How to Improve Syllabi: Things to Include

I agree with this.

What such syllabi often omit is any mention of learning. They list the assigned readings but not reasons why the subject is worth studying or important or interesting or deep, or the learning strategies that will be used in the course. The typical syllabus gives little indication that the students and teacher are embarking on an exciting learning adventure together, and its tone is more akin to something that might be handed to a prisoner on the first day of incarceration.

But I am repelled by this.

I abandoned the controlling syllabus. I now go to the first class with only a tentative timeline of readings and writing assignments. A few weeks into the semester, when students have a better sense of what kind of person I am and what the course is about, we discuss what might be the best way of assigning meaningful grades. We collectively decide what goes into a good paper or talk, what good participation means, and together create rubrics to assess them. While I make the judgments about performance, I give the students maximum flexibility and choice in what we do and how we do it—within the broad constraint that the course has to have integrity and coherence and that the grades have to be good measures of the level of student performance in the course.

from Death to the Syllabus!

Then there is this:

Include supplementary material to help students succeed in the course. For example consider providing one or more of the following:

Helpful hints on how to study, take notes or do well in class
Glossary of technical terms used in the course
References on specific topics for more in-depth exploration
Bibliography of supplemental readings at a higher or lower level of difficulty, in case students find the required text too simple or too challenging
Copies of past exams so students can see at the beginning of the term what they will be expected to know at the end
Information on the availability of videotapes of lectures
A list of campus resources for tutoring and academic support, including computer labs
Calendar of campus lectures, plays, events, exhibits, or other activities of relevance to your course
Online Resources that may be helpful to students
Provide space for names, telephone numbers, and email addresses, of two or three classmates. Encourage students to identify people in class they can contact if they miss a session or want to study together. (Source: “What Did You Put in Your Syllabus?” 1985)

which comes from Tools for Teaching from Berkeley

Then there is this:

Other Information That Can Be Included

lab use or safety procedures
additional support services
writing centers
tutoring centers
computer centers
library hours
strategies for success in your class
how to take good notes
sample test questions
detailed assignment expectations
guidelines for papers or reports

which comes from the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching

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