As the initial and primary written communication between faculty and students, an effective syllabus:
- Clarifies the purpose of the course and provides a central reference point for students
- Informs students what they will learn in the course (learning outcomes)
- Explains expectations for student participation and conduct, related to university policies
- Describes how students can achieve success in the course
- Reinforces institutional values related to student learning
- Provides all logistical course related information
The syllabus can be viewed as a contract between the instructor and students, laying out the responsibilities and expectations on both sides. In essence, the syllabus reflects the course design process.
Developing an effective syllabus begins with defining the overall purpose of the course and formulating the overarching course goals. Next, one must think about what knowledge and skills student should attain by the end of the course. This can be articulated in a list of action statements, or learning outcomes.
The course goals and learning outcomes are achieved and measured through assigned readings, activities, and assessments. Student learning and progress is evaluated through the completion of these assignments.
The syllabus also serves an organizational function. By listing all course logistical information (i.e., instructor contact information, assignments and related due dates, required readings) students will have a central reference point to find answers to common questions.
Finally, the syllabus can communicate a faculty member’s particular ground rules for...
- expected student technology competencies
- required course practices, such as classroom use of cellphones and computers
- your attendance policy
- your methods for evaluating student progress
as well as institutional values and policies, such as expectations regarding academic integrity, diversity and access and student conduct.
The following link will direct you to templates that include NLU’s best practices in syllabus design, each with a set of standard university policies, statements and resources for available to students.