Learn how a well written syllabus can provide learners with essential information, anticipate student questions and provide just the right logistical information. If you want students to sign up for your course, you need a well crafted document containing just the right amount of information. Learn why a syllabus is a critical tool for communicating with students and how you can create a syllabus that eliminates confusion and helps learners be successful.
- Sometimes a syllabus is thought of as something that's not important. It's considered merely a course schedule, a document providing due dates, assignments, and information on what textbook to purchase. But it can and should be much more than that. A well written syllabus provides information, anticipates questions, provides logistical information and conveys the tone and philosophy of the learning environment. A detailed, well prepared syllabus signals to students that you take this class and teaching seriously, and that you expect them to take this class and learning just as seriously.
It is best to approach the creation of the syllabus from the student's perspective. Creating a student-centered syllabus helps your students to gain the most from the class. A student-centered syllabus contains three elements which help the student. First, it defines the success factors for the students. This doesn't just include grading information, but it defines instructor expectations of participation and learning. It spells out learning outcomes to be achieved by the students and it recommends study habits and goals.
Second, it provides a road map for the semester. The first day of any college or university level class can be intimidating for students. It's a new professor, new classmates, and a new subject. Having a clear road map of where the class is going and what the class is covering can be highly beneficial to students. Third and final student-centered element is to anticipate student's questions. After teaching for a few semesters, you'll get an idea of what questions students frequently ask.
Write those questions down and when you update your syllabus, incorporate answers to common questions. But the syllabus isn't just for students. As a professor or instructor, the syllabus is just as important and critical for you. The syllabus does three important things for you as the professor. The first is that the syllabus helps you organize your class. It forces you to sit down and think about how you want to present the material to your students, how you want to assess student progress, and the resources students need to be successful.
Second is that the syllabus conveys your teaching and learning philosophy. It allows you to describe what you believe about learning and can serve as a model for how students should think about academics. By reviewing your philosophy on a semester-by-semester basis, when you revise your syllabus, you'll be able to reinforce parts of your philosophy that continue to ring true and make modifications that you feel are required. Third is it creates a level playing field within your class.
The rules and requirements placed in the syllabus holds all students to the same standards. It provides a consistent approach to addressing student needs. It's academic transparency. It's also important to remember that a syllabus is an important institutional document. The syllabus is an official document outlining what is taught in the class. Its description is often used in the course catalog and the information contained within is used to determine where the class fits into the broader curriculum.
Many institutions place the official syllabus on record and use it for course reviews, accreditations by outside bodies, and reviews by fellow faculty. As you can see, the syllabus is an important document, but it's often an afterthought in the creation of a course. It can be overlooked, but after exploring the elements of the syllabus and how they can help you as a professor and your students, you won't overlook your syllabus ever again.
- Writing a course description
- Creating a course schedule
- Outlining course policies
- Adding grading criteria
- Summarizing the objectives and outcomes
- Distributing an online syllabus