by Pam Wilson

The theory course is the intellectual cornerstone of many of our programs, yet all but the brightest students often suffer through it, groaning and complaining. How do we, as professors, find the perfect combination of elements to provide the theoretical underpinnings in a form both palatable and digestible to our students?

The “Ah, the Dreaded Theory Course” workshop is designed to be a sharing session. Participants are invited to discuss the place of one or more theory courses within your program’s curriculum, sharing your department’s experiences. How do we make theory seem relevant to our undergraduate students? What theoretical bases should a media studies program cover? Discussion topics may include:

1.    Does your program have one (or more) theory courses? To what degree is theoretical understanding integrated into every course, not just the free-standing ”theory” course(s)?

2.    What particular theoretical content and approaches are central to your department’s mission?

3.    What readings/texts/resources do you use in your primary theory course? Textbooks? Original sources? Readers/anthologies? How do you teach your theory course(s)? That is, how is it structured? What are your courses’ learning objectives? How do you assess them?

4.    What types of assignments?

5.    What pedagogical approaches?

6.    What works and what doesn’t?

7.    What would be the ideal essential components for such a course, for you? (Let’s think in terms of modules: Marx? Frankfurt School? Semiotics? Barthes? Interactionism? Narrative theory? Film theory? Fan cultures? Race? Gender? etc.)

Participants willing to share insights, syllabi and/or examples of successful assignments and exercises should email them to Beth Corzo-Duchardt, who will make copies for all attendees, and to workshop facilitator Pam Wilson.