navigate your course. In fact, research shows course calendars are the most frequently revisited part of the syllabus. Because of this, it's worth considering what other opportunities the course calendar presents to instructors.

The list of topics is one opportunity. The list most instructors typically include in their course calendars rarely makes sense to or resonates with students. For example, while students may know that the topic of the day is "UV/VIS Spectroscopy," they likely have no idea what that is or why they should care. Presenting the topic of the day as a question—especially if it's a beautiful question—can capture students' sense of wonder and hook them into doing the hard work of learning your course content. In our example, a beautiful question might be, "Why are hippopotamuses pink?" With this question, a clever instructor can pique students' curiosity and get them to engage long enough to learn about UV/VIS spectroscopy.

Another opportunity involves adding in more transparency about the whys and hows of learning in your courses. This can be done by reimagining the organization of the course calendar. Three possibilities are shown below.

Date Topics Readings and Activities Assignments
Theme 1: What is the intriguing, provocative, or beautiful question students will explore?
Aug. 23 What topic will shape the students’ answers to the question posed? What will students read or do to help them better understand how the topic addresses the question? What evidence will students produce to demonstrate better understanding of the question?
Sep. 1 What new topic will shape the students’ answers to the question posed? What will students read or do to help them better understand how the new topic addresses the question? What evidence will students produce to demonstrate a better understanding of the question?
Theme 2: What is the new intriguing, provocative, or beautiful question students will explore?

Theme Date Topics Readings and Activities Assignments
Theme 1: What is the intriguing, provocative, or beautiful question students will explore? Aug. 23 What topic will shape the students’ answers to the question posed? What will students read or do to help them better understand how the topic addresses the question? What evidence will students produce to demonstrate better understanding of the question?
Sep. 1 What new topic will shape the students’ answers to the question posed? What will students read or do to help them better understand how the topic addresses the question? What evidence will students produce to demonstrate a better understanding of the question?
Theme 2: What is the new intriguing, provocative, or beautiful question students will explore? ... ... ... ...

Date Questions to Explore
Aug. 23 Theme 1: What is the intriguing, provocative, or beautiful question students will explore?
What evidence will students produce to demonstrate a better understanding of the question? What will students read or do to help them better understand how the new topic addresses the question?
Sep. 1 Theme 2: What is the new intriguing, provocative, or beautiful question students will explore?
What evidence will students produce to demonstrate a better understanding of the new question? What will students read or do to help them better understand how the new topic addresses the question?


Before digging in, we recommend you create some explanatory text that introduces your course calendar and helps set expectations about timelines and flexibility. We've pasted one possibility into the box that you can use, revise, or replace. When you're ready, click Next and we will guide you through the steps of putting these ideas into practice.

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