The University of Alaska Anchorage Faculty Handbook states:
"A course syllabus will be given to each student at the first class meeting. The syllabus shall explain the teacher's expectations of students, the grading criteria that will be followed, the extent of the material to be covered, the class objectives and student learning outcomes, the attendance policy, and a bibliography."
With the syllabus, you set the tone and introduce your students to the purpose and structure of the course. Your syllabus is an evolving document that represents the way you expect your students to interface with you, each other, and the course content. That is, it reflects your educational philosophy and pedagogy. It also states the course learning objectives and how they align with program learning outcomes, institutional goals and outcomes, and/or professional standards.
Because you and your students will refer to this document repeatedly throughout the term, it deserves careful consideration and deliberate design.
How do I make students aware of course learning outcomes?
The syllabus must include the official student learning outcomes for the course which describe expected student mastery. These student learning outcomes are found in the Course Content Guide (CCG); ask your program chair for a copy of the current CCG for your course. The learning activities and assessments in the course help the students master these outcomes and prepare them for the next courses in their program.
How can I be sure my students read and understand the syllabus?
The time and effort you’ve put into the development of an effective syllabus doesn’t matter if the syllabus isn’t read or integrated into the class. An effective, well-developed, detailed syllabus not only helps students see that you’re organized and are there to support their learning (Saville, et al, 2010). There is also evidence to suggest that students’ academic success may, to a certain extent, depend on their understanding of this cornerstone document (Raymark, et al, 2002). Here are some strategies that may help ensure students are connecting with the syllabus in a way that will support their performance in your course.
What elements could be included in a well-designed syllabus?
A well-designed syllabus includes the course learning outcomes and activities, all materials required for the course, and clear expectations to ensure student success. It is also important to list all technologies used in the course -- both hardware and software.
Check to see if your department, college, or campus has a preferred or required syllabus template.
How do I ensure my syllabus is accessible to all students?
In a nutshell, federal laws require that students with disabilities “must be afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services” as students without disabilities, with “substantially equivalent ease of use” within the same timeframe. To ensure your syllabus or other course documents are accessible to all students you can use the following guidelines using Microsoft Word 2013+ to save your documents in the most universal accessible format. Go to Creating Accessible Documents for tutorial instructions.
You can find more information regarding accessible documents and ADA requirements at: Accessibility: Creating Online Course Content
What resources are available to assess my syllabus?
The following resources can help you assess and improve your syllabus:
- Syllabus Rubric, Cornell University, Center for Teaching Excellence
This rubric provides a simple way to assess some of the basic elements that are helpful to include in a syllabus. Another version of the syllabus rubric that has been adapted by SUNY Buffalo.
- University of Virginia Syllabus Rubric
This rubric assesses the degree to which a syllabus promotes a learning orientation for students (i.e. the syllabus goes beyond "content orientation" to "learning orientation"). It involves both qualitative and quantitative measures and has been tested extensively for validity and reliability.
- Inclusive Syllabi
The Inclusion By Design syllabus worksheet is an evidence-based tool that was developed to assist faculty in determining the degree to which they are being inclusive in course documents, particularly the syllabus, and are incorporating inclusvity in teaching practices. It may be used alone or could be used in concert with other syllabus assessment rubrics.
Check with the Center for Advancing Faculty Excellence (CAFE) for workshops or consultations on creating a learner-centered syllabus.
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26:1, 6-11, DOI: 10.1207/ s15328023top2601_1.
Brantmeier, E., Broscheid, A., and Moore, C. S. Inclusion By Design: Survey Your Syllabus and Course Design A Worksheet. Retrieved from http://cte.virginia.edu/
Goldrick-Rab, S. (2017). Basic Needs Security and the Syllabus. Retrieved from
Kent, C. (2017). The Netiquette Solution to Teaching the Syllabus. Retrieved from www.insidehighered.com/advice/2017/01/31/getting-
Palmer, M. S., Bach, D. J., & Streifer, A. C. (2014). Measuring the promise: A learning‐focused syllabus rubric. To improve the academy: A journal of educational development, 33 (1), 14-36.
Quality Matters Rubric Standards, Fifth Edition, (2014). Retrieved from https://www.qualitymatters.org as a licensed QM Institution.
Raymark, P. H. & Connor-Greene, P. A. (2002). The Syllabus Quiz. Teaching of Psychology, 29:4, 286-288. Retrieved from
Riviere, J., Picard, D. R., & Coble, R. (2016) Syllabus Design Guide. Retrieved from http://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/syllabus-
Saville, B. K., Zinn, T. E., Brown, A. R., & Marchuk, K. A. (2010). Syllabus Detail and Students’ Perceptions of Teacher Effectiveness,
Teaching of Psychology, 37: 3, 186-189. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00986283.2010.488523.
United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. Frequently Asked Questions About the June 29, 2010, Dear Colleague Letter.