School starts on Monday, and with it comes a brand new set of graduation requirements for all first year students. The new requirement that most affects me is the required Argument and Inquiry seminars that all first year students take in their first term at college, and this seminar includes the first cross-curricular mandatory information literacy requirement we’ve ever had.
Obviously I’d think this is a good thing. But what I hadn’t realized was what I’d find most good about this good thing: the major pay-off of this new requirement may be the conversations I’ve had with several faculty in the last couple of months as they develop their A&I seminars for this fall. Just the fact that the seminars are new and that they’re a little intimidating to teach means that we’ve felt at liberty to completely mess with “normal.”
“What if we do away with the ‘library class,'” I ask, and they don’t look at me like I’m growing horns. They say, “What would that look like?”
Another professor came to see if I thought she was completely bonkers for wanting me to come in 4 or 5 times for 15-20 minutes each rather than just once, and I could say “Not at all! Here are the kinds of ways we’re doing that with these other classes.”
And these are professors I’ve never worked with before and professors I’ve worked with consistently over the years — creative and thoughtful professors, all — but it feels totally different because we’re both pretty uncertain about how we’ll make these seminars work. We’re brainstorming and upending the status quo with wild abandon, and nothing feels taboo. And sometimes we settle back on a format similar to the more normal class: assignment-specific instruction for 50 minutes. But when we do, we do so with more confidence that this format suites the course’s learning goals rather than just being What We’ve Done Before.