Type to search

Tag: syllabus

writing on sticky note
student engagement
professor with students in library
5 things to do on the day of class

The Oxford Dictionary defines “syllabus” as “an outline of the subjects in a course of study or teaching.”

“Students who read a good syllabus are more likely to feel that course strategies have been designed to help them reach their goals, rather than merely as busywork or, worse, to torture them” ~ Slattery & Carlson, 2013, p. 159.

The syllabus literature tends to focus on “Here’s what makes a good syllabus,” but hasn’t addressed the following questions nearly as well: “What are the purposes of the syllabus?” and “What are the syllabus’ implications for learning?”


Slattery & Carlson, 2013:

Parks & Harris, 2013:

Fornaciari & Dean, 2013: Four-framework syllabus categorization

 SYLLABUS CONTENT: What is required?  What is recommended?

Common Components:

Less common components:

Why are these assignments part of the course?  Why are we studying this topic?   If it’s not in the syllabus… is that because we haven’t really thought about these questions, or is it because we didn’t think it was important to share this information with students?

“In introducing the syllabus, we must counter ingrained beliefs “that [students] are powerless to affect what happens to them; that hard work will not pay off; that success is due to luck, and failure is due to circumstances beyond their control” ~ Slattery & Carlson, 2013, p. 159.

Questions for readers to think about:

For more on creating a learner-centered syllabus, read "What Are the Characteristics of a Learner-Centered Syllabus?"


Anderson, D.M., F.A. Mcguire, L. Cory. 2011. The first day: it happens only once. Teaching in Higher Education, 16(3): 293-303.

Baecker, D. 1998. Uncovering the Rhetoric of the Syllabus. College Teaching, 46(2): 58-62.

Blinne, K.C. 2013. Start With the Syllabus: HELPing Learners Learn Through Class Content Collaboration, College Teaching, 61: 41-43.

Campana, Kristie L. and Jamie L. Peterson. 2013. Do Bosses Give Extra Credit? Using the Classroom to Model Real-World Work Experiences. College Teaching, 61: 60-66

D’Antonio, M. July 19, 2007. If Your Syllabus Could Talk. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Accessed April 26, 2014. http://chronicle.com/article/If-Your-Syllabus-Could-Talk/46604

Fornaciari, C.J. and K.L. Dean. 2013. The 21st-Century Syllabus: From Pedagogy to Andragogy.  Journal of Management Education, published online Oct. 29, 2013. DOI: 10.1177/1052562913504763 http://jme.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/10/21/1052562913504763

Grunert, J. 1997. The Course Syllabus: A learning-centered approach. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company.

Oxford Dictionary. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/syllabus?q=syllabus Accessed: April 25, 2014.

Parks, Jay and Mary B. Harris. 2013. The Purposes of a Syllabus. College Teaching, 50(2): 55-61.

Robb, Meigan. 2012. The Learner Centered Syllabus. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 43(11): 489-490.

Roberts, M. 2013. Creating a Dynamic Syllabus: A Strategy for Course Assessment. College Teaching, 61: 109.

Singham, M. 2007. Death to the Syllabus! Liberal Education, 93(4): 52-56.

Singham, M. 2005. Moving Away from the Authoritarian Classroom. Change, 37(3): 50-57.

Slattery, Jeanne M. and Jane F. Carlson. 2013. Preparing an Effective Syllabus Current Best Practices. College Teaching, 53(4): 159-164.

Walvoord, B. E., and V. J. Anderson. 1998. Effective grading: A tool for learning and assessment. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Weimer, M. August 24, 2011. What Does Your Syllabus Say About You and Your Course? Faculty Focus. Acccessed April 26, 2014. https://www.teachingprofessor.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/what-does-your-syllabus-say-about-you-and-your-course

This material was previously published as part of Dr. Paff's "Talk Higher Ed" interview with Magna Publications on March 31, 2015.