Syllabus

Overview: The syllabus, which acts as a contract with your students, presents an overview of the course description, goals and objectives; lists required materials; describes the schedule, assignments, and assessments; clarifies policies (including grading criteria) and expectations; and provides contact information. Though the syllabus is a contract, it should not be simply a list of prohibitions. Think of it as a communication tool, in which your students can read about your expectations of them and develop their ideas about their expectations for you and your class.

When appropriate, some instructors determine what is negotiable and what is not beforehand and then allow students to democratically set their own expectations on items such as use of electronics, which causes them to be more likely to adhere to the policy they have set. Convey procedures and expectations, but also “convey the excitement, intrigue and wonder that’s inherently a part of the content you teach,” using a friendly and inviting tone.[i]

Create a syllabus before the start of your course, but don’t stop there; continue to revise the syllabus—perhaps marking it up throughout the semester—to improve it for the next time you teach the course.

Senate By-Laws: The University Senate’s By-Laws stipulate that “Faculty shall provide syllabi to students in their courses, including internships and independent studies. Syllabi shall specify what will be taught, how it will be taught, how learning will be assessed, and how grades will be assigned.”

What to include in a syllabus—Each course at UConn is unique and, as the syllabus is a reflection of the course and the instructor, each syllabus is unique as well.  For example, note the variety in the sample syllabi offered recently by some of our Teaching Exemplars.

The Office of the Provost has created References for Syllabi Links to  highlight specific policies and information recommended for inclusion in syllabi. In addition to these University policies, the most effective syllabi include the following information:

  • Contact information and office hours—List your classroom, office and office hours. Also provide all applicable contact information (phone numbers, email addresses, etc.). If you plan to use the email tools in HuskyCT, make sure you enable those tools and demonstrate their use on the first day of class.
  • Course Description—Find a description of the course in the course catalog (undergraduate catalog; graduate catalog). The General Education Oversight Committee provides additional information on all Gen Ed courses. The description you provide in the syllabus may be a combination of these, with additional information about your unique course.
  • Course Goals and Objectives—A well-developed course is designed around specific course goals and student-learning objectives; these goals and objectives should be articulated for your students (perhaps in a paragraph or a few sentences and a bulleted list) in your syllabus.  If appropriate, express the importance of process (such as conducting research, writing drafts, or working out problems) as well as—or even over—product.
  • Required Materials—Articulate all materials (texts, clickers, etc.) students will need to complete the course. Texts are available through the local or online UConn Bookstore.
  • Schedule—As you develop your schedule for the semester, always refer to the academic calendar. Also be mindful of religious holidays: Instructors are strongly encouraged to make reasonable accommodations in response to student requests to complete work missed by absence resulting from observation of religious holidays. Such accommodations should be made in ways that do not dilute or preclude the requirements or learning outcomes for the course. It makes sense to identify the schedule on your syllabus as “tentative” or “subject to change” and to discuss with students how they will be notified of schedule changes.
  • Assignments and Assessments—The more detail you provide in these areas, the more informed and prepared your students will be.
  • Policy Statements—Consider including specific policies in your syllabus; here are some options:
    • Grading Criteria—Be sure to add a grade conversion chart on your syllabus. For example, A=93-100, A-=90-92, B+=87-89, etc. Also note that, according to UConn policy, the following grade points per credit shall be assigned to grades: A, 4.0; A-, 3.7; B+, 3.3; B, 3.0; B-, 2.7; C+, 2.3; C, 2.0; C-, 1.7; D+, 1.3; D, 1.0; D-, 0.7; F, 0.  For information on grades and grading policies, visit the Registrar’s page on Grades.
    • Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment and Related Interpersonal Violence—Please add the following to your syllabus:  The University is committed to maintaining an environment free of discrimination or discriminatory harassment directed toward any person or group within its community – students, employees, or visitors.  Academic and professional excellence can flourish only when each member of our community is assured an atmosphere of mutual respect.  All members of the University community are responsible for the maintenance of an academic and work environment in which people are free to learn and work without fear of discrimination or discriminatory harassment.  In addition, inappropriate amorous relationships can undermine the University’s mission when those in positions of authority abuse or appear to abuse their authority.  To that end, and in accordance with federal and state law, the University prohibits discrimination and discriminatory harassment, as well as inappropriate amorous relationships, and such behavior will be met with appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from the University.  Additionally, to protect the campus community, all non-confidential University employees (including faculty) are required to report sexual assaults, intimate partner violence, and/or stalking involving a student that they witness or are told about to the Office of Institutional Equity.  The University takes all reports with the utmost seriousness.  Please be aware that while the information you provide will remain private, it will not be confidential and will be shared with University officials who can help.  More information is available at equity.uconn.edu and titleix.uconn.edu.
    • Attendance—UConn has a unique attendance policy: You are required to describe the computation of the grades and the relation between grades and attendance at the beginning of the semester. Where grades depend on classroom participation, absences may affect the student’s grade. However, if a student were absent and the instructor reduced the grade, the reduction would be due to lack of class participation, not the student’s absence. Except for final examinations, instructors have final authority in permitting students to submit assignments late or make up examinations. Students should contact their instructor with any questions.
    • Student Conduct Code—You may want to note that students are expected to conduct themselves in accordance with UConn’s Student Conduct Code.
    • Academic Integrity Statement—Consider adding a statement such as this: This course expects all students to act in accordance with the Guidelines for Academic Integrity at the University of Connecticut. Because questions of intellectual property are important to the field of this course, we will discuss academic honesty as a topic and not just a policy.  If you have questions about academic integrity or intellectual property, you should consult with your instructor.  Additionally, consult UConn’s guidelines for academic integrity.
    • Copyright—The Office of the Attorney General in Storrs advises that instructors include an assertion of copyright in their syllabi and suggest the following language:  My lectures, notes, handouts, and displays are protected by state common law and federal copyright law. They are my own original expression and I’ve recorded them prior or during my lecture in order to ensure that I obtain copyright protection. Students are authorized to take notes in my class; however, this authorization extends only to making one set of notes for your own personal use and no other use. I will inform you as to whether you are authorized to record my lectures at the beginning of each semester. If you are so authorized to record my lectures, you may not copy this recording or any other material, provide copies of either to anyone else, or make a commercial use of them without prior permission from me.
    • Students with Disabilities—Here’s the recommended statement:  The University of Connecticut is committed to protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities and assuring that the learning environment is accessible.  If you anticipate or experience physical or academic barriers based on disability or pregnancy, please let me know immediately so that we can discuss options. Students who require accommodations should contact the Center for Students with Disabilities, Wilbur Cross Building Room 204, (860) 486-2020, or http://csd.uconn.edu/.
    • Makeup Work for Legitimate Absences—Note that UConn does not have an attendance policy (except in relation to the final exam); you are encouraged to allow students to make up work for excused absences.
    • Final Exam Policy—Here is an optional final exam policy statement: In accordance with UConn policy, students are required to be available for their final exam and/or complete any assessment during the time stated. If you have a conflict with this time you must obtain official permission to schedule a make-up exam with the Office of Student Support and Advocacy (OSSA). If permission is granted, OSSA will notify the instructor. Please note that vacations, previously purchased tickets or reservations, graduations, social events, misreading the assessment schedule, and oversleeping are not viable reasons for rescheduling a final.
    • Other policy statements related to the topics below may also be useful:

Post your syllabus. Students have an expectation that a syllabus will be available to them at the start of the course, so be sure that your syllabus is readily accessible. HuskyCT is a great place to post your syllabus. Check with your department first if you choose to print a copy for each student, as some departments do not fund such large-scale printing.

Introduce the syllabus to your students. Introduce the syllabus to your students on the first day of class. If necessary, show them how to read the syllabus; perhaps even conduct a group activity (e.g., a syllabus scavenger hunt) or quiz to ensure that students have read and understand all components of the syllabus.

Links:

[i] Weimer, Maryellen. “What does you syllabus say about you and your course?” Teaching Professor Blog, Faculty Focus. August 24, 2011.