The college syllabus has always been a go-to guide for any college class. From homework to recommended reading, anything you wanted to know about a college class could be found in the syllabus. Now, researchers at the American Assembly, a non-profit group at Columbia University, are taking the information from college syllabi to learn more about what professors are teaching around the world.
The Open Syllabus Project takes a look at what books are being read and taught in college courses. The goal is to use this information to not only help professors but also students.
What books are being taught most in the college classroom?
“The top-ranked texts, other than textbooks and writing manuals, are
David McClure, an affiliated researcher with the Open Syllabus Project and an MIT Media Lab graduate student, worked on the “map” that helps to figure out what books are being assigned.
“Shakespeare is the single most-assigned author, with almost twice as many appearances as Plato, in second place,” McClure tells Parentology.
The Open Syllabus Project also found philosophy courses seem to assign very similar texts, whereas history is more scattered. Information like this can help researchers and professors look at how different subjects are being presented to students in the classroom.
Karaganis also tells Parentology most of the claims about what’s been referenced as “the closing of the American mind” are greatly exaggerated.
How Can the Open Syllabus Project Help Professors and Students?
McClure believes the information found in the Open Syllabus Project can help professors find new readings to go along with what’s already been selected.
“It could also be useful as a way to avoid the “typical” choices, and design really innovative and unusual courses,” McClure adds.
Along those same lines of thought, the Open Syllabus Project also has value for new course building. Karaganis says the Open Syllabus Project can provide schools a way to think about what students are reading and help them organize classes at that level.
It also provides information that’s valuable for students.
“For ambitious students, we’ve provided a roadmap to the things they’ll read in college in whatever field they choose to explore,” says Karaganis.
Karaganis says the most important thing to learn in college is probably how to learn and The Open Syllabus Project provides a new kind of support for that process.
When it comes to learning in the college classroom, there are also things parents can do to prepare their children for what lies ahead.
Michael Ben-Avie, Ph.D., Senior Director of Learning Assessment and Research at Quinnipiac University tells Parentology one of the things that parents can do to help their kids is to actually let them fail.
Ben-Avie says the students who thrive are those who believe in hard work.“There are some students who attribute success to luck, but those students don’t thrive as well.”
Another tip? Consider your kids communication partners. Ben-Avie suggests asking kids questions and helping them to mount arguments. This can help them to participate in the college classroom as many students are hesitant to speak in class and to professors.
Parents should encourage their children to find areas of interest them so they can bring those experiences to the classroom.
Ben-Avie says,“Professors are also looking for students who are interesting and can add to the course.”
Open Syllabus Project: Sources
Joe Karaganis, project director and vice president of a public policy institute at Columbia University
Michael Ben-Avie, Ph.D., Senior Director of Learning Assessment and Research at Quinnipiac University