Write your syllabus
The syllabus is part of the first impression you will create of your course. It is students' reference guide for what to expect and what is required of them. It should cover the content of your course including student learning outcomes, major assignments and deadlines, as well as something about your teaching philosophy and methodology.
In Texas, the legislature mandates that every course syllabus is given to students and made available online. Some information is required for you to include, and others is recommended as best practice. This outline lists the kind of information that is required and recommended, and for your convenience we have created a template you can download to paste in your specific information.
Here is an overview of what we recommend you include in your syllabus:
- Who, When, Where. Include your name, contact information, the course title, class meeting location, class meeting days and times.
- Books and Materials. Let students know what materials they'll need including the textbook, e-book, supplementary readings, and any other tools or equipment they'll need to purchase or borrow.
- Why is this important? Explain why your course is important to the discipline, and relevant to students’ lives. This is your chance to pitch to students why they should be excited for the semester.
- Learning Objectives. Give students a clear picture of the skills they'll learn, and what kind of results you expect.
- Assignments. List the major assignments students will complete over the semester with due dates and your policy on late submissions.
The syllabus is also a powerful tool to help students understand what's expected of them and how they will be graded. Be sure to include:
- Attendance. What's your attendance policy on excused and unexcused absences? How will attendance affect grades?
- Grading. Make sure students understand how you assess them throughout the semester, and how you grade assignments and tests.
- Background. Share details about your teaching philosophy, academic honesty, accommodations for students with disabilities, use of personal and electronic devices in class, and any emergency preparedness information.
Most students, especially undergraduates, need structure. Using a course grid to map out the requirements is a helpful visual tool. You can provide advance notice of due dates, reading assignments, labs, group work, exams and so forth. Encourage students to look at this grid before and after every class session so they won't be caught off guard. Make this grid easy to read and understand. Note important dates or requirements in bold lettering.
To help students see their "whole" class schedule and due dates in each class, you can provide a calendar for the semester. Let students know how many hours you recommend they study or work outside of class for each unit or major assignment. Include tips on how to study in your particular discipline. Encourage your students to sit down with the syllabi from their other courses and write in the same information for their other classes. This can help them stay on track in all of their classes.