Wednesday, August 12, 2009


When I taught at the Universität Gesamthochschule Essen back in 1994 I was immediately struck by the contrasts between the German and American university systems. During the year that I was there my understanding of and consequent insight into the German system grew and ultimately I came to feel the two systems were far more alike than I had realized, but initially I was confused to say the least. As I sit in my office now, trying to write a syllabus for a course I haven't taught in over ten years, I'm more than a little nostalgic for that first Grundübungen: Zeichnen course I taught. With no real "registration," students could (and did) show up or not as they pleased. In the US I'm expected to develop a curriculum with a logical progression. Each week's activities should extend and develop concepts discussed in the previous week. But back in Essen in 1994 there was no expectation that the students present today would have any knowledge of what happened last week. Each week's activities had to stand alone and the students were responsible for putting it all together in an order that made sense. It completely eliminated the need for planning on my part. I was a very popular instructor and most weeks curious students overflowed into two, sometimes, three, classrooms. If I could find a chair for each student, my Learning Objectives Assessment Rubric was fully satisfied.

Chairs won't be a problem when classes begin here in a little over a week, but the need for a syllabus for my Drawing I section has my brain fully engaged. I know intuitively why drawing is important, but explaining its significance concisely is a real puzzle. I believe strongly that defining objectives makes me a better teacher, but at home we haven't located the silverware yet. It would be nice if I could wing it just this once.

I really need a few solid weeks of undisturbed unpacking to get my life back on track, but the needs of the job are distracting me in a variety of ways. Last night for example, after less than 36 hours in Logan, I was already attending an opening reception for an exhibition featuring the work of two visiting scholars here at Utah State. Having been a visiting scholar myself several times, I know how important it is to make visitors feel welcome, so I put aside the search for knives and forks and attended the opening for two Korea artists, vowing to myself that I would not stay long. Five hours and a couple of bottles of soju later, I was performing "Beyond the Sea" in the basement of a local Korean restaurant. I thought I did a pretty good job, but the Karaoke machine has an automated scoring system and my younger, less experienced colleague beat me, hands down. Clearly I need a copy of the Karaoke Objectives Assessment Grid.


Tyler Vance said...

I just got handed 2D. I've never taught it and frankly have no idea what they do in there. There'll be a lot of winging on my part.

Makaela Victoria said...

If you ever get the chance, travel to Korea with JinMan Jo. Every night turns into 5 bottles of Soju, a night on town, and a couple sessions of Karaoke!!