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Developing Your Ithaca College Course Syllabus

What Needs to Be Included in the Syllabus?

If you're new to preparing a syllabus at Ithaca College, you will find the following documents helpful: 

  • the approved College policy (Links to an external site.) on required syllabus elements;
  • Word document template that includes all of the above required elements, as well as suggested additional content (we update this template as policies change);  and
  • (coming soon!) updated Health and Safety Statement; as public health needs and expectations are constantly evolving, we will keep this statement up to date on current guidance, for you to incorporate into your syllabus as appropriate.

Each school and/or department may have identified their own, additional language that is required in syllabi (e.g., mission/vision statements, professional standards for accreditation, statements about available centers, lab safety requirements, etc.), so you should check with your department chair for additional syllabus content that may be required by your program.

Making Your Content Inviting, Supportive, and Comprehensible

The syllabus represents an important opportunity for students to better anticipate and understand several critical features of your class. They will learn:

  • what content/skills students can expect to learn, and how they will be able to represent that learning as part of your course;
  • how you intend to support their learning in the class;
  • the philosophy of teaching you bring to this course, which is sometimes explicit in the document but is always implied by the way students are addressed as readers and in how the expectations are explained;
  • how they will be graded;
  • the positive value you place on their input in the class;
  • the kind of inclusive classroom community you expect to facilitate and to partner with them to create/sustain (e.g., norms);
  • the schedule that reveals how the semester's experiences will unfold; and
  • much, much more.

The syllabus sets the tone.

If you want to consider how to frame the syllabus in a way that conveys your welcoming expectation that all students will learn and that all learners are valued, you may find it helpful to review the Syllabus Review Guide (Links to an external site.) published by the University of Southern California's Center for Urban Education. This tool provides questions to guide a faculty member in reflecting on their practice from a stance of equity-mindedness and support of all learners. The authors offer examples of how to intentionally adapt syllabus language to be more supportive of student learning.

Colleagues are excellent resources for reading the syllabus from the perspective of a student. You can ask them to read it with an eye toward language that might be unclear. This collaboration offers you a chance to strengthen the document before students encounter it.

A clear, well-organized, and inviting syllabus can help students approach a class with a growth-mindset and with a positive expectation about the care and support they will receive from their faculty member. For example, syllabi that state the expectations positively (e.g., "In this class, we will explore...") rather than negatively (e.g., "All late work will receive a grade of 0...") will support the idea that students are partners in learning and that they are likely to be successful. A student who can easily find course readings, deadlines, invitational language to visit office hours, and assignment expectations will be more likely to persist in a class.

The syllabus can prove an excellent companion to your overall in-class instruction and your Canvas course site as you ensure students know how to show up for class prepared.