Tips and checklist for creating college course syllabus

by Julie Dodd

checklist of developing course syllabusWe spent much of our last class meeting discussing the many decisions involved in creating an undergraduate course syllabus.

We talked about how Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956), updated by by Anderson and Krathwohl (2001), can help with one of the most important first steps in developing a course — determining the student learning outcomes (SLOs) for the course.

Developing specific and measurable SLOs can be aided by using action verbs to operationalize each SLO — http://uwf.edu/cutla/slo/actionwords.pdf

I provided a checklist based on the UF Policy on Course Syllabi, advice from “McKeachie’s Teaching Tips,” and insights from my own teaching. We used the checklist to help guide our conversation. [Click link to download the checklist – Checklist for developing course syllabus]

Issues we discussed included:

  • Selecting course materials, including textbooks, online readings and software — and how to “encourage” students to complete reading assignments
  • Deciding students should address you.
  • Using what McKeachie calls low-stakes assignments (like a quiz or short paper) before assigning a high-stakes assignment (like an exam or major paper).
  • Developing an attendance policy that promotes attendance but addresses excused absences.
  • Deciding how to encourage technology use within the course content but how to discourage disruptive technology use (especially cellphone use) during class.
  • Structuring the class meetings. Will the three-credit course meet one hour three times a week, three hours once a week, or a combination of a two-hour block and one-hour block?

Once the policies, support materials, and grading decisions are made, it’s time to map out the course. Set out the dates of the class meetings (remembering to take into account university holidays) and then determine what is to be accomplished in each class.

The syllabus needs to include the date of each class meeting, the topic for the class, and any homework, such as required readings. The due dates of the graded assignments and the date of all exams should be included.

A strategy for structuring the class meetings can be to start with a big deadline (i.e., the major paper, exam or group project) and then back out, deciding when the smaller steps of the big activity must be turned in and when readings should be completed.

You also can read a previous post on Strategies for Creating University Syllabi.

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