Syllabus Design

Introduction

The syllabus is a tangible link between you and your students, a way for you to articulate your teaching goals and attitudes as well as communicate the design of the course. A well-planned syllabus indicates your commitment to the course and to your students. The article and links below offer guidelines for effective syllabus design and numerous examples.

MSU Syllabus

MSU requires you to distribute a course syllabus (print or electronic) at the beginning of the semester. For more information on the Code of Teaching Responsibility, please see the following link: http://www.reg.msu.edu/AcademicPrograms/Print.asp?Section=514 .

The MSU SYLLABUS CHECKLIST can be used to develop or modify your syllabi:

  • Required items for an MSU syllabus are identified.
  • Where MSU policy is involved, it is so indicated with references.
  • Where suggestions for wording are available on an MSU website it is so indicated. 
  • Other items listed on the syllabus checklist are those that faculty have found makes course management easier and clearer for both the faculty member and the students.  Choose those that will benefit your students and you.
  • In addition, there are a few items that can be helpful, depending upon the circumstances, but you may forget about without reviewing the checklist.

General Resources

"New Approaches to Syllabus Design" by Deborah DeZure, Michigan State University (In Whys and Ways of Teaching, Eastern Michigan University, Faculty Center for Instructional Excellence, Vol. 8, No. 2, April 1998).
Discusses the balancing act between a specific, informative syllabus and one that overwhelms students. Offers tips and examples plus a comprehensive worksheet from which instructors may draw relevant items reflecting their priorities and expectations for the course.
http://fod.msu.edu/sites/default/files/structuringsyllabi_0.pdf

Syllabus Tutorial (University of Minnesota Center for Teaching and Learning Services).
An in depth tutorial on all aspects of syllabus and course design, including multiple examples of each element in a syllabus. Open the link to World Lecture Hall for examples of syllabi from many disciplines and courses.
http://www1.umn.edu/ohr/teachlearn/tutorials/syllabus/index.html

Guide to a Course Outline (McGill University).
Provides a template for preparing a course outline, with full description of each section.
http://www.mcgill.ca/tls/teaching/course-design/outline

Course Syllabus Instructions:
The University of Oklahoma provides a comprehensive listing of what should be included in each course syllabus.
http://www.ouhsc.edu/admissions/syllabusinstructions.html

Syllabus Construction (Center for University Teaching, Learning, and Assessment, University of West Florida).
Contains useful links to information on writing student learning outcomes; writing syllabus statements on student conduct, academic honesty, and absenteeism; rubric development; and other resources.
http://uwf.edu/offices/cutla/

Course Design and Planning Materials (Cornell University Center for Learning and Teaching).
Offers a template for syllabus construction based on "recommended best practices for syllabus construction" and a syllabus rubric for reviewing the quality of your course syllabi. Also provides material on course planning, design, and evaluation.
http://www.cte.cornell.edu/teaching-ideas/designing-your-course/writing-a-syllabus.html

Syllabus Institute
This free site aims to provide a "syllabus stomping ground" to the academic community with resources that include trends, best practices, accessibility, policy, solutions, and news.
http://syllabusinstitute.org/

Promising Syllabus on the Web (Ken Bain, Montclair State University).
Links to websites focused on a form of syllabus that involves students in taking responsibility for their own learning and assessing it rather than fulfilling a "contract."
http://www.bestteachersinstitute.org/id36.html

Designing Better Learning Experiences.
Dee Fink and his associates have put together multiple kinds of information on course and syllabus design:  basics of course design, resources such as handouts and templates, examples of good course design, plus a listserv and special topics forum for communicating with others. 
http://www.designlearning.org/

Research & Scholarly Integrity (The Graduate School at Michigan State University).
Materials on this site may be useful for inclusion on the syllabus in undergraduate and graduate courses that depend on responsible conduct in research, scholarship, and creative activities.  Links lead to materials on important topics, including guidelines for graduate student advising and mentoring relationships and for integrity in research and creative activities.  Each topic has a PowerPoint presentation and a PDF version with “notes attached” for students.
http://grad.msu.edu/researchintegrity/

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See also the section on this website for Course Design/Assignment Design; many of these links also cover syllabus design.