Syllabus DesignI graduated from University this last quarter. I don’t have much to show from it, physically, but I benefited immensely intellectually. However, the one item that I do still have in my possession, as a token of courses taken, is the syllabus from most courses. The syllabus is the one item that acts as a physical proof of the courses that were taken during a 4 year term. The reason that I held onto these slips or packets of paper was because throughout the class they acted as an organizational tool to keep me on course, they answered questions as they arose, and they let me know what was expected of me. As a student the syllabus was an important tool, though I do not think that all professors realize the importance of a well written and well organized syllabus.
The syllabus is the first thing that should be handed out on the first day of class. It gives the student something to reference as far as goals of the course, what information will be covered, and even what books or materials should be purchased. Thus, a professor or teacher should consider what the goal for their class is, and then tailor their syllabus along a logical path which arrives at that goal. As Sinor and Kaplan write in their article “Creating Your Syllabus” having goals clearly stated not only keeps one organized, but it gives a better framework for grading students. So we can see that the syllabus isn’t only a tool for the student, but also a tool for the instructor as well.
I have fallen victim to the poorly planned syllabus. It was awful. There is nothing like continuously re-arranging the syllabus that 1) completely confuses students and 2) causes them to loose respect for one as a teacher. So what can one do? As was reiterated in the Unit; over-prepare, over-think it, and examine it critically. Does it flow? Is it well supported? How long will exercise X take? How long to read article Y? These are the questions that we ask ourselves when we are creating our lesson plan, and we should ask the same questions when we are compiling a syllabus.
To go about writing a course syllabus there is certain information which should be present; course description, required texts, policies on attendance, class participation, plagiarism, homework, grading, teacher contact information, and a week by week breakdown of what will be taught. Once this information is decided upon, be consistent. Students need for policies to be consistent, as well as grading and direction giving.
The CarnegieMellon website suggests writing a syllabus after the course has mostly been completed. Writing the syllabus after the course has been outlined and is finished is an excellent way to avoid the three week into the class changes to the syllabus that completely confuse students and leave them unsure as far as what is being asked of them. Imagine being an english
Learner in a TEFL class where the calendar with what was being taught was continuously changing along with the due dates for the assignments. It would add unnecessary confusion.
As a new teacher I plan on looking at the design of one of the best instructors that I had and taking note of what they included in and the structure of their syllabus. Taking the advice of the CarnegieMellon website I will try to anticipate questions that students might ask, and include the answers in my syllabus. Clear and concise language is key, especially given that it is geared towards an english
Learner. Simple font and double-spacing might even be necessary for adult beginning learners.
As we can see, the syllabus plays an important role in the classroom. One must take care when creating the syllabus for their course. The information which is put in must be carefully considered and the structure must be clear and readable. To the new teacher it may seem like a lot to consider. Though once it is created it will act as an invaluable tool for both students and teacher alike.