Your syllabus reflects the art and science of course design — it expresses your unique teaching style and philosophy as well the principles of effective teaching and learning. A well-written syllabus provides students with important information about the course, outlines the skills and knowledge they will acquire, and motivates them to prepare for class.
Click on the links below for more information and resources developed to help you create effective syllabi for your Georgia Tech courses. Use our syllabus template, or create your own with best practices and Georgia Tech policies in hand.
Want some feedback on your syllabus? Contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org!
A syllabus serves three main purposes: it is a contract between you and your students, it is a permanent record of your teaching (and your students' learning), and it is a tool to facilitate student learning.
- Syllabus as a contract. As a contract, the syllabus states what you expect of your students during the semester. Establish clear policies regarding attendance, grading, make-up and late work, academic dishonesty, and accommodation of disabilities. Clearly articulated policies and expectations help students plan their work during the semester. In addition, explicit, written policies will help settle student grievances, if they arise.
- Syllabus as a record of teaching and learning. Your syllabus documents your learning objectives, the topics covered in your course, and assessment measures. You should also include information like your course title, credit hours earned, prerequisites, required reading assignments, and grading procedures. Administrators often use syllabi for accreditation purposes, for program evaluation, and for faculty review.
- Syllabus as a learning tool. A learning-centered syllabus motivates students, encourages them to take responsibility for their own learning, and promotes deeper, more meaningful engagement with course content. You can guide students’ learning behaviors in and out of class by including information about how to plan and prepare for class, how to study effectively, how to monitor one’s performance, and how to do well on exams. Providing models of acceptable work and suggestions about academic support resources help students use their time and energy well.
According to Regulation VI.I.1, all Georgia Tech syllabi must include the following items:
- course objectives
- required materials
- grading criteria
- additional criteria for successful completion of the course
- a statement about the services offered through the Office of Disability Services
- explanation of acceptable student conduct as it relates to the Honor Code and the Student-Faculty Expectations Agreement
In addition, we encourage you to consider your syllabus as a learning tool and to include course information that will help students assume responsibility for their own learning. Research suggests that students perceive a more detailed syllabus as a sign of teaching effectiveness, instructor approachability and flexibility, and as a motivating factor in class preparation.
This template has been developed to help you quickly create a syllabus that meets basic Georgia Tech syllabus requirements, while also following best practices for syllabus creation, and considering possible additional features to include.
Download and adapt our syllabus template as you prepare to teach:
- MS Word version
[green text, between square brackets, is helper text and should be deleted as you go]
Note also that if you make changes to your syllabus, these must be communicated to students with enough time available for them to adjust. Further, it is strongly encouraged that syllabus changes be communicated to students prior to the last day for withdrawal from a course with a W grade.
It is important to include a clear schedule for your students, laying out both the content that will be covered and the work students are expected to do before and after each class. This not only helps students keep organized, but it contributes to student learning: laying out content in an orderly manner begins to establish a cognitive framework for students, which helps with the organization of knowledge and improves students' ability to retrieve new information.
Consult the Academic Calendar for relevant dates.
The tone of your syllabus determines how students perceive your course, your teaching style, and personality. A syllabus written in a friendly, informal tone can make you seem approachable, your course engaging, and your classroom welcoming. Friendly tone also communicates that you want students to do well in your class. Some characteristics of a positive tone include:
- Addressing students directly, using personal and encouraging/friendly language.
I welcome you to contact me outside of class and student hours.
- Including a brief statement of your teaching philosophy.
I base many of my teaching principles on the theories behind a learning-centered class. So that you will better understand these principles, I have listed them below. [...]
- Providing rationale for your course policies.
I expect you to attend this course regularly. There is much that happens during class time that adds to your educational experience beyond what you can learn from just reading and writing in solitude.
- Describing your course in an engaging and accessible way.
What makes us tick? What happens when that ticking goes wrong? How can we help? In fact, who should help — family, society, medical doctors, clinicians? What theories best inform clinical practice? Clinical psychology is the field of study in which we attempt to answer these questions. […]
- Showing enthusiasm for teaching the course.
My work as a teacher is a crucial part of my contribution to my profession, to the university, and to society. As such, the privilege to teach continues to be an enormous source of personal reward and inspiration for me.
- Including campus resources for additional academic or emotional support.
[Click here for more information about these campus resources.]
Examples drawn in part from Grunert O'Brien, Millis & Cohen (2008).
The syllabus can only serve as a contract between you and your students, and as a learning tool, if students read it and refer to it over the course of the semester. Here are some strategies to make sure that students read your syllabus:
- Give students time on the first day of class to read their syllabus, then answer any questions that arise.
- Design a classroom activity to encourage students to reflect on course policies, expectations, and their own learning habits. This activity can be done individually in writing or as a small group discussion. Possible questions to ask your students include: Which assignments are the most important? Which assignments will be the most demanding for you and why? Why do I require regular attendance? How will you plan your preparation for this class?
- Continue to refer to your syllabus throughout the semester. Use course schedule to explain to students how one class relates to another, remind students about how to prepare for and participate in class, highlight learning objectives that you hope to accomplish in a given class or that you think students should have already accomplished. In this way, you can model how students can use the syllabus to stay on track and monitor their learning.
- Ask students to acknowledge in writing that they have read your syllabus, understand course policies, and agree to abide by them.
- Give a syllabus quiz at the beginning of the semester (during the first or second class). To make the activity less formal, consider organizing the quiz as a team competition.
Establishing Course Policies (opens a new page)
- Grunert O’Brien, Judith, Millis, Barbara J., and Cohen, Margaret W. (2008). The Course Syllabus: A Learning-Centered Approach. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
- Harnish, Richard J. and Bridges, K. Robert. (2011). Effect of syllabus tone: Students’ perceptions of instructor and course. Social Psychology of Education. 14(3), 319-330.
- Lowther, Malcolm A., Stark, Joar S., and Martens, Gretchen G. (1989). Preparing course syllabi for improved communication. Program on Curriculum Design, NCRIPTAL. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.
- Parkes, Jay and Harris, Mary B. (2002). The purposes of a syllabus. College Teaching. 50(2), 55-61.
- Saville, Bryan K., Zinn, Tracy E., Brown, Allison R., and Marchuk, Kimberly A. (2010). Syllabus detail and students’ perceptions of teacher effectiveness. Teaching of Psychology. 37, 186-189.