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Center for Teaching Advancement and Assessment Research

Center for Teaching Advancement and Assessment Research

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Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
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http://ctaar.rutgers.edu/
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Syllabus Design

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:

Besides incorporating these 'best practices' of syllabus design, it is suggested that the instructor also check with his or her dean’s office about any specific school-level policies.

 

What is the difference between a Syllabus and an Expanded Course Description?

 

What to include in your syllabus:

Click each item for more information, or expand all descriptions.

Basic Information:

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.
Prerequisites
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
Instructors are advised to include statements on Academic Integrity in the syllabus for every course. Such a statement has two advantages: it informs the student that he or she is expected to uphold standards of academic integrity and allows the instructor the opportunity to define special rules for academic integrity that apply in each class. This statement on the syllabus may be particularly important when it deals with areas that are not always clear in the minds of students.

Statements can be general or specific. Instructors may wish to address questions about the definition of plagiarism, acceptable methods of citation (particularly if instructors specify a style manual or have departmental guidelines), rules for cooperation among students on assignments and laboratory work, conduct on exams, or other areas of concern. Instructors should include a link to or description of the current Academic Integrity Policy. Instructors 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 those found on the Rutgers Academic Integrity page, the Rutgers University Libraries tutorial Don't Plagiarize! Document Your Research, or the Camden Library Plagiarism Tutorial.

Below are statements that could be included on a syllabus or be modified to meet the needs of a course:
  • Rutgers SAS Example
    University Code of Student Conduct: It's important to realize that coming to the University brings you into a scholarly community, and as with all communities, there are principles and standards of behavior and action. Below, is the Preamble to the University Code of Student Conduct. (The full document can be found at http://studentconduct.rutgers.edu/student-conduct-processes/university-code-of-student-conduct/)

    University Code of Student Conduct: Preamble: A university in a free society must be devoted to the pursuit of truth and knowledge through reason and open communication among its members. Its rules should be conceived for the purpose of furthering and protecting the rights of all members of the university community in achieving these ends.

    All members of the Rutgers University community are expected to behave in an ethical and moral fashion, respecting the human dignity of all members of the community and resisting behavior that may cause danger or harm to others through violence, theft, or bigotry. All members of the Rutgers University community are expected to adhere to the civil and criminal laws of the local community, state, and nation, and to regulations promulgated by the university. All members of the Rutgers University community are expected to observe established standards of scholarship and academic freedom by respecting the intellectual property of others and by honoring the right of all students to pursue their education in an environment free from harassment and intimidation. (From the Preamble, University Code of Student Conduct, Policy on Academic Dishonesty)

    I want to make it very clear to everyone that I will not tolerate cheating in any of my courses. If I believe someone is cheating on a quiz or exam or paper, I will report the incident directly to the Dean, who will take the matter from there. Examples of such cheating are copying answers from someone else’s test onto your own, copying material from reference sources and representing them as your own ideas or writings, storing information in a calculator’s memory and using it on the exam, using notes or such during the exam when not approved by me, working together on projects that are to be done on your own, etc. I urge all of you to become familiar with the University procedures for dealing with academic dishonesty. It can be found at: http://academicintegrity.rutgers.edu/academic-integrity-disciplinary-process/
    Generic Example
    Students in this class and in all courses at Rutgers University are expected to uphold the highest standards of academic integrity. Cheating, plagiarism in written work, receiving and providing unauthorized assistance, and sabotaging the work of others are among the behaviors that constitute violations of the Academic Integrity Policy. You are expected to be familiar with this policy. If you have questions about specific assignments, be sure to check with the instructor. The Academic Integrity Policy defines all forms of cheating and the procedures for dealing with violations. You should be familiar with this policy. The trust between the instructor and the class depends on your acceptance of this essential principle of behavior in the University. Do your own work and do not provide unauthorized assistance to others and you will find this course more rewarding.

  • Other Resources:
    Rutgers Academic Integrity
    Penn State Academic Integrity
    UC San Diego Academic Integrity
Integrity-checking Services (e.g., Turnitin, Proctortrack)
If you plan to use services that monitor or check for academic integrity issues such as plagiarism-screening services or online exam proctoring, you should include a statement regarding the use of the service. Since some of these services may provide a technical barrier to students, you may need to offer alternatives. See the Rutgers TLT office's sample syllabus statement for the use of Turnitin, or the example from Ohio State University for the use of proctoring software.

Extended Information:

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)

Rutgers-specific:

Peer Institutions:

 

Background and Rationale

 

 

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