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

DCAL recommends including 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.

Texts & 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 access accommodations as needed and 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

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.

In planning your course schedule, please consult the Holy Day Calendar and the dates of significant campus events including Homecoming, Winter Carnival, and Green Key. These observances and events may impact student attendance in your class.

Dartmouth Policies & Syllabus Statements

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 these policies in relation to your course. Additional statements about mental health & wellness, financial difficulty, consent to record, and Title IX are also recommended. These policies and sample statements are outlined below.

Required Policy Statements

Academic Honor Principle

It is required that your syllabus refers to the Academic Honor Principle and includes a link to the policy. Please include this language and link in your syllabus:

The faculty, administration, and students of Dartmouth College acknowledge the responsibility to maintain and perpetuate the princicple of academic honor, and recognize that any instance of academic dishonesty is considered a violation of the Academic Honor Principle.

In addition, it is important that you discuss with your students your specific expectations regarding academic integrity and the Honor Principle in your courses. You might also include this resource on proper citation of sources. Additionally, please consider clarifying under what circumstances it is acceptable to you for students to work together or use outside sources on assignments. If you have questions about the Honor Principle, please contact your department/program chair or your associate dean. 

Religious Observances

Students may wish to participate in religious observances during the academic term. Please include this language on your syllabus:
 
Dartmouth has a deep commitment to support students' religious observances and diverse faith practices. 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 as soon as possible—before the end of the second week of the term at the latest—to discuss appropriate course adjustments. 
 
To assist with calendar planning and awareness of our diverse religious and spiritual community, please refer to the Tucker Center for Spiritual and Ethical Life's holy day calendar. The list represents major holy days which may impact campus events in general, as well as student course attendance, exams, Commencement, and participation in activities in the coming year. Faculty members should also be aware that, in Fall term, students may participate in observances for Indigenous Peoples' Day, which should receive similarly appropriate adjustments. If you have any questions about these dates or other concerns, please contact Rev. Nancy Vogele, chaplain and director of the Tucker Center.

Student Accessibility and Accommodations

It is required that this paragraph is included on your syllabus: 

Students requesting disability-related accommodations and services for this course are required to register with Student Accessibility Services (SAS; Apply for Services webpage; student.accessibility.services@dartmouth.edu; 1-603-646-9900) and to request that an accommodation email be sent to me in advance of the need for an accommodation. Then, students should schedule a follow-up meeting with me to determine relevant details such as what role SAS or its Testing Center may play in accommodation implementation. This process works best for everyone when completed as early in the quarter as possible. If students have questions about whether they are eligible for accommodations or have concerns about the implementation of their accommodations, they should contact the SAS office. All inquiries and discussions will remain confidential.

For detailed information regarding expectations of the faculty to ensure accessibility for students with disabilities, please see Student Accessibility Services' faculty pages.  

Recommended Syllabus Statements

Mental Health and Wellness

The Committee on Student Life, with the approval and consideration of the COI, recommends including the following in your syllabus:

The academic environment is challenging, our terms are intensive, and classes are not the only demanding part of your life. There are a number of resources available to you on campus to support your wellness, including: the Counseling Center which allows you to book triage appointments online, the Student Wellness Center which offers wellness check-ins, and your undergraduate dean. The student-led Dartmouth Student Mental Health Union and their peer support program may be helpful if you would like to speak to a trained fellow student support listener.  If you need immediate assistance, please contact the counselor on-call at (603) 646-9442 at any time. Please make me aware of anything that will hinder your success in this course. 

Title IX

The Title IX Office recommends including this statement in your syllabus:

At Dartmouth, we value integrity, responsibility, and respect for the rights and interests of others, all central to our Principles of Community. We are dedicated to establishing and maintaining a safe and inclusive campus where all have equal access to the educational and employment opportunities Dartmouth offers. We strive to promote an environment of sexual respect, safety, and well-being. In its policies and standards, Dartmouth demonstrates unequivocally that sexual assault, gender-based harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking are not tolerated in our community.

The Sexual Respect Website (sexual-respect.dartmouth.edu) provides a wealth of information on your rights and obligations with regard to sexual respect and resources that are available to all in our community.  As a faculty member, I am obligated to share disclosures regarding conduct under Title IX with Dartmouth's Title IX Coordinator.

Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact Dartmouth's Title IX Coordinator Kristi.Clemens@Dartmouth.edu and deputies if appropriate. 

Socioeconomic Differences and Financial Difficulty

Students value when faculty acknowledge and affirm the variety of financial backgrounds and situations that Dartmouth students experience. Socioeconomic diversity can be invisible, and it is likely that some students will experience financial difficulties related to the cost of textbooks, materials, or other necessities for your class. DCAL recommends this brief syllabus statement:

If you encounter financial challenges related to this class, please let me know. 

Faculty may refer students to the Office of Financial Aid, the Undergraduate Financial Assistance Request form, and the Campus Resources Funding Guide.

Consent to Record

Particularly during remote teaching and learning terms, it is recommended that faculty include the following language in their course syllabus or Canvas site. You may also want to review this policy with your students, pointing in particular to the section about the instructor's copyright of materials and about the prohibition of recording one-on-one meetings.

(1) Consent to recording of course meetings and office hours that are open to multiple students.

By enrolling in this course,

a) I affirm my understanding that the instructor may record meetings of this course and any associated meetings open to multiple students and the instructor, including but not limited to scheduled and ad hoc office hours and other consultations, within any digital platform, including those used to offer remote instruction for this course.

b) I further affirm that the instructor owns the copyright to their instructional materials, of which these recordings constitute a part, and my distribution of any of these recordings in whole or in part to any person or entity other than other members of the class without prior written consent of the instructor may be subject to discipline by Dartmouth up to and including separation from Dartmouth.

(2) Requirement of consent to one-on-one recordings
By enrolling in this course, I hereby affirm that I will not make a recording in any medium of any one-on-one meeting with the instructor or another member of the class or group of members of the class without obtaining the prior written consent of all those participating, and I understand that if I violate this prohibition, I will be subject to discipline by Dartmouth up to and including separation from Dartmouth, as well as any other civil or criminal penalties under applicable law. I understand that an exception to this consent applies to accommodations approved by SAS for a student's disability, and that one or more students in a class may record class lectures, discussions, lab sessions, and review sessions and take pictures of essential information, and/or be provided class notes for personal study use only.

If you have questions, please contact the Office of the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

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 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.

Many of the ideas above are explored in more detail in How to Create a Syllabus, an Advice Guide from the Chronicle of Higher Education.