The syllabus often represents the first tangible link between an instructor and students, and, therefore, it should be constructed with appropriate time and energy. It is the final product of your course planning, and offers a useful way to introduce yourself and the course itself to your students. Students will respond positively to a well planned and well crafted syllabus, and this will also serve as a positive reflection of yourself to your students.
The contents within the syllabus are the foundation of your course. While it is not essential to have all aspects of the course set in stone, it is important to set forth the responsibilities, course of action, and expectations of the student because it is an item that is closely examined and revisited often. The basics of the syllabus should include the name of the course, the course number, and the particular semester and year that the course is taking place in. You should also include your name, email address, office location and office hours, and the Web address of the class if relevant. Course descriptions can be taken from the institution handbook, or written from a personal perspective stating why the subject is of interest to you, and how your background relates to the course to demonstrate the strengths you bring to it. The goal of the course description should be to describe the relevance and applicability of the course. Any pre-requisites should also be listed in the course description. The required and recommended texts and materials for the course should be listed along with the information needed to obtain those sources. The focus of the syllabus should be concentrated on both the daily and weekly happenings of the course. Quality structure in your course schedule will allow your students to have a clear and stable view of what is happening, and allow them to plan accordingly for assignments. A formal way to present this material is a simple calendar format with the relevant daily topics and detailed descriptions included. This can be presented for the entire course, or on a timely basis, which eliminates students knowing too much future information. In addition to the basics of the course and the course content, you should include course policies such as attendance policies, class participation, late assignment penalties, missed exam policies, academic dishonesty which should state the institutions policy, grading criteria which should remain the same from the beginning of the course until the end, and general expectations regarding scholarship and out of class preparation. The syllabus should act as a tool to get students engaged and excited about the upcoming lessons, and not as a simple list of information.
The modern technology age has given rise to a new methods and approaches to constructing syllabi. The term ? interactive syllabus? refers to this new style, however, it should be noted that this refers solely to the portion of the syllabus where assignments are given. The interactive syllabus allows an instructor to handle a large amount of information, and, more importantly, allows the students to think beyond a discrete skill level with more of a focus on global competencies. It provides a solid framework for students to be actively engaged in the material before it is taught in the classroom. The interactive syllabus is not interactive in the sense that it gives feedback to the student, but, rather, it is interactive because the student is able to interact and manipulate the information that has been provided in order to create meaning and purpose.
The following quote represents the heart of the interactive syllabus philosophy:
?Interactivity drives learning by generating a learner-manipulated environment in which concepts are presented in different ways at different times, resulting in multiple and adaptive interpretations necessary for knowledge acquisition.? -Dr. Silvie Richards Brooklyn College, NYC
The interactive syllabus is more than placing your syllabus on the web. It should serve to open up numerous ideas and possibilities surrounding overlying themes of the course. Hyperlinks can be given for much more than would ever be required to read for the given course topic, but the idea is that the student will gravitate toward the areas that are pertinent to their interests while never losing site of the theme at hand. This represents a movement away from the traditional framework of a textbook that is too rigid. The choices are limited and have one presentation from one viewpoint. The interactive syllabus gives students a choice in what they wish to learn. The fundamental idea is that students will be able to learn new material better when they can integrate it with prior understanding. The classroom setting is then geared toward using and generating knowledge, and not simply acquiring it by going through the basics. It disregards having students complete book exercises, worksheets, etc, and emphasizes having students effectively and competently discuss the relevant materials. Thus, students better understand the relevance of the materials while having choices, flexibility, and control over the way in which they learn those materials, and makes the out of class work more interesting. I have used both the classical syllabus and the interactive syllabus in my years of learning, and both have viable purposes. The interactive syllabus has some limitations in regards to expecting all students to have access to the web during a variety of hours of the day. Quite a few universities in the U.S. have a computer ownership policy that allows the instructors there to implement teaching methods such as this. However, the ultimate goal of either syllabus is to demonstrate how a student can gain the most from the course while setting forth the path to receiving high marks in the class. I am a highly organized individual, and I would always appreciate a full schedule of assignments so that I could plan according, and that planning would allow me to succeed in those classes. References:
Author: Ryan Nerone
Date of post: 2007-04-02