Center for Teaching Advancement and Assessment Research116 College Avenue
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
New Brunswick, NJ 08901 http://ctaar.rutgers.edu/
Phone: (848) 932-7466
Fax: (732) 932-1845
All Rutgers faculty and instructors are expected to develop a comprehensive and detailed course syllabus for each course. All syllabi should be posted on or linked to the department's own website by the first day of class. (Expanded Course Descriptions should be posted to the Online Schedule of Classes when registration begins for the upcoming term.) A syllabus should summarize the content, structure, and student assessment principles for your course. While a basic syllabus gives students the essential information about meeting times and office hours, a full syllabus allows the students to plan their coursework efficiently and balance it with the requirements of other courses.
A good syllabus will provide students with a roadmap for the semester, help them plan their class work and study calendars, and provide them with the specificity they need to help them complete their work with a full understanding of what you expect of them. Note that a syllabus is a living document, not etched in stone. As the term develops, changes will often be made as suitable and necessary.
You should approach the syllabus as a teaching tool as important as the textbook; the syllabus is where you lay out your expectations of what students should gain from the course and how their level of achievement will be assessed. Including your classroom policies as well as selected Rutgers policies in the syllabus will also encourage students to complete their work in keeping with the standards you have set for your course.
Before creating your syllabus, you should complete your semester's teaching plan and incorporate the learning goals of the university and your academic department. Creating a comprehensive syllabus may seem time-consuming when you have a busy schedule, but the time invested in creating a syllabus helps both students and instructors. A good syllabus helps to:
- - identify and enumerate the learning goals for the course;
- - organize the content to assist in achieving the course's learning goals;
- - prepare materials for presentation over the many weeks of the semester;
- - plan assignments and grading practices; and
- - select readings that will provide the appropriate context for lectures and discussions.
What to include in your syllabus:
Click each item for more information, or expand all descriptions.
- Course title and number
- Include the course title and course number as they appear in the Schedule of Classes, including all crosslisted sections.
- Instructor's name and contact information
- For each instructor and teaching assistant include office hours (day, time and location) and at least one of the following: phone, email, web page, fax, postal address.
- Course meeting times and locations
- Include the semester and year. Refer to the academic calendar to account for holidays, breaks, and changes in class schedule. Refer to building information at Rutgers Maps.
- Course web site address
- Courses in New Brunswick and Camden can host their web sites on Sakai or eCollege. Courses in Newark can use Blackboard, Sakai or eCollege.
- Course description or synopsis
- Provide a description or synopsis that may address the following: the material the course will cover; the relationship of the course to other courses in the area or department; the relationship of the course to the field; the intended audience of the course; the theoretical or methodological assumptions that structure the course; and any other relevant information.
- List any prerequisites necessary for the course, and/or alternatives such as placement testing.
- Learning goals
- Learning goals should be included for every course. Courses may have individualized learning goals, or learning goals that dovetail with the area/department or unit. For example, some courses may be certified as meeting SAS Core Curriculum Learning Goals or SAS Departmental Learning Goals (DOC).
- Required readings and materials
- Arrange with the university book store (and if you wish, other local vendors) to stock your books, but also list the ISBN numbers (required) and specific edition information (if pertinent) so students can shop online for the best prices. If your reading list includes works that are in the public domain (including all books published prior to 1923; review this copyright chart for more detail) include links to free editions at Project Gutenberg, Archive.org, or other ebook distributors.
- Additional Materials
- Some courses require the students to purchase additional materials such as lab supplies, art supplies, specialized software, etc.. These should be listed on the syllabus, along with possible locations for purchase. If you require your students to use specific software such as MatLab or SPSS, check the university software licences to see if students are eligible for free downloads or reduced pricing. OIT has also made some statistics packages available for remote use.
- Exam times and locations
- Include the exam search page link http://finalexams.rutgers.edu so that students will have the official information including any changes that may unexpectedly occur. The Scheduling web site lists the Fall semester common exam schedule and Spring semester common exam schedule, also available at the exam search page. If your course has common hour exams, include that information as well.
- Required Assignments and Grading Policies
- Assignments to be graded including due dates and grade distribution/percent value of each assignment; any policies on missed or late assignments and make-up exams; any policies on graded attendance, recitations sections, labs, etc.
- Weekly Schedule
- Daily or weekly schedule of assignments, readings, lecture topics, etc., or an outline of the procedure by which such assignments will be made. See also Extended Information below.
- Attendance Policy
- When creating an attendance policy refer to the university attendance policy, religious holiday policy, interfaith calendar, and the NJ Department of Education religious holiday list. If you choose to base part of the grade on attendance, you should state that in both the "grading policy" and "attendance" sections of your syllabus. Additional attendance requirements may be set by your school or department; these are often listed in the course catalogs.
- Academic Integrity Policy
- Include a link to or description of the current Academic Integrity Policy. You may want to include an Honor Pledge ("On my honor, I pledge that I have neither given nor received any unauthorized aid on this [exam/test/paper]"), or a plagiarism tutorial such as Plagiarism & Academic Integrity at Rutgers University, the Camden Plagiarism Tutorial, or Don't Plagiarize! Document Your Research.
- Major assignment or project details
- Due dates and instructions for major assignments with details of grading practices and any policies on missed or late assignments.
Weekly Schedule may include such sub-topics as:
- Lecture topics
- Lecture topics for each day or week can help keep the instructor, as well as the students, focused and on-track.
- Pre-class readings
- List readings students are expected to have completed before class. Including a short summary, discussion questions, or sample problems can help students focus on key insights from the readings, and can help students to be more prepared for discussion, lecture, or lab.
- Homework assignments
- Consider distributing homework assignments via the weekly schedule in the syllabus, rather than as stand-alone sheets throughout the semester. This can help students understand what is expected of them, help them manage their workload across the semester, and ensure that they are aware of assignments despite missing class.
- In-class tests
- Note the dates, times, formats, and percent value of in-class tests, as well as policies on missed or make-up exams.
- In-class activities
- Activities that are clearly tied to the weekly topics can help students master material. Distributing instructions or assignments as part of the weekly schedule can help students understand what is expected of them, help them manage their workload across the semester, and ensure that they are aware of activities despite missing class.
- Weekly learning goals
- Many instructors build weekly or daily learning goals which function in concert with the overall course learning goals. Being explicit about these learning goals helps students understand the relevance of readings, lecture, assignments etc. to their overall learning.
- Course and instructor feedback policy
- Set expectations for students about what sorts of feedback, on what time line, they should expect from you. It is also often useful to tell students how they can provide feedback about the course - for example, through the Student Instructional Rating Survey, or via in-class feedback mechanisms.
- Bibliography of additional readings and resources
- Additional resources, in the form of published articles or books, websites, videos, etc. can add richness to students' experiences, and allow them to seek out relevant information according to their own interests. Many syllabi double as topic-area bibliographies to which instructors add as new research is published. These can be valuable resources not only to the instructor but also to students who wish to pursue further inquiry in the field.
- Online Learning Tools
- For example, Rutgers RIOT and RefWorks at the Rutgers Libraries.
- Resources for remediation
- Students can find academic support at the Rutgers Learning Centers.
- Accommodations for special needs
- Students with disabilities requesting accommodations must follow the procedures outlined at the Office of Disability Services.
Additional Resources for Syllabus Design
(links are valid as of January 2015)
- “SAS Sample Syllabus” (.doc) by Susan Lawrence, Dean for Educational Initiatives and the Core Curriculum for the SAS and Associate Professor of Political Science
- “What’s In A Syllabus?” by Michael Shafer, Professor, Political Science
- “Preparing a Syllabus” for Teaching Assistants, TA Project
- Rutgers University Learning Goals (pdf)
- Academic Calendar
- Exam Periods for Spring and Fall
- Academic Regulations and Policies
Academic Integrity Policy (pdf)
- Detecting Plagiarism and Cheating Links
- Academic Leaders
- University of Washington guidelines for performance expectations
- Cornell University - Course Design and Planning
- Stanford University "Tomorrow's Professor"
- Brown University "Constructing a Syllabus" (PDF) by Michael J.V. Woolcock
- Writing a Syllabus by Howard B. Altman and William E. Cashin
- University of Minnesota Interactive Syllabus Tutorial
- University of Michigan Syllabus Design
- The 3 Essential Functions of Your Syllabus, by James Lang in the Chronicle of Higher Education
Background and Rationale
- Expanded Course Descriptions Tutorial
- New Brunswick Faculty Council Proposal for Required Expanded Course Descriptions
- American Council on Education's Analysis of Higher Education Act Reauthorization (see Analysis pdf, p.5 section "Textbook Cost Containment")