Preparing a Syllabus

Syllabus as contract. In the August 7, 2001 issue of The Appalachian (page 19), Staff Writer Stephanie White describes the syllabus as "your contract with the professor," and she refers to the syllabus as a "PRICELESS piece of paper" that describes the professors requirements and expectations and "other pertinent information."

To avoid claims that you didn't cover precisely what you said you'd cover:

  • label the syllabus topic listing as "tentative" -- you may end up having to skip some material or spend more time than you expected on other material;
  • or include a statement to the effect that every effort will be made to cover the material identified in the syllabus, but that occasional changes may be made for educational or scheduling reasons.

A syllabus is essential, and is required for (among other things) accreditation.

  • Communicate clearly the course requirements and your expectations and policies.
  • Ask your Department Chair or mentoring faculty member for some good sample syllabi, which you may use as models.

Accommodation of disabilities (STATEMENT REQUIRED ON THE SYLLABUS):

"Appalachian State University is committed to making reasonable accommodations for individuals with documented qualifying disabilities in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Those seeking accommodations based on a substantially limiting disability must contact and register with The Office of Disability Services (ODS) at www.ods.appstate.edu or 828-262-3056. Once registration is complete, individuals will meet with ODS staff to discuss eligibility and appropriate accommodations."

Are class policies enforceable? See UNC Charlotte: Guidance on the Enforceability of Classroom Policies and Practices (PDF, 46 KB) for a discussion of governing principles.

Syllabus contents. A syllabus should contain or be accompanied by your written statement of policies for the class. Topics might include:

  • Assignments and expectations (e.g., readings, class participation, papers, exams, due dates, etc.)
  • Academic Integrity. Consider including on your course policy summary a statement that: "The honor pledge ('I have not violated the Appalachian State University Academic Integrity Code') applies to all work in this course."
  • Grading and Evaluation. What is the basis for grade? (How are the various components evaluated and weighted?)
  • Attendance and other policies:
    • Deductions from grade for missed or unprepared classes: How is the grade computed?
    • Excused absences? On what grounds, and what proof is acceptable?
    • Cell phones and other electronic devices: Will you allow them in class?
    • Disruptive students/Comportment (see the discussion on handling disruptive students)

First Day: review syllabus in detail, and urge students to raise questions

Moral or religious objections from students to material on the course syllabus: handle this issue early on (first day discussion of syllabus); accommodate such objections if doing so does not alter the fundamental requirements of program.

Resources:

UNC Charlotte: Guidance on the Enforceability of Classroom Policies and Practices (PDF, 46 KB)