ELEMENTS OF A SYLLABUS
Modifid by Carl Wenning from an article by the same name by Denton Rhodes,
Illinois State University, 8/94
"Syllabus" is a word whose etymology from the Latin means "label
on a book." The contemporary meaning of the word is something to the offect
of "summary outline of a course of study. " A course syllabus is to
a great extent a contract between a student and a teacher. It is expected to
be an accurate description of the course, including content, organization, methodology,
and a great many other factors. Which ever elements the teacher wants to include
in the syllabus will be pretty much up to that teacher. Nonetheless, there is
certain expected minimum. The following ideas, may be helpful to you as you
develop your first course syllabus. The elements represent elements the list
of things that most instructors have found valuable; they are not presented
in any particular order. Pick your elements carefully, and adapt them to your
- Course Name
a) if the course has a number, be certain to include it
b) if honors, advanced, APB, APC, or IB, make note of it
- Instructor Contact Information
a) phone & e-mail
b) contact policy including days, dates, and times
c) include day-time office hours for parents as well
- Class Meeting Days, Times, and Locations as appropriate
- Course Overview/Introduction
a) general description of a paragraph or two
b) prerequisites, if any
Note: the introduction should summarize the principal features of the course
in no more than two or three paragraphs.
- Course Goals
a) knowledge to be obtained
b) intellectual and physical process skills to be acquired
c) dispositions to be exhibited
- Student Performance Objectives
Note: a statement of five to seven outcomes that students are expected to
achieve should suffice.These must be observable, and should be written in
a somewhat "behavioral form." See PHY 310 Student
Performance Objectives for basic guidelines.
- Course alignment
a) with Illinois Learning Standards
b) showing relationship with Content outline (see below).
- Content outline
a) topics to be considered
b) problems to be addressed
c) week-by-week, or day-by-day schedule (aligned with textbook readings?)
Note: the length and detail of the outline is a matter of individual judgment.
Two to three pages are usually sufficient, although some instructors prefer
to go into considerable detail.
- Course schedule
a) dates (daily/weekly) when topics will be covered
b) dates when assignments are due
c) dates for test and examinations
d) dates for dropping course
Note: some instructors do not wish to be constrained by a schedule distributed
in advance; students, on the other hand, generally want to be able to plan
their work load and do not like surprises. A course schedule can be included
in the syllabus or distributed separately.
a) full bibliographical reference(s)
b) status: optional/required
a) type, number, status: required/optional
b) source, e.g., library reserve/stacks, individual purchase
Note: expectations and requirements regarding required and optional readings
in texts and other sources should be explicitly stated.
- Student Performance Assessments - Project/Papers/Products
a) types, eg., tests, quizzes, examinations, exercises, discussions, lectures,
b) expectations for participation
c) type, number, length, content
d) manner and form for reporting, e.g., written, visual, oral
e) "professional quality" standards
f) deadlines and due dates as appropriate
Note: expectations regarding spelling, grammar, typewritten or computer-generated
papers, and other details should be explicitly stated. Requirements for individual
projects should be explicitly stated as well.
Note: Assessments should be carefully aligned with Student Performance Objectives.
- Student Performance Assessments - Tests/Examinations
a) number & type, e.g., essay, multiple choice, skill performance
b) content, e.g., materials from text, lectures, readings, etc.
c) time & place, e.g., during class time, unannounced
e) make-up policy for absentees
- Attendance/Tardy Policy
a) status: required/optional
b) penalties for non-compliance, if any
Note: the relationship between class activities (especially those involving
experiential, "hands on" learning) and attendance should be explicitly
- Basic Classroom Management Policies
a) Rely on general policies, not specific rules, so that you can be prepared
for any situation.
b) Keep it simple so that it is readily understood.
- Other responsibilites, if any. For example:
a) laboratory practica
b) field work
c) all assignments not specified elsewhere
a) statement on cooperative versus competitive grading
b) grading scale to be used, e.g., A = 90-100, B = 80-89 if criterion referenced
c) weight given to components in final grade, e.g., tests = 35%, papers =
40%, attendance = 10%
Note: in general, grading standards and procedures are matters of individual
discretion; if not, consult the appropriate faculty committee or administrator.
- "Academic dishonesty" statement
a) general institutional policy enforced
b) special considerations, if any
Note: if your institution has a stated policy on plagarism and related matters,
stating it will avoid possible misunderstanding; if it does have such a policy,
you may wish to state your own.