Syllabus Guide

This guide is meant to help you develop a course syllabus. It includes recommendations on what information to include as well as resources on formatting and presentation.

Syllabus Components

We recommend that you include the following components in your syllabus.

Course Description

Include a description of the course. This can simply be the description listed in the ORC.  You may also wish to include:

  • Rationale and/or goals for the course within relevant program and/or department
  • Information about course prerequisites and sequencing with other courses
     

Learning Outcomes

Learning outcomes, or objectives,  are statements that concisely describe what you want your students to know, and be able to do with that knowledge, by the end of a learning experience. Refer to our guide on learning outcomes to develop them for your course, then include them in your syllabus. Note that you may also develop learning outcomes for specific units, assignments, or activities within your course and may choose to include these in your syllabus as well.

Teaching Methods & Philosophy

Help students prepare and set appropriate expectations for your course by indicating what teaching methods you will use in class, as well as the rationale behind those methods. Methods might include lecture, discussion, small group work, active learning, web-based learning, and experiential learning, among others. 
 

Expectations & Norms

Tell students what you expect of them and what they can expect of you, both in class and outside of class. Although some expectations may seem self-evident, students will be more successful and more likely to meet your expectations when you state them explicitly. Expectations may relate to:

  • Contact information and preferences
  • Office hours
  • Attendance and timeliness
  • Class workload 
  • When students should complete the assigned readings related to class meetings
  • Participation 
  • Technology use in the classroom
  • Technology for managing course (such as email, Canvas or other educational technology) 

Consider discussing these expectations and co-developing a set of class norms with students during the first week of class. 
 

Class Climate & Inclusivity

Include any policies and expectations relating to class climate and inclusivity. These may include:

  • Respect
  • Civility
  • Conduct
  • Language
  • Acknowledging bias (e.g. in personal viewpoints, of researchers, in course materials)
  • Giving and receiving feedback

You may also wish to include information about resources available on campus to support an inclusive climate. Click here for an example statement on diversity and inclusion from Senior Lecturer in Neuroscience at Brown University Monica Linden.

Texts and Materials

Share with students what books, videos, Library Course Reserves, and other materials they will need for class and how they can access these materials. Be sure to indicate which materials are required and which are optional. You may also wish to explain why these materials have been chosen and how you expect to use them during the course. For courses where materials may evolve during the term, establish clear expectations for how these materials will be shared in a timely and appropriate manner for students to adequately prepare for class.

Assessment & Grading

Students want to know how they will be assessed in your course and understand what they must do to be successful. This section of your syllabus should contain the following components: 

  • Activities: A list of graded activities along with the weight of each activity 
  • Computation: An explanation of how you will compute final grades 
  • Evaluation Criteria: A description of the criteria you will use to evaluate student work 
  • Policies: All grading-related policies, such as for late work, extra credit, or redoing assignments
  • Communication: Information about how students will know where they stand in the course, and how they should address questions or concerns about grading

Dartmouth Policies

There are several institutional policies, in addition to information that explains these policies, that all syllabi should include. You may wish to include a personal statement or additional information about how students should interpret them in relation to your course.

Academic Integrity

Include the Academic Honor Principle in your syllabus, and direct students to these additional resources about standards of conduct. You may also wish to draw on Sources and Citations at Dartmouth from The Institute for Writing & Rhetoric. Consider clarifying under what circumstances it is acceptable to you for students to work together on assignments.

Religious Observances

The Dean of Faculty recommends including the following statement to acknowledge religious observances (Retrieved March 6, 2018):

Some students may wish to take part in religious observances that occur during this academic term. If you have a religious observance that conflicts with your participation in the course, please meet with me before the end of the second week of the term to discuss appropriate accommodations.

Student Accessibility and Accommodations

Student Accessibility Services (SAS) recommends including the following statement in your syllabus (Retrieved March 6, 2018):

Students with disabilities who may need disability-related academic adjustments and services for this course are encouraged to see me privately as early in the term as possible. Students requiring disability-related academic adjustments and services must consult the Student Accessibility Services office in Carson Hall 125 or by phone: 646-9900 or email: [email protected] 

Once SAS has authorized services, students must show the originally signed SAS Services and Consent Form and/or a letter on SAS letterhead to me. As a first step, if you have questions about whether you qualify to receive academic adjustments and services, you should contact the SAS office. All inquiries and discussions will remain confidential.

Learning Resources

As appropriate, list additional services that the students in your course might wish to use to support their learning. These might include:

Academic Skills Center (ASC): Open to the entire Dartmouth community, the ASC assists students in achieving their academic goals through tutoring and learning skills trainings.

Research Center for Writing, and Information Technology (RWIT): RWIT is a free service dedicated to helping members of the Dartmouth community develop more effective strategies for generating and organizing their ideas, finding and evaluating research sources, and presenting and revising compositions in a variety of media.

Dartmouth College Library: The Dartmouth College Library provides support through subject area specialization, course materials and reserves, reservable learning spaces, workshops & classes for students, research, scholarly publication, copyright, media, book arts, and more. The Library's Research Guides by subject area and your discipline's subject librarian are sources of specialized help for your course and students.

Course Schedule

Including a course calendar of assignments, assessments, and other requirements helps students plan their time so they can meet the demands of your course. Students benefit from as much advance notice as possible. If you plan to adjust the course schedule during the term, please let students know this up front, and indicate how and when you will communicate these changes to students. 

You may wish to include specific details about each assignment or assessment here, or provide just general information in the syllabus to be supplemented with specific details for each assignment at a later time.
 

Formatting Your Syllabus

Making your syllabus well-organized and easy to read will help students find and use the information they need. Additionally, your syllabus should adhere to universal design principles to be accessible to all users. To these ends, your syllabus should:

  • Include clear headings and sections by incorporating the heading classes and styles (e.g. Heading 1, Heading 2, paragraph, etc.) built into the word processing tool you are using. 
  • Limit the use of tables, which are often inaccessible to screen readers and other accessibility tools. If you do use a table, include both table headers and captions to explain its contents and organization.
  • In web-based syllabi, use descriptive links rather than vague linked descriptions such as “Click here”.
  • Use language that is clear and free of jargon where possible.
  • If you are creating a word document (.doc, .docx), portable document format (PDF), or Google Doc, make sure to check the document for accessibility.
  • If you use images that are intended to convey a specific message, make sure to include alternative text for users who are low-vision. Additionally, consider including a caption for that image to explain that same text to all users.
     

Additional Resources

This Syllabus Guide was adapted from Cornell University’s Writing a Syllabus resource, which includes additional details on setting the tone for your course, communicating with students, and motivating students to refer to the syllabus.

The guidelines above reflect Dartmouth's “Teaching Guidelines for Faculty” found on page 22 in the Handbook of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences. This section includes additional requirements and recommendations regarding course activities and evaluating students that are helpful to consider when designing your course and constructing your syllabus.