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The way Rebecca Knuth plans a class she's teaching illustrates why she was nominated by her students and won the LJ Teaching Award for 2009. The award, which comes with a $5000 honorarium and a celebration at the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting, is sponsored by ProQuesc For Knuth, a tenured professor in the Library and Information Science Program at the University of Hawai'i, Manoa (UHM), building a course and its syllabus is a lot like writing a book.
The power of a good syllabus
"You must begin with compelling content, ideas that lift discussion, selected for being useful and meaningful," she says. "Careful organization helps bring out the meaning of the course. I weave together readings, assignments, DVDs, and discussion--the pattern is similar to the way you lay out a book--it builds on themes. A good syllabus reflects a mixture of theory, professional utility, and human interest."
Knuth takes time to guide students through her syllabi and uses them to provide deep structure for the course. "I try to get students to see the syllabus as a tool for making conscious meaning and to give them insight into how each bit contributes to their understanding," she explains. "A good syllabus keeps us on track and purposeful."
Knuth applies these ideas to the six courses she teaches plus the Library Internship Program and her Independent Studies, both of which …