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Creating And Using an Effective Syllabus

Step #1: Imagine yourself as a student.


Students most want to know about topics, grading, assignment, textbook, attendance policies, late work, makeup work, a general idea about the nature of the class sessions, prerequisites (Davis,1993). Be clear up front! Anticipate the questions and spend time making them clear- time up front will help the rest of the course flow!

Creating An Effective Syllabus


Step #2 Include more material!
The more detailed you are up front the less anxious your students are and the more organized you are as the semester progresses. Include details such as: your name, your office hours, how to find your office, if students can call you at home (and the boundaries around that), important drop dates, course calendar, how to access Prometheus or other course materials.

Creating An Effective Syllabus


STEP #2: What to INCLUDE:
Course Objectives:
Your course objectives should be given to you from the department/school which has them approved by the curriculum committee.

Creating An Effective Syllabus


STEP #2: What to INCLUDE:

So, when you write an objective you think about


The Audience (who is this for, who is the learner) The Behavior (what exactly is he/she supposed to be able to DO- make this a verb remember you can measure identify, discuss, synthesize, evaluate, assess but you cannot measure understand or know- they are too vague). The Conditions (what kind of stimulus will you use to find this out- how will you measure this?) The Degree (how thoroughly do you expect students to master this objective- it is a beginning stage in an introductory class or is it mastery at 100%?

Creating An Effective Syllabus


STEP #2: What to INCLUDE:
Examples of Course Objectives from a Special Education Course: 1. Design and implement the broad range of behavior management strategies and interventions that a psychoeducational model supports. 2. Use elementary and middle school curricula and individualized teaching strategies to meet developmental, emotional, and academic needs of students. 3. Translate sensitivities to diverse cultural backgrounds and emotional needs of students at MRC, BFA, and CGC into suitable and effective practices with them. 4. Develop a social skills instruction program and implement it, if appropriate, within your classroom.

Creating An Effective Syllabus


STEP #2: INCLUDE:
A Tentative Course Schedule:
List the dates, subjects, readings, and assignments and when they are duethis way there are no surprises and you have a guide for the coursemake sure you stress that it is tentative- it is flexible!(I find the best way is to make a table)

Date: Topic: Readings: Assignment Due:

Creating An Effective Syllabus


STEP #2: INCLUDE:
A list of required texts A process for acquiring required readings- will they be on Prometheus, on library loan, xeroxed (with copyright approval)? Detailed assignments The purpose of the course

Creating An Effective Syllabus


Step #3 Make sure to include statements about the honor code and about students with disabilities or special needs.
Put a statement about the GW Honor Code on your syllabus- remember if you mention it, you stress its importance. If a student has a documented disability it is their legal right to have modifications in higher education. Make sure you communicate your willingness to work with student needs from the 1st day of class- it will help you (remember to talk to the student in private).

Creating An Effective Syllabus


Here is one example: If any member of this class has any special needs during the course or has a documented disability, he/she is encouraged to come and speak to the professor. A goal of this course is to provide all students with a responsive and inclusive learning community.

Creating An Effective Syllabus


Step #4 Clearly communicate your grading scheme
Create your assignments before the class begins. Estimate the amount of student effort and then decide the weighting of each assignment. There is a module dedicated to grading and assessment. Explore the readings and the sites about grading schemes. Remember to vary your assignments to get the best picture of each students ability AND once you set the grading scheme try not to change it!!!

Creating An Effective Syllabus


Grading Scheme:
Here is one example of a grading scheme using the point method of gradingYour grade for this course will be based upon: In Class Assignments- 20% (200points) This part of your grade will be based upon class attendance, participation in small group work, personal interactions in class, participation in discussion groups, and completion of class assignments. (Possible 7 points per class session) Quizzes-20%(200points) There will be 10 quizzes given throughout the course. There will be no make-up quizzes given except in emergency situations. The 10 quizzes will be totaled and each quiz will be worth 20 points each. The quizzes will be cumulative so you can expect a few questions from previous quizzes to appear on new quizzes.

Reaction Papers- 20% (200 points) There are four reaction papers throughout the semester. Students are expected to read the assigned material and respond to that material in a scholarly manner. Please see the grading rubric on the web site for further clarification.
Final Exam-10%(100points) The final exam will consist of randomly selected quiz questions covered throughout the class. Portfolio Assignment and Presentation- 40%(400points) In order to increase your understanding of exceptional learners and people with disabilities in our schools and society, this cumulative project allows you to reflect upon images of disability in our society. It is divided into five parts Portfolio I (75 points) Movie ReactionSelect a movie that features a person with a disability (There is a list on the course website). Reflect upon how that person is portrayed and the themes about ability/disability that are evident in the movie. Relate your reactions to Wolfensberger's archetypes. Write a short paper discussing your observations and thoughts (don't summarize the film). Come to class prepared to discuss your observations and views with your portfolio group.

Portfolio II (75 points) Individual Submissions- Choose 2 items that relate to the content of this course (could be newspaper articles, TV shows, interviews, research articles, etc). Write a reaction paper about these items. What do you think about them and how do they relate to this course? Bring this paper and your items to share with your group. Portfolio III (75 points) Book or Novel- Select a novel or a book about a person with a disability or the nature of a particular disability. Write a reaction paper to this information and come to class prepared to discuss the themes that you found. Portfolio IV (50 points) Individual Submissions- This assignment is similar to Portfolio II. One submission must be from the world wide web.

Portfolio Presentation (125 points) Final Reflection (50 points) Examining your portfolio items and reflecting upon the content of the course and the class discussions, write a final reflection paper detailing what you have learned and about the themes that have emerged in the portfolio. Group Reflection (50 points) After discussing all the portfolio items decide identify the major themes and points for your group. Then write a group paper detailing why you think those themes emerged from your searches. Be specific! Poster Presentation (25 points) Your group should creatively present your findings develop a poster or a visual that highlights your findings. These will be shared with the class.

Grading Scale: 960-1000=A 919-959 =A878-918=B+ 837-877=B 796-836=C+ 755-795=C 650-699=D+ 600-649=D Below 600=F

Creating An Effective Syllabus


Step #5 Other tips!
Distribute and discuss the syllabus on the first day of class (and make sure you use the rest of the time to motivate students about the class!) Bring extra syllabi to the next few classes Be sure to tell students that this is a tentative course sequence so that they are aware that there is some flexibility in the course plan. Refer to the syllabus- if you dont the students wont!

Creating An Effective Syllabus


When we view a syllabus not merely as a brief outline of course dates and topics but rather as a guide to shaping student learning in accordance with the teachers expectations, the syllabus takes on considerably greater value. Its creation as a classroom document merits our highest efforts. And it deserves to be examined in faculty personnel decisions as evidence of a faculty members commitment to and skills in teaching, (Altma, 1990)

Remember!
Your syllabus is your contract with the students --- if you dont use it and follow itproblems are likely to arise!