A syllabus can be more than just a list of lecture topics and assignment due dates. Done thoughtfully, it explains the student learning outcomes for the course, demonstrates your enthusiasm for teaching, and expresses your confidence in students. According to Slattery (2005), a syllabus is considered to be high quality if it contains several sections in addition to course facts:
- The tone indicates that you believe students can produce quality work
- Is expressly inclusive toward groups traditionally underrepresented
- Includes student learning outcomes for the course
- Includes a transparent content structure (class schedule) and assessment schedule
- Indicates how each assignment relates to learning outcomes
- Includes clear grading guidelines
- Is complete enough to allow students to manage their time
- Reflects the instructor’s teaching philosophy (emphasizes service learning, or mentoring, or problem-solving practice, or effective group skills for instance).
- Is complete enough to act as a “contract” outlining student and and teacher responsibilities.
- Can include information about course and curriculum outcomes and objectives needed for university accreditation
Other helpful items to include
- Includes an explanation of how assignments/tasks are connected to the outcomes. A “graphic syllabus” can be particularly helpful to show students the connections.
- A statement regarding academic honesty and a link to the formal policy or quiz about it.
- A statement welcoming students who have disabilities and feel they need accommodations to succeed in your course to get such a formal request for accommodation through the Disabilities Services Center.
- If students are going to be partly assessed by their participation, a definition of what “participation” means and the criteria on which it will be assessed.
A more extensive list of items and samples follow.
This tool by Vanderbilt University provides sample statements you can use to address academic honesty, the value of student diversity, student privacy, LGBTQ students, and more.
There are a number of standard “basics” that are helpful to include in a syllabus. An exhaustive list is here – you will likely need many:
Course name & number
|Course Philosophy Statements
required books and readings
The following Sample Syllabus Template can help you with how to word policies, etc.
The Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation is available for free one-on-one consultations about how to create effective syllabi and other documentation of your teaching. We also offer:
- Regular workshops on a variety of pedagogical topics
- Workshops personalized for departments or units to maximize discipline-specific teaching
- A selection of curated online resources on teaching and learning
Contact us at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a meeting or get more information.
Appleby, D. C. (1999). How to improve your teaching with the course syllabus. Lessons learned: Practical advice for the teaching of psychology, 1, 19-24. Link.
Slattery, J. M., & Carlson, J. F. (2005). Preparing an effective syllabus: Current best practices. College Teaching, 53(4), 159-164.
Other online resources:
DIY Syllabus by Kevin Gannon (Vitae, 2016)