Best Practices in Syllabi Design
There are two models that you can follow: content coverage and backward design. The content coverage model will sound familiar. Determine what content must be covered, oftentimes the choices are shaped by discipline standards and textbooks, then decide how many assignments or exams will be given and fit the details into the school calendar. Backward design begins at the end. Contemplate what outcomes (significant learning experiences) you desire your students to achieve; decide what assessments the students will complete to demonstrate they have achieved the outcomes; develop learning (what the students do) and teaching (what the teacher does) activities; and determine the calendar of what will be completed in and outside of class. For a brief description of this process consult TALE Teaching Tip #1: Syllabi Best Practices. In addition, read a short essay advocating a backward design approach entitled, "Integrated Course Design," Idea Paper No. 42, and written by L. Dee Fink. Another essay worth reading is Barbara Millis' explanation of deep learning and how it can be promoted in the classroom and in course design, "Promoting Deep Learning," IDEA Paper 47. Seeking additional inspiration? The open access, online journal, Syllabus, includes discussion and sample of syllabi in all disciplines. James Lange, a professor of ENglish at Assumption College, identifies "The 3 Essential Functions of your Syllabus, Part 1, Part 2," which is worth the time to read.
The following statements are recommended by Accommodative Services (Robert Wislock, August 2012):
Any students eligible for classroom accommodations are invited to meet with me [name of professor] to discuss their concerns and to present their disclosure forms from the Office of Accommodative Services.
Our University provides reasonable accommodations to students who have documented disabilities. If you have a documented disability that requires academic accommodations and are not registered with the Accommodative Services Office, please contact this office in the Warren Student Services Center, Room 043 as soon as possible to establish your eligibility.
The following statement regarding Academic Support is suggested by Karen Hamman, Director of University Tutorial Services (August 2012):
If you feel you need extra help to improve your academic performance in this or any of your courses, please consider requesting a tutor in University Tutorial Services (UTS). UTS offers peer tutoring at no charge to Bloomsburg University students. The UTS office is located in Warren Student Services Center, Room 13.
The following statement is suggested by Ted Roggenbuck, Director of the University Writing Center (updated 19 June 2014):
The Bloomsburg University Writing Center (BUWC) offers free support for graduate and undergraduate writers at any point in the writing process. Think of our consultants as your personal trainers for writing. They will not write any part of your paper, but they can help you get started and then keep going; they can read what you have written and ask questions to help you think about what your readers might need; they can work with you on grammar, mechanics, or format; and they can help you develop strategies for proofreading and editing.
BUWC consultants are also available to conduct sessions online. Commuting students or any student who wants to work with a consultant but cannot get to one of our locations will be able to reach us online through a link we will provide. Students will be able to see and speak with consultants and share their documents, usually without having to download any new software. We will be offering workshops and individual tutorials for students who are interested in working with us online.
The Bloomsburg University Writing Center (BUWC) opens on the first day of the semester.
Hours are Mon.—Thurs. from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in Bakeless 206. There are also night hours on Sunday through Thursday from 7:00 p.m. -11:00 p.m. Schweiker Room, Andruss Library. You can drop in or request an appointment through email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit their website (bloomu.edu/writingcenter) for more information.
The following statement has been recommended by BU Library Faculty:
For help with library and information research contact the Andruss Library Research Center, or make an appointment with the librarian liaison assigned to our department: Departmental Library Liaisons.
If you have concerns about commercial note-taking and its impact on student learning, or if you want to protect the intellectual property rights of your course content, then you should consider making a policy statement and copyrighting your syllabus. The university does not have a policy prohibiting students selling notes, yet the "Acceptable Use of Technology Policy" (PRP 2550) does prohibit the use of the university network (e.g. eMail, BOLT, etc) for personal financial gain. For a sample copyright statement, visit Washington State University's website about academic integrity. Kansas State University suggests the following language: "Copyright 20xx ([your name here]) as to this syllabus and all lectures. During this course students are prohibited from selling notes to or being paid for taking notes by any person or commercial firm without the express written permission of the professor teaching this course." By the way, exceptions should be made for Accommodative Services and other note-taking assistance provided to students by the university.
Master Course Syllabi (PRP 3233) "provides assurance that different sections of a course will contain content in a manner that consistently meets or exceeds the objectives of the course. Instructors will use the Master Course Syllabus to prepare a working syllabus for their section(s) of the course." Approved master course syllabi should be on file in your department. In addition, you may be able to locate the course master syllabus in the "Omnibus Signed Final" folder in BU Documents on the S:Drive. If a course that you are teaching is approved for general education points, the master course syllabus outlines a range of methods by which you should assess student learning objectives or outcomes (SLOs) for General Education. Please Note: Read the language of Master Course syllabi closely because they rarely, if at all, dictate a particular teaching style, specific assignments, exams, or textbooks. Indeed the list of potential textbooks, reference materials, and bibliography can become outdated very quickly in some fields. What is more, content outlines may only indicate suggested topics and themes, and not dictate specific content. The course SLOs need to be met through teaching and learning, but how that is accomplished is the faculty member's decision.
Acceptable Use of Technology Policy (PRP 2550) might not seem relevant to a course syllabus. However, if students distribute reading and lecture notes, completed exam study guides, answers to quizzes and exams, they may be in violation of this policy, especially if they use BOLT classlists to advertise the purchase of lecture notes through a commercial note-taking service. Note: they may also be violating the academic integrity policy.
Academic Examination Policy (PRP 3516) outlines several requirements regarding when exams can be scheduled, minimum number of graded evaluations of student work, returning exam results, and cumulative finals.
Academic Integrity Policy (PRP 3512) defines academic integrity, explains the variety of ways in which integrity can be violated, how faculty can encourage integrity, and consequences.
Class Attendance (PRP 3506) outlines the bare minimum attendance policy; you may want to provide additional policy statements.
Student Course Requirements and Progress Information (PRP 3264) provides a list of information that must be communicated to students "within the first week of classes each semester" through writing email or a website.
Student Disruptive Behavior Policy (PRP 3881) defines what disruptive behavior includes, outlines behavioral expectations, and explains procedures to follow when disruptive behaviors occur.
Student Responsibility (PRP 3407) simply worded statement that students are responsible for knowing policies and procedures.
Information about you:
Home Page URL;
Your Philosophy about Teaching and Learning;
Your Response Time to eMails;
Information about the Course:
Course Goals (e.g. student learning objectives, outcomes, competencies);
How the Course will Fulfill General Education and Program Goals;
Explain Relevancy of Course Goals to Life-Long Learning;
Information about Course Materials:
Additional Required Materials;
Explanation of how the course material will be used;
Titles and Location of any Online Materials;
Grading Expectations and Assignment Guidelines:
Point Values for All Graded Assignments;
List and Explanation of Assignments, Exams, Quizzes;
Information on the Schedule of In- and Out-of-Class Activities:
Weekly or Class-by-Class Course Schedule (i.e. Calendar of the Semester);
Explanation of How Changes in the Syllabus Will be Announced;
Guiding Students to Support Services on Campus:
Tutorial Services Information;
Writing Center Information;
Accommodative Services Information;
Library Research Help Information;
Relevant Policies and Procedures:
Instructional Technology Requirements;
Policies on Cell Phone and Laptop Usage;
Policies on Late or Missed Assignments and Exams;
Campus Safety Statement;
Safe Zone Statement;
Syllabus Copyright Statement;
Legal Caveat or Disclaimer Indicating the Syllabus is Subject to Change;
Privacy Rights (FERPA)