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Creating A Syllabus

Syllabus Resources

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Syllabus Example from the Template Syllabus on this webpage

A SYLLABUS IS AN OVERALL OUTLINE OF THE COURSE THAT YOU AND YOUR STUDENTS FOLLOW TO ENSURE TIMELINESS, FAIRNESS, AND CLARITY OF EXPECTATIONS.

In its most basic format it includes contact information, course learning outcomes, assessment descriptions, class policies, a breakdown of grading criteria, and a calendar with topics and assignment deadlines.

Course Learning Outcomes

What are the most important things that you want students to know and do in this course?

Students will …”
+ CONTENT
+ THINKING VERB
+ APPLICATION
______________________
Learning Outcome

Writing learning outcomes is the first step in developing a course syllabus. Well written course-level learning outcomes have the following characteristics:

  • Are fairly broad in scope since they are course-level, but written in succinct and clear language;
  • Refer to specific content, topics, skills, activities, and/or assessments;
  • Use “thinking” action verbs that help students focus on how to engage with the content, and help instructors measure the level of learning (see Bloom’s taxonomy);
  • Tell the student what they will know and do (NOT what the teacher will do); they often begin with “Students will” or “You will”.
  • Follow the formula: Students will + thinking verb + content + application
5 Tips to Writing Learning Outcomes

Work Backwards
(if you already have assessments)

  1. Start with the summative assessments (e.g. exam, paper, performance, project, quizzes). 
    • Ask yourself: What general content do students need to know to do well on each assessment? 
  2. Then decide what type(s) of thinking about the content (e.g. apply, predict, compare) is required for students to do well on each assessment. Refer to Bloom’s Taxonomy.
  3. Write a sentence that brings these together as a draft outcome. It can be fairly broad in scope. (See examples below.)
  4. Review it to see if your activity and your thinking verb are equally rigorous (i.e. is the activity too easy/hard for the type of thinking that students should be doing?) 

Examples of well written learning outcomes

  • Students/You will apply the notion of diaspora and critical concepts intrinsic to it, to their own lives and current social issues through an ethnographic research project.
  • Students/You will use the Python programming language to complete a data mining analysis.
  • Students/You will apply social psychology theories to real-world scenarios in 3 short papers.
  • Students/You will phrase and describe statistical concepts in their own words (weekly homework and 2 short written peer reviews)

Align Assessments with Learning Outcomes

Often, students demonstrate competency in multiple outcomes in one assessment, or multiple assessments will measure one outcome. Aligning the outcomes and assessments help you and your students envision course expectations.

Common assessments are papers, projects, exams, presentations, and performances. Here are some resources explaining other assessments that help students meaningfully think through the content, some videos of UCSB professors presenting successful assessments, and ideas for ensuring academic integrity.

Consider creating a visual alignment of outcomes with assessments

Learning OutcomeSummative Assessments
Define and critically discuss literary genre, form, style and contentGroup Teaching Presentation
Creative Remix Project
Select salient details from the text and use them to analyze and interpret the significance of the text (close reading)Group Teaching Project
Close Reading Paper
Final Paper
Apply literary and cultural theory to your own lives, contemporary problems, and literaryInterdisciplinary Synthesis
Example visual alignment of assessments with learning outcomes in a simple matrix
Learning Outcomes Aligned with Assessments in English
Learning Outcomes Aligned with Assessments in English
Learning Outcomes Aligned with Assessments in Global Studies
Learning Outcomes Aligned with Assessments in Global Studies
Formative and Summative Assessment

Align Lecture and Section

The purpose of sections, in general, is to give students a smaller class setting where they can learn to apply the course material with consistent direct access to an expert (i.e. a Teaching Assistant). Sections best support students when they create a class community in which to explore students’ questions, conduct experiments, review and apply material through formative practice, prepare for assessments, and collaborate with peers. 

Aligning Section and Lecture
Steps for aligning lecture and section

Ensure that lecture and section are in sync so that students experience a large course cohesively and holistically within a dynamic research university setting. Use this template and the steps below to align lecture topics with section activities.

  1. Review the calendared subtopics for each week. Note how formative and summative assessments will use the week’s material. Identify general topics or upcoming assessments in which students may need more guidance.
  2. Specify and prioritize students’ learning needs for that topic or assessment. These might include common errors, misconceptions, nuances, or complexities that experts notice, but which novices overlook and/or need to practice with timely feedback from an expert. It could also include techniques for studying, researching, writing, and/or collaborating.
  3. Determine what type of TA support and teaching methods will guide students through expert thinking processes and skills. For example, a support might be to provide sample analytical questions; the teaching method might be small groups applying those questions to a reading, case, or problem. 

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