What is a Syllabus?
Stanford University Undergraduate, writing to the students, states "A syllabus is your guide to a course and what will be expected of you in the course. Generally it will include course policies, rules and regulations, required texts, and a schedule of assignments. A syllabus can tell you nearly everything you need to know about how a course will be run and what will be expected of you."

Highline College Faculty Handbook: Syllabus Guidelines / Sample Syllabus


Purpose of the Syllabus (and tips)


We, Not ‘I’ in Syllabi (From Sue Frantz - Dec. 2016)

I’ve been thinking about syllabi as we get ready to slide out of fall and into winter – perhaps even literally given the weather here in the Greater Puget Sound area.
At this past summer’s Stanford Psych One Conference, cultural psychologist Alana Conner spoke of how many students lean more collectivist (students who are working class, for example). In short, students who are more collectivist do better in an environment that uses collectivist language (e.g., “we” instead of “you”); students who lean more individualistic do fine either way.
Read her full explanation, including links to two relevant articles.

Follow-up From Allison Green and the Culturally Responsive Campus team:

  1. Read the article Sue mentioned and look at the rubric for evaluating syllabi on p. 162 of the article "Assessing Learner-Centeredness Through Course Syllabi".
  2. Ask a colleague (maybe outside your discipline) to swap syllabi from fall quarter and review them against the rubric.
  3. Revise accordingly for the next time you teach the course.
  4. Write up your experience/reflection for your next teaching evaluation.

If you add a coffee date or happy hour drink to your discussion, it could be even more fun.

Follow-up from Wendy Swyt (Arts and Humanities Division Chair) (Winter 2017)

Shortly after [Sue Frantz send her study of the impact of a student-centered syllabus], Ruth Frickle gave me an article on redesigning syllabi that I like even better, "Creating the Foundation for a Warm Classroom Climate" (mainly because it is shorter with lots of clear examples at the end).

Very much like the study that Sue sent, this article suggests improving syllabi through tone, rationale (linking assignments to learning goals), self-disclosure, humor, compassion and enthusiasm.

Attached is a magazine style syllabus that Ruth sent me as well -- it uses a lot of the concepts discussed in the article.  Though I would not use the magazine style because it is has accessibility problems, I really like how they put into play the ideas from the article about a warm classroom climate that starts with the syllabus.

When I read my own syllabus, I am bored and put off -- do I expect my students to have a different reaction?  After looking at these two resources, I significantly "warmed up" the syllabus for the classes I am teaching this quarter.