Today's course syllabus, far from being a hoary catalog of classroom rules or a sterile table-of-contents for curriculum, also offers guidance about course content and learning outcomes, insight into the professor's values, assessment plans and expected student behaviors, tips on ways to be successful, and how the course fits into the university's larger curriculum objectives. Increasingly, it is viewed as a contract between the professor and students, and a means of making course outcomes and expectations more transparent.
You can often obtain a model syllabus from your dean or program chair, and much excellent guidance is available online. A sampling of some such sources follows:
- USC’s Institutional Assessment & Compliance webpage provides a neat template or format for a syllabus.
- Rutgers’ Center for Teaching Advancement & Assessment Research provides an overview of a syllabus and lists links to other resources.
- University of West Florida’s Center for University Teaching, Learning, and Assessment shares best practices and sample syllabi.
- Danielle Mihram, Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence, University of Southern California, created a concise slideshow presentation that describes elements of a learner-centered syllabus and outlines the steps required to create one.
- You can also access all university syllabi online.
- Death to the Syllabus - originally written by Mano Singham, director of the University Center for Innovation in Teaching and Education and adjunct faculty member at Case Western Reserve University. Also, Singham’s piece, “How My Syllabus is Created” describes a collaborative approach to creating a syllabus. Singham’s piece “Moving away from the Authoritarian Classroom” may also be of interest.
It is recommended that you allot some class or assignment time to working with the syllabus, and that you encourage students by in-class and assignment opportunities and incentives not only to read it but to generate questions and discussion about their concerns.