Tip 21: How to Weed Out

Sometimes when you plan a course, there is plenty the school wants you to do and that you think is important and fascinating. Sometimes, in fact, there is too much to do. How do you keep the coursework manageable, both for you and the students?

Look for redundancy.

Do you have two works from the same time period? Two works by the same author? A work likely read in high school or a previous course?

If you do, there is something you can delete.

Do you have two papers of the same type? Do you have two expressive papers?

Again, if you do, there is something you can delete.

What if there isn’t redundancy in your course?

Keep major concepts over minor ones.

One of the real issue with eliminating in a course is determining the major concepts or issues over the minor ones.

Obviously in a freshman composition course I cannot teach every style of college writing the students may face. Equally obviously in a survey of literature course, I can’t have them read every work, or even every major work, of every period.

So I need to focus on the most important ones.

Students are more likely to have to write a compare/contrast paper than they are a narrative essay. If I need to drop papers, then I ought to drop the narrative (a type they are probably too familiar with) to keep the compare/contrast (a type they will be writing in exams throughout college).

Students are more likely outside of English class to hear a reference to Bunyan than to Herbert. I should deal with Bunyan over Herbert if I am teaching a literature course and need to actually finish a period within X amount of time. Then again, they are more likely to hear about Milton than Bunyan. So I would eliminate Herbert in order to include Bunyan, but eliminate Bunyan to include Milton.

Check your learning outcomes.

If you said the students should have written a compare/contrast paper, then you need to have them write one.

If you said they will have covered all the major authors, you should know who the major authors are and cover them.

If you said they are going to read in all four genres, then you should make sure that the students read works in all four genres.

Follow your learning outcomes or change them to better fit your view of the course.

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