Auburn University
Auburn University
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Auburn University

Interdisciplinary Faculty Teaching the Human Odyssey Course

Human Odyssey (HO) is administered by the Honors College. Each year, an HO coordinator recruits five or more tenured faculty from several "cultures" (from the sciences and engineering, and from the humanities, social sciences and fine arts). The selected faculty members contract with and are paid for a two-year (4 semester) commitment to teach HO, the financial details worked out with respective heads/chairs of departments.

In spring/summer, the selected faculty members are "schooled" in the classroom for ~ 40 hours, and are paid for their time and commitment. The source readings are read and discussed, and visiting lecturers from a selection of AU faculty provide background knowledge and offer interpretation. Additionally, these trainees learn the Human Odyssey culture of sharing the classroom with another professor – one who comes from an entirely different discipline, and one who likely employs a "different way of knowing."

Following this training, new faculty members are paired with faculty members who have taught the previous year. For example, a "new" biologist might be paired with an experienced English professor, and a "new" art history professor paired with an experienced engineer. Prior to the start of the fall semester, these teaching pairs develop a "shared" syllabus, having to agree on assignments, attendance policy, use of class time, testing, and grading.

Ten professors (five new, five experienced) teach five sections each semester. With their students, all 10 professors attend a Tuesday "lab" consisting of an invited lecture or video, with Q&A following. On Wed and Fri each section meets ~25 students in which teaching pairs encourage informed discussion of the lab and reading assignments. (In the HO training, faculty members are discouraged from lecturing, and skillfully directing student discussion is encouraged.)