Division of Academic Affairs
Maria talks about the importance of a comprehensive and clear syllabus and offers some thoughts on the content areas to include.
I’m Maria Yon from the Center for Teaching & Learning at UNC Charlotte. Today I’m going to talk about the course syllabus.
When I look back on my college experiences and think about the course syllabi we were given, I vividly remember the impact the syllabus had on me on that first day of class. Some syllabi were a half-page long, containing not much more than the contact information for the professor and a description of the course and required assignments or test dates. Others were several pages long and included some detail about the expectations of the course and a calendar of readings for the semester.
The syllabus was always handed out on the first day of class and how it was dealt with set a definite tone for the course. I always remembered my own college experiences in developing my syllabi and how I use them on the first day of class. It says to students something about how seriously an instructor takes teaching.
The syllabus is the result of your careful and well-informed decision-making about what you’re trying to accomplish. It’s the students’ introduction to the course and the subject matter. It’s a kind of road map for the semester. There is comfort in knowing where you are going.
The syllabus also serves as a contract that shifts the responsibility of learning to the student. A comprehensive and clear syllabus prevents confusion and anxiety. Valuable teaching time is lost if you need to stop and explain details that should have been in the syllabus. Students appreciate the effort you make in creating a truly useful syllabus. Present it thoroughly on the first day and refer to it throughout the semester.
Syllabi vary in format and content, so check with your department for guidelines. Use your colleague’s syllabus as a model if you find that helpful. There are major content areas that are generally required for all syllabi. These include:
One thing that I have learned across time is that the contents of a syllabus can change. Those revisions or additions are usually made when an unanticipated event occurs. For example, adding guidelines on the use of electronic equipment in class, or a section on plagiarism have been recent additions to my syllabi.
Finally, remember that a syllabus is the only record of your course. You will most likely need it for reasons beyond your class. So, make it one that is reflective of the good planning that you have done and the care that you take of your teaching.
Thanks for listening and tune in again for “Teaching & Learning Matters.”
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