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Course Syllabus

The Course Syllabus

If you are the official instructor of a course, you can start the semester well by developing an informative syllabus that will guide students through the course. If you are assisting a faculty member, you can help by always having the syllabus on hand, keeping students informed about upcoming assignments, and making connections from one part of the syllabus to another.

Functions of a course syllabus

At the minimum, the course syllabus is a catalog of information about the instructor, the texts, the assignments, the calendar, the objectives, and the course policies. Some instructors also regard the syllabus as an intellectual guide as well as a course agenda. For example, a syllabus can present a thesis, claim, or argument about the subject matter. Various parts of the syllabus then provide a sequence of claims, a body of evidence, and assignments in which students grapple with thesis-related problems. Or a syllabus can guide students how to take control of their learning by presenting the opportunities the course offers to the students, outlining the student work and summarizing how students and instructors will assess progress.

Syllabus checklist

  • Instructor information:full name (or names) and title, phone, fax, email, website, office location, office hours
  • Course information: name of department, college, and university; title of course; prefix and number; current semester and year; meeting times and designated class room
  • Brief course description, including its purpose, content, and goals
  • A brief discussion of the role of the course in the department or program’s curriculum:prerequisites, University Studies categories, its place in the major or minor
  • Resources for class: print and non-print materials; course packets; required and recommended materials; library reserves; course websites and online materials
  • Course requirements: readings, labs, discussions, tests, papers, portfolios, designs, materials to obtain or purchase
  • Expectations the instructor will have for students, such as participation in discussion or following safety procedures in lab
  • Description of grading criteria. Please note that as of fall 2014, faculty may choose to adopt the +/- grading system (A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-, etc.), or may stay with the whole grade system (A, B, C, etc.). Please indicate your grading system clearly.
  • Policies for attendance, late work, and incompletes
  • Disabilities/accommodations statement
  • Statements on student honesty, plagiarism, and collaboration
  • Subject-to-change caveat; statement about how syllabus changes will be communicated
  • On a separate page or website, a tentative or working day-by-day course calendar that includes lecture topics, reading assignments, due dates for homework, dates for quizzes and tests, topics for discussions, any changes in meeting spaces, and important directions (for example, what students need to bring to class)

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