Syllabus design ?Would you tell me, please, which way I
'Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here'
That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.'
'Alice in Wonderland, Chapter VI, page 64, L. Carroll 1960
The quote above comes from an old childhood favorite but clearly makes a case for the use and reasoning behind a syllabus. But, first and foremost we must define what a syllabus is. The American Heritage Dictionary tells us that a syllabus is an outline of a course of study. Other sources explain what a syllabus is as a student's introduction to the subject as well as you the teacher. Also, as a document that communicates your goals and expectations to the students. It can also be an official notice of policies and requirements, as well as a learning tool. But most importantly, it is an agreement between the teacher and the students that clearly states your expectations, easily explains what the students will be required to do for the course and the policies that will be followed. This being said, I believe we can now go into syllabus design.
In order to design a syllabus we must know what we are teaching and in what direction we want to lead our students toward enlightenment. In doing so some researchers have suggested asking yourself as the teacher ten questions before designing a syllabus.
1.What do you want your students to learn'
2.What are the course objectives that enable you to answer question one'
3.How can you use your class time at its most effective'
4.Have high expectations been laid out for your students to reach for'
5.Have you used all your resources'
6.Do your tests and worksheets; measure your students' grasp of the material.
7.Is my syllabus straightforward enough for comprehension as well as being creative enough to keep the students engaged'
8.Are there ways for students to give feedback on how they think the course is going'
9.Is the tone of your syllabus the one you wish to convey'
10.Would you like to be given this syllabus if you were the student'
After these questions have been thoughtfully answered you can start to consider the other elements to designing your syllabus.
Some common elements are course overview, learning objectives, general approach, policies, etc. The course overview simply describes what the course covers and why, it is useful. The learning objectives show the students what they are expected to know as well as do at the end of the course. The general approach section will explain how you plan on tackling the course. Will there be lectures, discussions, independent or group or projects' This will give your students a heads up into what is in store for them. As for policies, you should clearly state the protocol for attendance, late assignments, class participation, etc.
Also in your syllabus should be included information about textbooks and other course material. Indicate what is required and where they may find it if you can. You may also include a section concerning major assignments and exams and the dates for both. A brief description of the major assignments is both helpful as well good for students' preparation. This will also benefit your students so they can estimate their workload and properly plan their time, In this section you should include all other course requirements. Such as quizzes, written work and projects and how they will be graded and what is needed for a passing grade. Also a statement about academic integrity as well as supplementary materials such as websites, glossaries, etc.
This should be sufficient for you, the teacher to start preparing your own syllabus. Just remember, a syllabus is a guide for your students, an outline of what lies ahead as well as the rewards. Try not to add too much but also keep in mind to give all the information your students will need. Also be direct and to the point but creativity is not only fun but enticing. Most importantly do not scare the students. A well written and precise syllabus will be their bible so do take care. Now all that is left is to start.
As I began this article with a quote, it only seems sitting to end with one.
'The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step'' - Lao Tzu
2. http://honolulu.hawaii.edu/intranet/committees/FacDevCom/guidebk/teac htip/Questioning.html
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