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Syllabus: The Basics

Your syllabus guides students through your class by outlining expectations, timelines and rubrics. But does it get the student excited? This guide explores the basic tenets, current theories & best practices for college-level syllabi.

Before you write your syllabus

Plan and organize your course first, then write the syllabus.  Here's a good planning outline:

Course Design

Components of a Syllabus

A syllabus should include the following information:

  1. "Learning Objectives: What students will gain or take away from your course. Why these objectives are the most important skills/knowledge for the course.
  2. Goal/Rationale: How the course relates to primary concepts and principles of the discipline (where it fits into the overall intellectual area). Type of knowledge and abilities that will be emphasized. How and why the course is organized in a particular sequence.
  3. Basic Information: Course name and number, meeting time and place, instructor name, contact information, office hours, instructional support staff information.
  4. Course Content: Schedule, outline, meeting dates and holidays, major topics and sub-topics preferably with rationale for inclusion.
  5. Student Responsibilities: Particulars and rationale for homework, projects, quizzes, exams, reading requirements, participation, due dates, etc. Policies on lateness, missed work, extra credit, etc.
  6. Grading Method: Clear, explicit statement of assessment process and measurements.
  7. Materials and Access: Required texts and readings. How to get materials including relevant instructional technologies. Additional resources such as study groups, etc.
  8. Teaching Philosophy: Pedagogical approach including rationale for why students will benefit from it."

More details at: The Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, Harvard University

Helpful Syllabus Websites