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 —

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Developing undergraduate course materials lets you demonstrate strategies for your teaching and for student learning

The major project for Mass Communication Teaching (MMC 6930) is developing materials for an undergraduate communications course. We’ve been working on that project since the second week of class when you met with me to discuss the course you were considering and how developing that course would fit with your teaching goals.

You’ll be turning in your syllabus – paper version – in class on Oct. 29. By the end of class, you will be posting at least a portion of your syllabus on your online portfolio.

Here are the parts of the syllabus that you will be turning in:

Proposal for course – You turned in your proposal on Sept. 17. Revise that proposal to reflect any changes you’ve made to the course, such as including prerequisites, and to add references to the syllabi you used for developing the course.

Syllabus – Your syllabus should comply with the expectations of a course syllabus set out by the University of Florida —

You also want your syllabus to reflect best practices as discuss in McKeachie’s Teaching Tips and What the Best College Teachers Do. That means having student learning outcomes that are connected with student assessment, an explanation of grading, and a variety of teaching and learning strategies. You want your syllabus to convey your organization and your interest in the course and the students. See the UF Resources page for links to other resources on campus that you will want to include in your syllabus.

Your syllabus should be based on UF’s schedule for Spring Semester 2013. Include a listing of each class meeting and what the reading assignment or other homework would be for the class. Also include due dates for major assignments and test dates. My personal preference is to speak directly to the students in the syllabus. Here’s an example from my syllabus for Multimedia Writing: “The lab instructors and I want to help you be successful in this course. If you need individual assistance beyond the help you receive in lab, it is your responsibility to meet with your lab instructor or me during office hours or set up an appointment for another time.”

Timeline – The timeline is a planning tool for you and would provide a foundation for developing a lesson plan for each class meeting. You wouldn’t give the timeline to your students. For each class meeting, include the student learning objectives and a brief explanation of what activities you’d include in class, such as presentation, working in teams, a minute paper, watching a video or listening to an audio file, or class discussion. Your overall course should reflect a variety of instructional strategies. I distributed a sample timeline in class.

Assessment activity – Develop an assessment activity that would be a significant portion of the students’ grade for the semester. This may be either an exam and answer key OR a major project with a grading rubric. The assignment should reflect best practices from the presentations made by Antionette Rollins and Chris Wilson.

Two lesson plans – Select two days (or one three-hour class) and develop lesson plans. The lesson plans should include student learning objectives, how you would begin the class and the class content. Your lesson plan can incorporate bullet points or phrases. The lesson plan should be complete enough that you could teach from it. For examples, if you are going to have a class discussion, you need to list the questions that you would use to guide the discussion. If you are going to have a slide presentation, include a handout of the slides. Select two days where you would have a major role in the class. So do not select a day when you are giving a test, having a guest speaker, or having group presentations. I distributed a sample lesson plan in class.

When you bring your materials to class, please organize them in this order and have a large clip, binder or envelope for them.

We’ll spent part of class on Monday reviewing classmates’ course packets and discussing the process of curriculum development.

UF colleges must develop Student Learning Outcomes and assess those

Dr. Mike Weigold, the college’s dean of undergraduate affairs, reminded us that our college, along with all of UF’s colleges, must establish Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) for their undergraduate education. This is a critical part of the university’s re-accreditation process.

Each college must establish SLOs and develop a process to assess each SLO. Ultimately, the college must have three years of data on students.

Last year, the four departments in the college — Advertising, Journalism, Public Relations and Telecommunications — developed the SLOs and began the discussion of assessment. This year we will begin assessment and maintaining that data.