A Learner-Centered Syllabus
Your syllabus is a document that represents your course; it is the most important document you will share with your students.
- Provides an overview of exactly what your course will cover
- Informs your students of how you plan to teach your course material and how it might fit with your teaching philosophy
- Gives students logistical information they will need to succeed in the course
- Delivers critical university, college and department policies that you and your students may often need to refer to throughout the semester
- Sets the tone for the course
Your syllabus will set standards for the entire semester. Think of it as a contract between you and your class that defines your expectations of students and what they can expect from you. A well-written syllabus that clearly states how your learning community will operate can help you avoid many common classroom management issues.
Your course syllabus is typically the first communication you will have with your students, so use it to begin fostering your learning community. It's also a good way to define or redefine your own teaching philosophy, in addition to reinforcing the overarching goals for the course, department, college, and university.
Course syllabi at RIT vary across disciplines and individual courses, but the tools and examples here can help you develop a concise, learner-centered syllabus that will benefit both you and your students!
The learner-centered syllabus
Designing a learner-centered syllabus means that students and their ability to learn are at the center of what we do. You should consider how each and every aspect of your course will effectively support student learning (Grunert, 1997). Being learner-centered means that you:
- View learning as a partnership with students
- Become acquainted with students' current knowledge of the subject matter, their learning styles, and their learning goals for the course (Howard, 2012)
- Shift from an instructor's point of view to the student's perspective
A learner-centered syllabus requires that you shift from what you, the instructor, are going to cover in your course to a concern for what information and tools you can provide for your students to promote learning and intellectual development. Diamond, 1997, p. xi.
The Power of the Syllabus
M. Ann Howard is Senior Associate Dean and Professor of Science, Technology & Society/Public Policy in the College of Liberal Arts. She delivered her presentation The Power of the Syllabus at New Faculty Orientation in August 2012.