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, 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 Students with Disabilities Center (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 Students with Disabilities Center.
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 Students with Disabilities Center, 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, to inform students about its Reading Partners program:
For students who want to improve their approach to reading material for their courses, the BUWC now offers Reading Partners. Students can bring a text to us, and we will use several active reading strategies to help you gain a foothold or improve your understanding of what you read. We will not tell students what the texts mean, but we will work with you to help improve comprehension of what they read with us.
The following statement is suggested by Ted Roggenbuck, Director of the University Writing Center (updated 6 June 2015):
The Bloomsburg University Writing Center (BUWC) enjoys easing the writing process for all students of every major. We are a free resource that offers support for undergraduate and graduate writers at any stage of the writing process. We are a diverse staff of Writing Consultants who represent a variety of majors and share the common goal of working with you to develop your skills and help you grow as a writer. You set the agenda for the appointment - whether you're concerned about getting started, or about clarity, grammar, organization, citations or any other aspect of writing or the English language. Appointments are highly recommended, but walk-ins are welcome.
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 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.
Hours for Summer:
From May 18th-June 26th, BUWC hours are Mon.—Thurs. from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in Bakeless 206. You can drop in or request an appointment through email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit their website (bloomu.edu/writingcenter) for more information.
From June 28th-August 7th, BUWC hours are Sundays in the Schweiker Room in Andruss Library from 1:30 to 7:00 pm. In Bakeless 206 we are open Mon.—Thurs. from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. You can drop in or request an appointment through email: email@example.com. Visit their website (bloomu.edu/writingcenter) for more information.
Hours for Fall and Spring Semesters:
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 Students with Disabilities Center 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;
Students with Disabilities Center 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)