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Cutting Edge > Course Design > Course Design Tutorial > Table of contents > Part 2 index > Syllabus

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2.4 Creating the course syllabus

At this stage of the tutorial, you have set overarching goals, organized content, developed a course plan, selected teaching and assessment strategies, and begun to develop some specific assignments and activities. In this section of the tutorial, you will develop your course syllabus, considering the issues raised below, the list of what could be included in a syllabus, and reading a few examples of syllabi.

A detailed syllabus gives students a sense of the nature of the course, what they will be expected to do in the course, and how their performance will be assessed. In many cases, the syllabus is viewed as a contract between you and the students. Whether considered a legal contract or not, a syllabus should be clear about policies and procedures related to the course. Some institutions have specific requirements regarding what should be included on the syllabus.

Three Points to Consider

Goals: A syllabus should be more than the course schedule. You've worked hard to articulate the goals for the course and including them on the syllabus makes it clear to the students what they should be able to do when they have completed the course.

Expectations: While syllabi generally include something about your expectations of students (e.g., assignments, due dates, exams), it is helpful to be specific about other things you expect of students (e.g., your expectations for class participation, attendance, class preparation, their responsibility for learning) and why you have those expectations. It is also important to be clear about what students can expect of you (e.g., the time frame in which you will return assignments, how you will handle late work, that you will start and end class on time).

Tone: A syllabus helps to set the tone for the course. Consider your syllabus from the perspective of a student who is considering taking your class. Do you seem approachable? Welcoming? Organized? Excited about the course?

Syllabus components

Sample Syllabi

Sedimentology and Stratigraphy (Acrobat (PDF) 127kB Jun20 05)

Earth's Environmental Systems (Microsoft Word 34kB Jun20 05)

Geology and Development of Modern Africa (Microsoft Word 62kB Jun20 05)

Planetary Geology (Microsoft Word 6.3MB Jun20 05)

Structural Geology (Microsoft Word 43kB Jun20 05)


Assignment 2.4: Creating your course syllabus

Develop your course syllabus, making sure you include your goals, clearly state what you expect from students and what they can expect from you, and consider the tone you want to convey through the syllabus.


Additional resources


Creating a Syllabus from Tools for Teaching by Barbara Gross Davis

Syllabus Components, one of the Teaching Resources: Planning and Policies, Arizona State University, Center for Teaching and Learning

Building a Better Syllabus, Nutshell Notes (Teaching tips in a nutshell - One-page Newsletter for Teaching Excellence), University of Colorado at Denver, Office of Teaching Effectiveness

Syllabus Construction Guide by Lester A. Lefton, University of South Carolina, Institutional Planning and Assessment

Notes from Learning-Centered Syllabi Workshop prepared by Lee Haugen in 1998, Iowa State University, Center for Teaching and Learning

Syllabus Construction by Greyson H. Walker, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Teaching Resource Center

Designing a Learning-Centered Syllabus, University of Delaware, Center for Teaching Effectiveness


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©2005 On-line Course Design Tutorial developed by Dr. Barbara J. Tewksbury (Hamilton College) and Dr. R. Heather Macdonald (College of William and Mary) as part of the program On the Cutting Edge, funded by NSF grant DUE-0127310.


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