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Get ready to learn more about effective syllabus design and delivery. Today’s session will help you create a syllabus that is accessible to your students and provides a comprehensive overview of your course. . Improving Your Syllabus . Complete this sentence: .

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improving your syllabus

Get ready to learn more about effective syllabus design and delivery. Today’s session will help you create a syllabus that is accessible to your students and provides a comprehensive overview of your course.

Improving Your Syllabus

complete this sentence
Complete this sentence:

The syllabus for my course [insert title] is like a _________________________ because_______________________.

what is a syllabus
What is a syllabus?
  • A learning tool for your course (Grunert 1997:12)
  • A syllabus should convey “what the course is about, why the course is taught, where it is going, and what will be required of students” in order to succeed (Altman and Cashin 1992).
  • Your syllabus “can convey the logic and organization of the course and clarify your instructional priorities, providing a common plan and reference” (Grunert 1997:12).
why does the syllabus matter
Why does the syllabus matter?
  • A strong syllabus & high quality instruction are related.
  • It gives students a sense of control over their learning.
  • It sets the tone for your relationship with students.
  • It is “an antidote to the deterioration of communication between professor and student” (Strada2000:209)
watch out for your assumptions
Watch out for your assumptions…
  • Students are diverse in terms of expectations & experience, so lay everything out for them.
  • Many first-year students do not know what a syllabus is or how to use it.
  • Some students are in the habit of ignoring their syllabus.
  • Many students will be overwhelmed by the density of information.
visual syllabus
Visual Syllabus

Think about ways that you can make your syllabus appealing AND convey the logic behind your course design.

engaging students in the syllabus
Engaging Students in the Syllabus

Question: Why would you ignore a life raft?

Answer: You didn’t recognize it as a life raft.

Think/Pair/Share: What are some ways you can encourage your students to engage with the syllabus throughout the course?

reflection writing
Reflection & Writing
  • Take a moment to consider these ideas and write down at least two in the space provided that you think you might be able to implement in your class.
things to keep in mind as we go
Things to Keep in Mind as We Go
  • Check for bias and make sure you are being “intellectually and culturally responsive” to the needs of your students (Grunert 1997:5).
  • Look out for disciplinary assumptions…do your students know what it means when you say they will think critically, write persuasively, or “unpack” complex ideas?
30 seconds
30 Seconds

Complete the box “Setting the Tone” on your own

What concrete strategies did you identify?

60 seconds
60 seconds

Complete the “Course Requirements” box on your own

What kinds of resources can you assist your students in finding?

90 seconds
90 seconds

Complete the “Goals” box on your own

You may want to refer to the master syllabus

2 minutes
2 minutes

Work on the “Success” box on your own

Pay particular attention to any hidden expectations you may have for your students

Think/Pair/Share: What unstated expectations did you become aware of and how will you address them?

why transparency matters
Why Transparency Matters
  • Without clearly stating our expectations, students cannot meet them.
  • Unstated expectations tend to “sort” students
  • Transparency helps students understand why they are completing specific learning tasks
  • Transparency builds metacognitive skills – shows students how they’re learning
  • For more, check out the Illinois Initiative on Transparency in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education
90 seconds1
90 seconds

Complete “Practicing Transparency” on your own

partner feedback
Partner Feedback
  • Pick one of your assessments/activities and explain it to your partner. Be sure to explain how it connects with your learning objectives.
  • Make sure both partners have a chance to share.
60 seconds1
60 seconds

Complete the first box onlyunder the section titled “Classroom Behavior”

Now work with a partner to brainstorm ways you can encourage desirable behaviors and minimize undesirable ones. You can use the space provided to record your ideas.

worth considering
Worth Considering
  • Some faculty allow students to participate in the creation of classroom rules to encourage their sense of ownership over the class and the learning process.
  • “If students collectively come up with the code of conduct, they are more likely to approve of it and conform to it” (Nilson 2004:5)
  • Nilson and Jackson have found a “bill of rights” to be particularly useful in combatting incivilities (2004)
    • Most students are annoyed by the same issues, so the list of rules isn’t oppressively long
    • Students tend to self-police with some gentle reminders from the teacher
    • For more, see Ballantine and Risacher 1993
60 seconds2
60 seconds

Complete the final box under “Classroom Behavior” on your own

60 seconds3
60 seconds

Complete the box marked “Class Preparation” on your own

What strategies can you share for holding students accountable for preparation?

60 seconds4
60 seconds

Complete both boxes on the final page

How can we equitably evaluate student participation?

workshop evaluation
Workshop Evaluation
  • Please take a moment to complete the evaluation of this workshop.
  • We appreciate you coming and working with us today. FaCIT has a full calendar of events designed to help faculty take their teaching to the next level, including workshops that focus on individual components of the basic process outlined here. We also share relevant teaching and learning information on our newsletter and blogs. For more, visit our website:
  • We also provide ongoing consultation services for all of your course needs. We hope this workshop will be the beginning of a productive relationship with our office!

Altman, H.B. and Cashin, W.E. (1992). Writing a syllabus. Kansas State University: Center for Faculty Evaluation and Development. Idea paper No. 27.

Ballantine, J., & Risacher, J. (1993). Coping with annoying classroom behaviors. Paper presented at the 13th Annual Lilly Conference on College Teaching, Oxford, OH. November 12.

Grunert, J. (1997). The Course Syllabus: A Learning-Centered Approach. Bolton, MA: Anker.

Nilson, L. B. and Jackson, N. S. (2004). Combating Classroom Misconduct (Incivility) with Bills of Rights. Paper presented at the 4th Conference of the International Consortium for Educational Development, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. June 21-23.

Royce, A. P. (2000). A survey of academic incivility at Indiana University: Preliminary report. Bloomington, IN: Center for Survey Research, Indiana University.

Strada, M.. (2000). The case for sophisticated course syllabi. In, D. Lieberman, ed. To improve the academy. Bolton, Mass: Anker.