Components of a Learning-Centered Syllabus
- What do students need and/or want to know about the course?
- What pre-requisites exist?
What do I want students to know about myself? My interest in the discipline? My teaching philosophy?
- How can I convey my enthusiasm for teaching, for the course?
- Other instructors in the course (e.g., graduate TAs, peer tutors, team
- What content will the course address? How does the course fit in with other courses in the discipline? Why is the course valuable to the students?
- How is the course structured?
Large lecture with discussion sessions? Large lecture with laboratory and discussion sessions? Seminar?
- How are the major topics organized?
- What will the students know and be able to do as a result of having taken this course?
- What levels of cognitive thinking do I want my students to engage in?
- What learning skills will the students develop in the course?
- Given the kind of learning I'd like to encourage and foster, what kinds of
instructional interactions need to occur?
Teacher-student, student-student, student-peer tutor?
- What kinds of instructional approaches are most conducive to helping students accomplish set learning objectives?
- How will classroom interactions be facilitated?
In-class? Out-of-class? Online? Electronic discussion? Newsgroups? Chatroom?
Course Requirements, Assignments:
- What will students be expected to do in the course?
- What kinds of assignments, tests do most appropriately reflect the course objectives?
- Do assignments and tests elicit the kind of learning I want to foster?
Assignments (frequency, timing, sequence)? Tests? Quizzes? Exams? Papers? Special projects? Laboratories? Field trips? Learning logs? Journals? Oral presentations? Research on the web? Web publishing? Electronic databases?
- What kinds of skills do the students need to have in order to be
successful in the course?
Computer literacy? Research skills? Writing skills? Communication skills? Conflict resolution skills? Familiarity with software?
- What is expected of the student?
Attendance? Participation? Student responsibility in their learning? Contribution to groupwork? Missed assignments? Late work? Extra credit? Academic dishonesty? Makeup policy? Classroom management issues? Laboratory safety?
- How will the students' work be graded and evaluated?
Number of tests? In-class? Take-home? Point value? Proportion of each test toward final grade? Grading scale?
- How is the final grade determined? Drop lowest grade?
- How do students receive timely feedback on their performance?
Instructor? Self-assessment? Peer review? Peer tutors? Opportunities for improvement? Ungraded assignments?
- What kinds of materials will be used during the course?
Electronic databases? Electronic Course Reserve? Course Webpage? Software? Simulations? Laboratory equipment?
- What kinds of instructional technologies will be used?
- In what sequence will the content be taught? When are major assignments
due? Fieldtrips? Guestspeaker?
Study Tips/Learning Resources:
- How will the student be most successful in the course?
- What resources are available?
Online quiz generator? Study guides? Lecture notes online? Lecture notes on reserve in library? Guestspeaker to explain/demonstrate online resources? TA? Peer tutors? Study groups? Academic Services Center? Writing Center? Evaluation of online resources? Citation of web resources?
Student Feedback on Instruction:
- Anonymous suggestion box on the web? E-mail?
- Student feedback at midterm for instructional improvement purposes?
- End-of-term student feedback? Supplement to departmental student feedback
- Instructor biography? Instructor personal statement? Student information
form? Other instructor information (e.g., TA)?
Additional questions to consider:
- How detailed, explicit should the syllabus be?
- Will there be some flexibility built into the syllabus?
- How to word the syllabus so that it is user-friendly?
Altman & Cashin. (1992). Writing a syllabus. IDEA Paper No. 27. Kansas State University. Graeber/Harris
Communications & Productions, Inc. (1995). First day.
Grunert, J. (1997). The course syllabus. A learning-centered approach. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing.