5 Useful Online Sites for Preparing Your Syllabus

First, Syllabus and Assignment Design from Dartmouth.

The best writing classes consider the students’ experiential learning in their course design. To accomplish the aims of experiential learning, it’s important to come up with a course question that can bring together the many smaller questions of the course and that can engage students intellectually and experientially. For instance: What is happiness? What are the roots of violence? What is the nature of the self? Technology: friend or foe?

goals for our first year courses…
Bring students into the ongoing conversation of scholarship
Teach students the elements of argument
Improve students’ critical reading and thinking skills
Instruct students to find, use, and cite sources
Teach students to write clear and effective prose

And there is much more.

Second, Syllabus templates from the University of Central Florida.

This actually has templates for a minimal syllabus, a more involved syllabus, and a complete syllabus. If you are totally on your own as a new teacher or with a new course, these can help you fill in the blanks for this teaching test.

Third, Iowa State offers a learning-centered syllabi workshop including citations for their recommendations.

Under “Critical Thinking,” this website says:

Kurfiss (1988) has devised eight principles for designing a course that supports the development of critical thinking.

1. Critical thinking is a learned skill. The instructor, fellow students, and possibly others are resources.
2. Problems, questions, issues, values, beliefs are the point of entry to a subject and source of motivation for sustained inquiry.
3. Successful courses balance the challenge of critical thinking with the supportive foundation of core principles, theories, etc., tailored to students’ developmental needs.
4. Courses are focused on assignments using processes that apply content rather than on lectures and simply acquiring content.
5. Students are required to express ideas in a non-judgmental environment which encourages synthesis and creative applications.
6. Students collaborate to learn and stretch their thinking.
7. Problem-solving exercises nurture students’ metacognitive abilities.
8. The development needs of students are acknowledged and used in designing courses. Standards are made explicit and students are helped to learn how to achieve them.

The syllabus is a good opportunity to further explain the process of critical thinking.

Fourth, Danielle Mihram, of the Center for Excellence in Teaching from the University of Southern California offers a unique presentation which includes:

Develop a well-grounded rationale for your course
 What are its core scholarly or scientific findings and assumptions?
 What are the main points of arguments? What are the key bodies of
 What is the course’s scope? (How does your course begin? Why does
it begin and end where it does?)
 What do you and your students do as the course unfold? (What do you lecture about or lead discussions around?)
 What are the key assignments or student evaluations?

Fifth, Creating a Syllabus from the Learner-Centered Classroom out of the University of Oregon is NOT pretty. It’s got some issues with spacing that occasionally make it hard to read.

If you like to know where ideas come from, if you need some theory to go with your practice, this is a good, short form which gives you just that.

The site includes the best description of a way in which students can be involved in creating a syllabus that I have ever seen. (Usually I think that seems a bit ridiculous. Didn’t I go to school forever for this?)

Allow students to have input into entire syllabus. Students interview each other about what they want to learn and
teacher puts that information on the board/newsprint. Teacher brings a DRAFT syllabus to the class and distributes.
Given all this, how should the course be revised?

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