syllabus serves three basic functions: it organizes your semester in advance,
introduces students to course goals, and states requirements clearly and
fully. It can protect you from pleas and challenges and support you should
a student complain to a chairperson or dean. A syllabus consists of two
parts: rules or regulations and a schedule of assignments. In the rules
and regulations section, include the following information:
- The course
title, its abbreviation, the semester and year.
name, office location, office telephone number, email address, and course
web site, if you have one. Your home phone is optional: if you choose
to announce it, set clear limits (no calls after 10:00 p.m., for instance).
- The names,
office locations and office hours of TAs, graders, lab assistants, course
supervisors, and so on.
office hours. Generally you should hold at least one hour per week
for every hour you spend in class. Schedule office hours so that they
dont exactly match a regular course slot; that is, avoid MWF 10:00-
11:00 (students with classes at this time can never see you), and choose
instead MW 10:30-11:30 and Thursday 1:30-2:30. Schedule extra hours
before exams and due dates of major assignments. Make sure your departmental
office knows your hours and those of your TAs.
and recommended texts. Tell students where to buy books and where
to find texts on reserve. (See below for details on both.)
- A brief
summary of course goals and format. Such a description is most useful
in courses that students may find new and confusing; it helps to explain,
for example, the philosophy behind the workshop procedure in writing
courses or the emphasis on authentic language use in German.
for the final grade. Note what percent of the grade comes from papers,
exams, quizzes, oral presentations, other assigned work, and participation
discussions. If you require a lab, discussion section, or tutorial,
include grades for students work in the adjunct section in the
course grade and explain the relationship. If it is possible to earn
a passing grade without taking the final exam, require that all assignments
be completed and the final exam taken in order to pass.
policy. Students look to you for a specific statement on attendance
requirements. Discussion sections, labs, language courses and studio
courses often require consistent attendance and participation for students
to practice and demonstrate mastery of necessary skills such as supporting
an argument or analyzing a compound. Insist on the level of attendance
appropriate to your course. If you are a
TA for a course, be sure you know the professors policy and whether
you are expected to set your own.
if you teach a section of a multi-sectioned course with standard requirements,
you need to establish or make clear a reasonable attendance policy and
stick to it. You must also decide whether it is reasonable to penalize
students for tardiness or failure to attend a scheduled conference with
you. Record all absences so that you can support your reasoning
should a student protest a poor grade. Do not expect the deans
office or Student Health to verify a students illness.
are excused from classes on days when they have out-of-town athletic
commitments. Any in-season athletes in your class should give you a
letter from the
coach listing away-games, including the time of departure. (For instance,
students are not excused from a 9:00 a.m. class if their bus leaves
at noon.) Remind students that they are responsible for all work assigned
in their absence.
policy on late assignments. How many days late, if any, will you
accept an assignment without penalizing it? How much will the grade
be reduced? Decide on your policy before the semester begins, confirm
it with your supervisor (if any), and hold to it! If you are strict
in the beginning, you can later make exceptions in needy cases; if you
are irresolute about early incidents, students will take you up on your
leniency and submit more late work. You can build flexibility into your
system by allowing students to drop their lowest (or non-existent) grade
in one or more categories.
about the Honor Pledge. Remind students that all work is considered
to be pledged. Note any changes to the Honor Pledge your course requires
(for 3 further information, see the Honor Committee website at http://www.virginia.edu/honor/).
- Any useful
resources. For instance, some students in elementary math courses
need math tutorial services; students writing papers can obtain help
at the Writing Center (see Appendix IIA for details).
second part of your syllabus identifies due dates of assignments
and exams. If you have a fairly simple course plan (e.g., one text
chapter per week), you can probably summarize the entire semester. Otherwise,hand
out a schedule listing assignments through midterm or at least through
the end of the first month. In any case, list the days and times of
all hourly and final examinations on your original syllabus. Students
need this information in order to manage their time.
if you are teaching the course for the first time, build in a few catch-up
days or times for review. You might find that your students need more
background lectures than you had anticipated, or a topic you intended
for one days discussion might prove unexpectedly fruitful.
your syllabus contain . . . ?
_____ Course title, abbreviation, semester, year
_____ Instructor and TA names
_____ Office locations, phone numbers, hours
_____ Web site address, when appropriate
_____ Texts, materials, reserve readings
_____ Course objectives
_____ Criteria for the final grade
_____ Attendance policy
_____ Late assignment policy
_____ Your policy with respect to the Honor Pledge
_____ Resources for extra help
_____ Assignments, course calendar
In introductory classes, every day I get to present material that
is absolutely new to the students. My approach is essentially, Did
you know . . . ? Isnt that amazing?