Don’t Skimp on the Syllabus
Let’s face it. Students very rarely read syllabus from cover to cover, so why should we instructors put so much time into developing it? Students reference it. When you were a busy undergraduate, did you spend your extra time reading every syllabus that was handed to you? Many students, especially your top students, reference the syllabus throughout the semester. What should you include for these top performers?
Every instructor should include their contact information and contact preferences. Students need to know how to contact you, in case of emergency or questions. If you would prefer to be contacted by phone, email, or Morse code, let students know. Students will likely follow your wishes which will help you manage your time and you won’t feel bad if you have to skip checking your least favored form of communication.
Course outlines are nice reference tools for today’s busy student. A good outline provides concept overviews, assignments, materials required, as well as due dates for each section. Students can flip to this one page and plan their weeks. No digging required.
Assignment descriptions are another nice addition. Students enjoy seeing their assignments details in advance. If they have these details and due dates, students can pre-plan their entire semester, which will lessen the number of missed and late assignments. In all honesty, I had never thought about detailing assignments in my syllabus. I thought that students would not care. When I made the shift, I also noticed higher levels of engagement from the students. They felt trusted and a part of their learning.
Syllabi are an overlooked classroom tool that instructors can use to engage with their learners. Instructors who provide contact information, course outlines, and details about assignments will likely get better engagement and higher levels of buy-in. What instructor does not want that?
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