Call for Submissions:
Revisiting the Syllabus
Update (12/17/2019): Because of the overwhelming number of responses we have received to this call, we are no longer accepting submissions. We thank all the readers who have taken the time to share their syllabus ideas, observations, and concerns with us.
At the Teaching Professor, we’re planning on doing a series that revisits the syllabus, and we’re hoping you’ll help.
We’ll start with what we don’t want: a list of what should be on the syllabus. We know that’s important, but those lists abound, and we’d like to explore other aspects of this teaching tool. Here’s a question set that highlights some areas we think of interest:
- What’s the role of the syllabus in your courses? What goals do you use it to accomplish? Does the syllabus accomplish some goals better than others? What would your students say about the role of the syllabus in your course or in any course?
- What do you do on the first day to reinforce the idea that students can use the syllabus to find out what they need to know about the course?
- How do you use the syllabus after the first day? Have you found any approaches that keep students looking for answers there rather than asking you?
- What if you’re working from a syllabus with preset content, policies, and procedures? Are there ways you can personalize the official document? Do you distribute other material that you’ve created? What and why?
- What about the tone of the syllabus? Does it matter how you “say” it in the syllabus? How would you describe the tone you’re after? Is the tone used in the syllabus consistent with the tone taken in class? Should it be?
- Is there anything unique about your syllabus? Interesting ways of presenting policies? Do you use digital graphics? How does the syllabus highlight what students will learn in the course?
- Have you solicited feedback about your syllabus from students? How and what did you find out?
- How regularly do you change your syllabus? Is the syllabus your course planning vehicle?
You can respond with an article (800–2,000 words; submission guidelines are here). You can respond with something shorter and less formal—say, a couple of paragraphs. Shoot us an email that shares your ideas, opinions, observations, or concerns. Maybe you’ve got a question you think we ought to address. Beyond that, we’d welcome excerpts from your syllabus—or the whole thing if you’re willing to share it. Do you include a course description other than the one in the college catalog? What do you say about learning? How do you promote respect for others, encourage participation and recognize individual learning preferences? Is your syllabus illustrated?
We’re planning this series for spring semester, so we’d appreciate anything you choose to send by the end of November or early December. Among other resources, you can expect content you submit coming back as a collection of ideas, approaches, activities and alternatives, illustrated with lots of examples and probably some more questions.
Submit any material you have for this series to Maryellen Weimer at email@example.com. And thanks in advance for contributing.