Preparing Effective Syllabus

Preparing Effective Syllabus

Suggestions for Preparing an Effective Syllabus

by Frances Johnson

Syllabus as a Point of Information

  • A syllabus introduces you to your students. What do you want your syllabus to say?
  • Project the image that you are most comfortable with in your syllabus. Be friendly, be straightforward, be caring, be rigorous.
  • The choice is up to you and your own ethos.

Syllabus Should Include:

  • Course number, section, title
  • Your contact information (phone, email, office hours and location)
  • Required materials and supplies (ISBN numbers for books)
  • Prerequisites
  • Course description (can come from catalog or you can annotate and expand catalog description)
  • Course requirements: readings, assignments, exams, papers
  • Course grading (including weights, percentages, and explanation of standards)
  • Special policies: Your own, academic honesty, attendance, and accommodation statements
  • Calendar of activities/events/exams/tests/papers/assignments. Remember to include add drop and withdrawal deadlines, too

Syllabus Functions

  • Establishes early point of contact between student and teacher
  • Helps set the tone for your course
  • Describes your beliefs about educational purposes
  • Acquaints students with logistics of the course
  • Contains collected handouts
  • Defines student responsibilities for successful course work
  • Defines and describes active learning
  • Helps students to assess their readiness for your course
  • Sets the course in broader context for learning
  • Provides a conceptual framework
  • Describes available learning resources
  • Communicates the roles of technology in the course 

The Syllabus as a Learning Tool

  • Prepares students for learning in your classroom
  • Sets a framework for knowledge
  • Encourages students to take responsibility for their own learning Planning Your Syllabus
  • Develop a well-grounded rationale for your course
  • Decide what you want your students to do as a result of taking your course “A set of critically examined core assumptions about why you do what you do in the way that you do it” (Shulman & Hutchings, 1994).
  • Decide how their work will be appropriately assessed Formulate learning goals that can be assessed Connect assessment process to learners’ world and frames of reference Provide multiple methods of assessment to address students’ different learning styles Include self-assessment
  • Define and delimit course content Be clear about what is most worth knowing Discipline yourself to remove the forgettable and focus on the most important knowledge, skills, and values For critical thinking, what questions, issues and problems can help you frame your course?
  • Structure your students’ active involvement in learning What activities and assignments can involve students is sustained intensive work, both independently and with one another? What strategies can you use to shape basic skills, present information, guide inquiry, monitor individual and group activities, support and challenge critical reflection?
  • Identify and develop learning resources Not all learning takes place in the classroom What resources can you assemble? Films, databases, guest lectures, sites on the net, etc.
  • Compose your syllabus with a focus on student learning Once you have thought about the topics above, you are ready to begin to write your syllabus.
Adapted from “The Course Syllabus” by Judith Grunert, 1997