by Sarah Glaz
The syllabus is an important part of any instructor’s teaching repertoire. When it is well constructed it can enhance both instructor’s and students’ experience of the course. If sloppily done it can undermine the instructor’s teaching efforts. In their first year of teaching in our department, TAs receive syllabi from their course coordinators. Even then, some elements of the syllabus, for example quizzes, may be left to the individual instructor’s discretion. New TAs are advised to pay attention to the syllabi given to them by their course coordinators and learn what works and what does not work in their classes. In later years some of you may teach a course without supervision and need to construct your own syllabus. Click on Syllabus Samples or scroll down the page if you wish to first see syllabus samples.
At the University of Connecticut the syllabus consists of three pieces of information:
- Course and Instructor Information
- Course Content and Homework Assignments
- University Required or Suggested Information
The information should be organized neatly, written clearly, and given to students as a handout in the first day of classes. The tone of the written handout should be firm and friendly. This information should also appear on the course webpage. In general, a compactly written handout is easier for the students to use. The website, on the other hand, may elaborate on some points that are only briefly mentioned or even omitted from the handout. A word of advice to new TAs: When handing out the syllabus in the first day of classes, you need to discuss with your class the information contained in it. Don’t assume students will read it. In particular, make sure to talk about the Course and Instructor Information.
The following is a check-list of the information that goes into the three parts of a well constructed syllabus:
Course and Instructor Information
- Instructor information: Instructor’s name and office (building and number), instructor’s e-mail address, office phone number, instructor’s website, and office hours
- Course basics: Meeting times and locations, computer lab schedule (if relevant), course prerequisites, course website
- Course description: Include both the course and, whenever relevant, the audience for the course (may appear only on the course website)
- Course requirements: Textbooks (both required and optional), calculators, or other
- Exams and quizzes schedule and policy: For example. NO MAKE UPS, or DROP LOWER GRADE, etc.
- Homework policy: For example NO LATE ASSIGNMENTS, NOT COLLECTED, or GRADED, etc.
- Tutoring information: Q Center, helpful websites, etc (may appear only on website; also see University Required or Suggested Information)
- Grading information: % distribution between tests, homework, and other elements
- Calculator policy: If relevant
- Other expectations: For example ATTENDANCE, etc.
Course Content and Homework Assignments
This information is the heart of the syllabus. Thinking about what should go in it is an essential part of preparing to teach the course. Course coordinators prepare this part of the syllabus for first year TAs. If you are preparing your own syllabus, consult instructors who have taught this course in the recent past, look at their course syllabi and course websites. Be realistic, plan to go at a reasonable pace, assign a reasonable amount of homework, build for unexpected events (like snow days, etc.), and don’t expect an ideal situation.
This material is usually organized in one table with several columns or in two separate tables. It contains the number and title (topic) of each section to be covered, the textbook homework assignment for each section, additional homework assignments that may be given as handouts in class (such as group or individual projects). Some syllabi organize the material week by week (with exact dates), others are not time-dependent and allow for variations (by including topics marked OPTIONAL, for example). If you teach the course for the first time you might hand out this part of the syllabus one chapter at a time, and adjust for what happens in class. Even if you have taught the course before, each new class may respond to the material differently, and some adjustments in the syllabus may be necessary. Try to build sufficient flexibility into your syllabus so that only small changes will be necessary. Remember that a syllabus is a contract between you and the students, and serious changes may be viewed by the students as a breach of contract. In any event include a “disclaimer”, for example: “The actual pace of the course may vary according to progress in class.”
University Required or Suggested Information
The link Sample Syllabus Add-On Page, leads to a sample add-on page containing university required or suggested information. You may print it and staple it to your syllabus, you may copy and paste it on your course website; or you may include your own variation of this information. This information covers four areas:
- Academic Integrity: UConn requires that each syllabus include a statement about academic integrity. Some instructors include a sentence like “No cheating will be tolerated,” others include a link to the entire Academic Student Code. Anything in between is also acceptable. The linked sample add-on page includes a paragraph from the Academic Integrity Student Code and the link to it.
- Final Exam Rescheduling Policy: Including UConn’s Final Exam rescheduling policy and procedure in the syllabus may save you from repeating this information in class and to individual students several times a semester. The university suggests letting your students know of this policy and the dates of the final exam as early as possible.
- The Q Center: The Q Center is an important source of extra help for students who need it. It is important to include information about it on your syllabus and course webpage.
- Student Support Services: The university suggests that instructors include on their syllabus information about other student support services, including: Counseling and Mental Health Services, Career Services, Alcohol and Other Drug Services, Dean of Student Office, and Center for Students with Disabilities.
Sample Syllabus Handouts
Below are sample syllabi for each course taught by TAs, including several courses which are only occasionally taught by TAs. For each course there is a link to a handout version of a syllabus and a link to the course webpage from which it was taken. Each syllabus linked below follows the Syllabus Guidelines in its own way. We tried, wherever possible, to select a syllabus prepared by a TA. Although we include recent syllabi, this collection is not intended to provide information on the latest textbook used for a course, or the exact material that should be covered. Rather the purpose of these syllabi is to illustrate the many ways of organizing the necessary information that makes up a good syllabus, and provide one good example of a syllabus handout for instructors teaching one of these courses for the first time. For the most updated information on the textbook and the precise material covered in each of these courses see the Courses Webpages and Schedule. The Courses Webpages and Schedule also maintain past semesters course webpages. For an illustration on how a course webpage syllabus differs from a syllabus handout visit the course webpages from which these syllabi handouts were taken.
|Course Number and Title||Syllabus Handout||Course Webpage|
|Math 1011 (old # 104): Introductory College Algebra and Mathematical Modeling||Eli Glatt, Fall 2008||webpage|
|Math 1020 (old # 102): Problem Solving||Ben Salisbury, Spring 2008||webpage|
|Math 1030 (old # 103): Elementary Discrete Mathematics||Lucas Roesler, Fall 2008||webpage|
|Math 1040 (old # 107): Elementary Mathematical Modeling||Amy Turlington, Fall 2006
|Math 1050 (old # 108): Mathematical Modeling in the Environment||Sarah Glaz, Spring 2007||webpage|
|Math 1060 (old # 109): Precalculus||Marcy Reda, Fall 2008||webpage|
|Math 1070 (old # 105): Mathematics for Business and Economics||Pavel Zhlobich, Spring 2008||webpage|
|Math 1071 (old # 106): Calculus for Business and Economics||Jeff McLean, Spring 2008||webpage|
|Math 1120 (old # 112): Introductory Calculus 1||Tom DeFranco, Fall 2008||webpage|
|Math 1121 (old # 113): Introductory Calculus 2||Tyler Markkanen, Fall 2006||webpage|
|Math 1122 (old # 114): Introductory Calculus 3||Ryan Schwarz, Fall 2008||webpage|
|Math 1131 (old # 115): Calculus 1||Jeff Tollefson, Fall 2008||webpage|
|Math 1132 (old # 116): Calculus 2||Robert Wooster, Fall 2008||webpage|
|Math 2110 (old # 210): Multivariable Calculus||Phil Lombardo, Fall 2008||webpage|
|Math 2210 (old # 227): Applied Linear Algebra||Oscar Levin, Spring 2008||webpage|
|Math 2410 (old # 211): Elementary Differential Equations||Erin Terwilleger, Spring 2008||webpage|