Creating Your Syllabus

The syllabus, which acts as a contract with your students, presents an overview of the course description; course goals and objectives; lists required materials; describes the schedule, assignments, and assessments; clarifies policies (including grading criteria) and expectations; and provides contact information. Although 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.

The latest University Senate By-Laws (2021) stipulate that “instructors shall specify what will be taught, when and how it will be taught, when and how learning will be assessed, if, when, and how missed assignments (for which medical documentation cannot be required) will be handled, how grades will be assigned, and (for distance education courses) how student identity will be authenticated” in the syllabus. How to design that syllabus is unique to the faculty.

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.

  • Contact information and office hours—List your classroom, office and office hours. Also provide all applicable contact information (phone numbers, email addresses, etc.).
  • 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. CETL has developed a resource sheet on learning objectives or visit our learning objectives page.
  • Required Materials - Articulate all materials (books, articles, technology, etc.) students will need to complete the course.
  • Schedule – This schedule should include intended topics for each session, any pre-class requirements, and materials (texts or technology) that are necessary that class. 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.
  • Grading structure – This should include the percentage of grade contribution from each assignment or assessment, along with how letter grades are determined. Please be aware that the University prohibits grading attendance at class. CETL has provided a tip sheet on avoiding grading on attendance or participation. The University Senate Sub-committee on Scholastic Standing has provided examples of make-up policy statements from syllabi.
  • Policy statement – This includes your class policies and the University’s policies. The Office of the Provost has created References for Syllabi Links to highlight specific policies and information recommended for inclusion in syllabi.

CETL Syllabus Template

CETL offers a syllabus template that meets the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements and is available for download. 

Faculty from various disciplines have offered their syllabi as samples for faculty looking to create one.

Trigger and Content Warning Templates for Syllabi

(Note: best practice suggests that a statement of Content or Trigger Warning in the syllabi, coupled with a verbal announcement before the class where the material referred is presented, supports a safe, inclusive, engaged learning environment)

Content Warning

I acknowledge that each of you comes to UConn with your own unique life experiences. This contributes to the way you perceive various types of information. In [class name], all of the class content, including that which may be intellectually or emotionally challenging, has been intentionally curated to achieve the learning goals for this course. The decision to include such material is not taken lightly. These topics include [list topics]. If you encounter a topic that is intellectually challenging for you, it can manifest in feelings of discomfort and upset. In response, I encourage you to come talk to me or your friends or family about it. Class topics are discussed for the sole purpose of expanding your intellectual engagement in the area of [subject/major], and I will support you throughout your learning in this course.

Trigger Warning

I acknowledge that each of you comes to UConn with your own unique life experiences. This contributes to the way you perceive several types of information. In [class name], we will cover a variety of topics, some of which you may find triggering. These topics include [list topics]. Each time this topic appears in a reading or unit, it is marked on the syllabus. The experience of being triggered versus intellectually challenged are different. The main difference is that an individual must have experienced trauma to experience being triggered, whereas an intellectual challenge has nothing to do with trauma. If you are a trauma survivor and encounter a topic in this class that is triggering for you, you may feel overwhelmed or panicked and find it difficult to concentrate. In response, I encourage you to take the necessary steps for your emotional safety. This may include leaving class while the topic is discussed or talking to a therapist at SHaW Mental Health. Should you choose to sit out on discussion of a certain topic, know that you are still responsible for the material; but we can discuss if there are other methods for accessing that material, and for assessing your learning on that material. Class topics are discussed for the sole purpose of expanding your intellectual engagement in the area of [subject/major], and I will support you throughout your learning in this course.

Tips:

  • Use a friendly and inviting tone Convey procedures and expectations, but also express the excitement inherent to the content you teach
  • Revise and improve your syllabus. 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.
  • Make sure your syllabus is accessible. ITS has created resources on making documents accessible.
  • Stay aware of the academic calendar. As you develop your schedule for the semester, always refer to the academic calendar. Also be mindful of religious holidays.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Be aware of how to proceed if you suspect a student of academic misconduct.Community Standards has developed procedures pertaining to academic misconduct. These are available on their website: Academic Misconduct Procedures for Instructors. Faculty should be aware of them prior to teaching a course.

 

Helpful Resource:

The Chronicle of Higher Education published a helpful guide entitled "How to Create a Syllabus" which you may find useful while drafting or revising your syllabus.

Additional Resources:

Bunce, D. M. “Teaching is More than Lecturing and Learning is More than Memorizing.”

Journal of Chemical Education, 2009, 86 (6), 674-680.

DiClementi, J. D. and Handelsman, M. M. “Empowering Students: Class-Generated Rules.”

Teaching of Psychology, 2005, 32 (1), 18-21.

Dornsife, R. “Good Teaching as Vulnerable Teaching.” Teaching Professor, December, 2012.

Gibson, L. “Self-directed Learning: An Exercise in Student Engagement. College Teaching,

2011 59 (3), 95-101.

Hudd, S. S. “Syllabus Under Construction: Involving Students in the Creation of Class

Assignments.” Teaching Sociology, 2003, 31 (2), 195-202.

O’Brien, J. G., Millis, B. J., and Cohen, M. W. The Course Syllabus: A Learner-Centered

Approach, 2nd Ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008.

Singham, M. . “Moving Away from the Authoritarian Classroom.” Change, May/June 2005,

  1. 51-57.

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