Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tips for Launching a Class next Semester

Reflections on organizing an Experimental College Class – Horizontal Resistance Movements
These are some thoughts regarding how to organize an experimental college class based off my experiences as an organizer last year during the second phase of the contemporary experimental college.  
  1. Formulate a class with a group of people interested in organizing around a similar focus and start preparing a syllabus. For our experimental college class of the Horizontal Resistance Movements we had a vague idea of studying horizontalism within different social movements. We found folks that had taught similar classes while completing graduate work at UC Santa Cruz. They sent us their syllabus and we added more material to the class.
  2.     Outreach, Outreach, Outreach. Begin to outreach for potential students that might enroll in the class. This is perhaps one of the most important things that you will need to do in order to organize towards a successful class. You can’t really have a class without any students to participate. Find creative ways to engage students in the formulation of the class. Ask that they approve the syllabus the first day, ask students to add to the syllabus and help create the class, break down the barrier between student/teacher and make every student a teacher and every teacher a student.
  3. Determine whether you want to take the class for credits. If you do then you will have to learn how to navigate through the bureaucratic structures that exist within the school. Perhaps, the most successful strategy if you do decide to lean towards accreditation for the class is to find a sympathetic chair of a department that will sponsor the class. Once they decide to sponsor the class then you can register the class in what is commonly referred to as a Special Study 699, or Independent Study. Essentially, the Experimental College is a coordinated group of students that decide to take an Independent Study class together. Not that complicated, right? If you do get approval and sponsorship from the chair of a department (the Chairs of departments will save you extra steps if they decide to support the project) then you understand that you must fulfill obligations for following through with grades at the end of the semester and any additional paperwork.
  4. Speaking of grades, figure out a grading system for class. Maybe you don’t believe in grades, but if you’re creating an official class students can register for departments sign off on then you must expect to determine how to make your class function within the school bureaucracy. Often times, grades are an important component of this legitimization of the class you create and can incentivize students to take it more seriously since they can strategically benefit from the experience. The grading system we chose for our class was peer review based on participation and the creation of a collective ‘zine in which we turned in all the final work to the chair, along with our reflection papers.
  5.  Find a location for your class. This can be outside, in the quad, a café, Lake Merced etc. A simple classroom worked well for us because we got access to the audio visual equipment and chalk board. The setting can really be important for a successful class. The important thing is that you have a consistent meeting space that is accessible where you can meet throughout the semester. We walked around during the first two weeks of school until we found a class that we knew was empty and liberated this class all semester long. You can do the same. 
  6. Good Luck!

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