Preparing a Syllabus
An accessible version of the documents on this site will be made available upon request. Contact email@example.com to request the document be made available in an accessible format.
The purpose of a syllabus is to communicate to your students what the course is about, why it is taught, where it is going, and what will be required of students for them to be successful in the course.
It is important that instructors set clear expectations for students and themselves in their syllabi. The syllabus lays out your expectations for when and how you expect students to engage with your course. it also explains the quality of work you expect from students, the climate you want to promote, and the policies that students are expected to follow.
Try to make your syllabus as clear, concise, and easy to read as possible. Students are unlikely to read an overly long or legalistic syllabus, leading them to will miss important information about a course. Here’s a list of fundamental information for you to include in your syllabus:
Basic Course Information
Start with the basic information of the course, including the course title, subject code and number; number of credit hours; the year and semester of the course; the meeting days, time and place; and the instructional mode/format.
Prerequisites/Preparation for the Course
List any prerequisites if applicable. Clarify what knowledge, skills, or experience you expect students to have or courses they should have completed. Suggest ways they might refresh skills if they’re uncertain about their readiness, and give them a sense of how much preparation and work the course will take.
Provide the instructor(s) name(s), office address (and a map if it’s hard to find), your contact information (email and/or phone), and office hours. Indicate whether students need to make appointments or may just stop in. If you list a home number, be specific about any restrictions for its use. Provide other communication expectations (e.g., how and when students can expect to hear back from you).
A Credit Hour Statement
Provide an explanation of instructional time (e.g., this class will have 2 hours of in-person instructional time per week) and your expectation of out-of-class student work per credit (e.g., students should plan to devote approximately 2 hours weekly to coursework outside of class for each credit hour, for a total of 6 hours per week).
Course Description and Learning Outcomes
Provide a course description and explain the course purpose(s); what is the course about and why would students want to learn the material? List the course learning outcomes and describe how the course fulfills requirements associated with the degree/major, if applicable. For courses that count towards the KU Core, include the specific learning outcome for each Core goal the course is approved for; the learning outcomes for the course should demonstrate their support for/alignment with the KU Core learning outcome(s). You may also wish to explain why you’ve arranged topics in a given order and the logic of themes or concepts you’ve selected.
Specify the nature and format of in- and out-of-class instructional activities. When discussing the course format and activities, tell students whether the class involves fieldwork, research projects, lectures, and/or discussion, and indicate which activities are optional, if any. Describe the assignments and assessments for the course, their dates, and the nature of any exams or quizzes (e.g., essay, short answer, take-home). Explain how the assignments and assessments relate to course objectives. Describe any required or recommended extra- or co-curricular activities (e.g., attend plays, field trips).
List required texts and readings, and any additional materials, supplies and equipment that will be needed (e.g., paintbrushes, computer, calculator, iClicker, wifi, whiteboard marker); platforms and how to access them (e.g., Canvas, Zoom, Teams). Let students know whether they are required to read before class meetings.
Describe grading procedures, including the components of the final grade and weights for each component. Explain whether you will grade on a curve or an absolute scale, if you accept extra credit work, and if any of the grades can be dropped.
Course Calendar and Schedule
Include a course calendar with the sequence of course topics, readings, and assignments. Exam dates should be firmly fixed, while dates for topics and activities may be tentative. Also, list on the course calendar the last day students can withdraw without penalty. Consider including other drop dates and key university-wide deadlines listed on the registrar's site.
Expectations and Course Policies
Clearly state your policies regarding class attendance and participation, illness and make-up work, student academic success and personal needs, and academic misconduct. You might also list acceptable and unacceptable classroom behavior.
Options for Students with Special Needs
Describe options for Students with Disabilities or Special Needs. Ask students who need accommodations to contact you to discuss them at the beginning of the semester.
Diversity and Inclusion Statement
Include a statement about Diversity and Inclusion that conveys your expectations for yourself and your students in creating an inclusive learning environment.
Keep in mind that a syllabus is a written contract between you and your students. End with a caveat to protect yourself if changes must be made once the course begins; e.g., “The schedule and procedures in this course are subject to change in the event of extenuating circumstances.”
Recommended Syllabus Statement by the Student Access Center (SAC):
The SAC coordinates academic accommodations and services for all eligible KU students with disabilities. If you have a disability for which you wish to request accommodations and have not contacted SAC, please do so as soon as possible. They are located in 22 Strong Hall and can be reached at 785-864-4064 (V/TTY). Information about their services can be found on the SAC website. Please contact me privately in regard to your needs in this course.
SYLLABUS POLICIES FOR ACADEMIC MISCONDUCT AND DISRUPTIVE BEHAVIOR
Academic Misconduct: Academic misconduct will not be tolerated in this class. An instructor may, with due notice to the student, treat as unsatisfactory any student work which is a product of academic misconduct. Cases of academic misconduct may result in any or all of the following penalties: reduction of grade, admonition, warning, censure, transcript citation, suspension, or expulsion.
The following information about Academic Misconduct is discussed in Article II, Section 6 of the rules and regulations of the University Senate. “Academic misconduct by a student shall include, but not be limited to, disruption of classes; threatening an instructor or fellow student in an academic setting; giving or receiving of unauthorized aid on examinations or in the preparation of notebooks, themes, reports or other assignments; knowingly misrepresenting the source of any academic work; unauthorized changing of grades; unauthorized use of University approvals or forging of signatures; falsification of research results; plagiarizing of another's work; violation of regulations or ethical codes for the treatment of human and animal subjects; or otherwise acting dishonestly in research.”
Reduction of grade for the Course: Reduction of grade may include the assignment of an F in the course. If the charged student dropped or withdrew from the course prior to the outcome of the adjudication, the course will be reinstated and assigned the grade as determined by the outcome of the hearing. No student is allowed to change their grade to credit/no credit if found responsible of academic misconduct with the sanction of a reduction of grade for the course.
Plagiarism: The website of the KU Writing Center provides some excellent information and resources on how to avoid plagiarism. We will be asking you to familiarize yourself with these materials this semester.
It is your responsibility as a KU student to make sure you understand the policy on academic honesty and misconduct.
Disruptive Behavior: The scope and content of the material included in this course are defined by the instructor in consultation with the responsible academic unit. While the orderly exchange of ideas, including questions and discussions prompted by lectures, discussion sessions and laboratories, is viewed as a normal part of the educational environment, the instructor has the right to limit the scope and duration of these interactions. Students who engage in disruptive behavior, including persistent refusal to observe boundaries defined by the instructor regarding inappropriate talking, discussions, and questions in the classroom or laboratory may be subject to discipline for non-academic misconduct for disruption of teaching or academic misconduct, as defined in the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities (CSRR), Article 22, Section C, and the University Senate Rules and Regulations, Section 2.4.6. Article 22 of CSRR also defines potential sanctions for these types of infractions.
TIPS FOR TEACHING ABOUT DIVERSITY & EQUITY
These materials were compiled by Meagan Patterson, an associate professor of educational psychology and a faculty fellow at the Center for Teaching Excellence.
Encourage all students to participate
- Consider assigning roles (recorder, presenter, etc.) to make sure that students have equal opportunities to participate
- Multiple avenues for participation (e.g., pre-class or in-class writing) allow students to draw on their individual strengths
- Consider how quieter students can indicate a desire to speak
Set ground rules
- Everyone performs better when they know expectations ahead of time
- Create an atmosphere of inclusion and respect
- Student participation in setting ground rules can promote engagement and “buy-in”
- Referring to a rule helps take some responsibility off the instructor
Treat students as individuals
- Don’t ask students to speak for their whole group
- Allow students to draw on their own lives and experiences when appropriate; this promotes meaningful learning
Take others’ perspectives and encourage students to do the same
- Acknowledge your own identity and how you may be perceived
- Readings and films can demonstrate other experiences and promote perspective-taking
- How this works may change from semester to semester depending on the composition of your classroom
Plan for problems before they occur
- Set goals and inform students of those goals (we respond better when we know why we are being asked to do something)
- Set ground rules ahead of time (civility, appropriate evidence)
- Think about when you want to step in and when you want to let a discussion progress
- Draw on resources (faculty, students, web resources) to learn about what issues have come up in the past and how to handle them
Get in touch with struggling students and point them to campus resources when necessary
- KU resources for students
- Student guides for academic success (studying, time management, test anxiety, etc.)
- The Study Cycle, an easy system for helping students study
Sample syllabus statements about diversity, inclusivity, and civility
- The instructor considers this classroom to be a place where you will be treated with respect as a human being – regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, political beliefs, age, or ability. Additionally, diversity of thought is appreciated and encouraged, provided you can agree to disagree. It is the instructor’s expectation that ALL students experience this classroom as a safe environment.
- The University of Kansas supports an inclusive learning environment in which diversity and individual differences are understood, respected, and appreciated. We believe that all students benefit from training and experiences that will help them to learn, lead, and serve in an increasingly diverse society. All members of our campus community must accept the responsibility to demonstrate civility and respect for the dignity of others. Expressions or actions that disparage a person’s or group’s race, ethnicity, nationality, culture, gender, gender identity / expression, religion, sexual orientation, age, veteran status, or disability are contrary to the mission of the University. We expect that KU students, faculty, and staff will promote an atmosphere of respect for all members of our KU community.
- Civility and respect for the opinions of others are very important in an academic environment. It is likely you may not agree with everything that is said or discussed in the classroom. Courteous behavior and responses are expected at all times. When you disagree with someone, be sure that you make a distinction between criticizing an idea and criticizing the person. Expressions or actions that disparage a person’s or race, ethnicity, nationality, culture, gender, gender identity / expression, religion, sexual orientation, age, disability, or marital, parental, or veteran status are contrary to the mission of this course and will not be tolerated.
Further Reading and Resources
- Angelo, T. A. (1993, April). A “Teacher’s Dozen”: Fourteen general, research-based principles for improving higher learning in our classrooms (pdf). AAHE Bulletin, 45(8), 3-13.
- Bain, K. (2004). What the Best College Teachers Do. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
- Burmila, E. M. (2010). Graduate students as independent instructors: Seven things to know about teaching your own course while in graduate school. PS: Political Science & Politics, 44, 557-560.
- Conditionally Accepted. A site devoted to information, personal stories, and resources for those “at the margins of academia.”
- Inclusive Teaching Strategies, from the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan.
- Responding to Difficult Moments, from the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan.
- Sociological Images. A blog that offers a sociological critique of imagery, events, and discourse of all types.
Effective July 1st, 2017, KU adopted a university-wide policy on weapons possession and campus safety procedures. The full policy is listed in KU's policy website for campus carry.