Syllabi Design

Syllabi Design

Best Practices in Syllabi Design

There are two models that you can follow: content coverage and backward design. The content coverage model will sound familiar. Determine what content must be covered, oftentimes the choices are shaped by discipline standards and textbooks, then decide how many assignments or exams will be given and fit the details into the school calendar. Backward design begins at the end. Contemplate what outcomes (significant learning experiences) you desire your students to achieve; decide what assessments the students will complete to demonstrate they have achieved the outcomes; develop learning (what the students do) and teaching (what the teacher does) activities; and determine the calendar of what will be completed in and outside of class. For a brief description, read a short essay advocating a backward design approach entitled, "Integrated Course Design," Idea Paper No. 42, and written by L. Dee Fink. Another essay worth reading is Barbara Millis' explanation of deep learning and how it can be promoted in the classroom and in course design, "Promoting Deep Learning," IDEA Paper 47. Seeking additional inspiration? The open access, online journal, Syllabus, includes discussion and sample of syllabi in all disciplines. James Lange, a professor of ENglish at Assumption College, identifies "The 3 Essential Functions of your Syllabus, Part 1, Part 2," which is worth the time to read.

Copyright Your Syllabus

If you have concerns about commercial note-taking and its impact on student learning, or if you want to protect the intellectual property rights of your course content, then you should consider making a policy statement and copyrighting your syllabus. The university does not have a policy prohibiting students selling notes, yet the "Acceptable Use of Technology Policy" (PRP 2550) does prohibit the use of the university network (e.g. eMail, BOLT, etc) for personal financial gain. Kansas State University suggests the following language: "Copyright 20xx ([your name here]) as to this syllabus and all lectures. During this course students are prohibited from selling notes to or being paid for taking notes by any person or commercial firm without the express written permission of the professor teaching this course." By the way, exceptions should be made for Students with Disabilities Center and other note-taking assistance provided to students by the university.

Suggested Checklist of Topics that You Might Include in your Syllabi

Information about you:
Office Location;
Office Hours;
Home Page URL;
Your Philosophy about Teaching and Learning;
Contact Information;
Your Response Time to eMails;

Information about the Course:
Course Goals (e.g. student learning objectives, outcomes, competencies);
Course Description;
How the Course will Fulfill General Education and Program Goals;
Explain Relevancy of Course Goals to Life-Long Learning;
Required Prerequisites;
Required Laboratories;

Information about Course Materials:
Required Text(s);
Additional Required Materials;
Explanation of how the course material will be used;
Titles and Location of any Online Materials;

Grading Expectations and Assignment Guidelines:
Grading Expectations;
Grading Scale;
Grading Criteria;
Point Values for

All Graded Assignments;
List and Explanation of Assignments, Exams, Quizzes;

Information on the Schedule of In- and Out-of-Class Activities:
Weekly or Class-by-Class Course Schedule (i.e. Calendar of the Semester);
Explanation of How Changes in the Syllabus Will be Announced;
Guiding Students to Support Services on Campus:
Tutorial Services Information;
Writing Center Information;
Students with Disabilities Center Information;
Library Research Help Information;

Relevant Policies and Procedures:
Academic Integrity;
Instructional Technology Requirements;
Policies on Cell Phone and Laptop Usage;
Attendance Requirements;
Tardiness Policies;
Policies on Late or Missed Assignments and Exams;
Conduct Expectations;
Campus Safety Statement;
Safe Zone Statement;
Syllabus Copyright Statement;
Compressed Schedule;
Legal Caveat or Disclaimer Indicating the Syllabus is Subject to Change;
Privacy Rights (FERPA)