When history professor Mary-Ellen Kelm realized that her students had minimal interest in her course, she turned the tables by inviting them to help determine what they would learn and how they would be evaluated. The results, she says, have been “incredible.”

History, Teaching

History professor Kelm invites students to co-create syllabus

April 20, 2017

Mary-Ellen Kelm is offering a new kind of educational experience that puts learners in the driver’s seat. For the past two semesters, the SFU history professor has invited students to co-create the syllabus, assignments and marking rubrics of HIST 326, a course that examines the history of Aboriginal people in North America since 1850.

“It was obvious from the work I was seeing semester after semester that the students didn’t care about the course material and were doing the bare minimum to get by,” says Kelm. “In some cases, the papers were so unrelated to the course material I had to wonder if they had purchased them online.”

Kelm felt the problem was that course content was not relevant to the goals and interests of her students and set out to change that by creating a participatory process that allows students to decide what content the course will cover and how they will demonstrate their knowledge.

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