How to Rethink Your Syllabus
A syllabus is a map and a motivator. It guides and encourages the student into new ways of thinking. It provides support and structure. It reflects the relationship you want to have with your students.
In what ways does a well-crafted syllabus contribute to a teaching portfolio?
How does a syllabus promote my teaching goals?
A learner-centered syllabus will help students meet your goals when it:
Steps to Syllabus Construction
Consider which of the following you want to include in your syllabus:
Who is teaching the course
Where you will meet
How often will you meet and course calendar
How can students contact you and others involved in teaching
Policies of the course regarding communication, preparation or class, grading, dealing with special situation and special needs of students (statements regarding ADA compliance and personal emergencies)
Responsibilities of the students, including when, how and, sometimes, why
How to deal with difficulties
Every syllabus should include a statement for students with disabilities. Choose from one of the following statements or write one of your own that incorporates these ideas:
Emory University complies with the regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and offers accommodations to students with disabilities. If you are in need of a classroom accommodation, please make an appointment with me to discuss this as soon as possible. All information will be held in the strictest confidence.
It is the policy of Emory University to make reasonable accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. All students with special requests or need for accommodations should make this request in person as soon as possible.
Keep in mind that no student is required to reveal a disability to an instructor. Likewise, no instructor is expected to make an accommodation unless appropriate documentation from the Office of Disabilities Services is presented.
Nevertheless, an "open door" policy for students who experience difficulties with the academic demands of the course is the best help for all students. Referral to departmental or other university academic support resources can then be made as appropriate. See resources
Content and Context
Content of the course in linear and graphic formats
Context of the course content within the field or area of study
For whom the course is intended (and not intended)
What are the essential outcomes of the course for learners (course objectives)
Assignments by topic
Weekly topic outline
Notes to frame the lectures and readings
Questions to be answered for each unit
Available resources and how to use them, including textbooks, library and on-line resources
Ideas on how to study from the textbook, access on-line resources effectively, study effectively, prepare written assignments
Study questions and previous exams, models of "excellent" papers
List of on campus resources such as Academic Support Program or department tutoring programs
Evaluation Procedures and Policies
What types of evaluations will be conducted
What is the frequency of the evaluations
What is the relative weight or value of each evaluation
Policies regarding late papers, absences for exams, etc.
Consider what form you want your syllabus to take
Design your syllabus so that it is easy to use.
Think about both organization of information and formatting. Be sure that the information is designed so that each section is easily seen by the eye and the purpose is obvious. Plenty of white on the paper helps the eye.
Look at models of syllabi submitted by Emory faculty for ideas.
Each presents information in a different way but all include some creative and effective ways to describe a course and promote learning.
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