A Good Syllabus Improves the Quality of Education

A syllabus helps the teacher plan and organize the class and improve everything based on last year's experience. This assignment did not work well, that one worked better than expected. This unit works better winter quarter than it does spring quarter. This book would be better than that one. From the students' perspective, a good syllabus helps them get the big picture. The class is not created on the fly and there is a plan. They know in advance what they will be doing and how it fits in the total class experience. A good syllabus should have the following: (1) Title of the course. (2) Contact information. Tell the students how to contact you and when to contact you. (3) Grading system. Explain in detail how you grade. (4) Classroom management. If you have a system, explain it. Then follow it. (5) Required books and materials. If you want your students to bring a dictionary to class every day, this is where you tell them. If they need paper, pens, or other materials for special units, tell them. (6) Schedule. List the entire school year. Tell the students what they will be doing each week of class. This is the difficult part. It forces you to plan 180 days of teaching well before class starts. This is painful, but good. If you want to leave room for schedule changes, put that in the syllabus. Make sure you list every assignment for every unit. (7) An optional, but nice addition, is a teacher biography highlighting areas of expertise, academic credentials and whatever personal information you want to share with your classes. Writing a good syllabus takes a long time. In the end, it will give everyone a professional experience.

Steve Simpson is the editor of Ed.Net Briefs (http://www.edbriefs.com), a weekly online education newsletter with more than 60,000 readers. He earned his Ph.D. in communications at the University of Washington. He can be reached by e-mail at .


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