Creating a learning-centered syllabus benefits both you and your students by communicating expectations up front and clearly defining the path to success in the course. The syllabus should focus on the needs of the students and their learning processes.
Is my syllabus linked to the life of the learner? Is it challenging yet attainable? Does it inspire both the learner and the teacher?
A syllabus is a basic contract between the instructor and the students, laying out the responsibilities and expectations on both sides. It’s also a road map that shows the general contours of the course, important milestones, and the landmarks that let students know they’re on the right track. Furthermore, it’s a public relations tool to get students excited about the course.
A learning-centered syllabus focuses on the needs of the students and their learning processes. Before you create your syllabus, plan your overall course design (see Designing a Course). Then, either review Elements of a Learning-Centered Syllabus by CTL or go straight to BYU Learning Suite or BYU Syllabus Builder to get started.
Tips for Creating Your Learning-Centered Syllabus
- Include more information rather than less.
- Use a simple, easy-to-read layout.
- Remember the learning outcomes the course is designed to achieve.
- Outline the organizational structure of the course.
- Include descriptions of the assignments, papers, exams, etc.
- Explain how the students will be evaluated (see Sample Assessment Information to Include in Your Syllabus by CTL).
- Describe course policies.
- Provide a course schedule.
Make it SMART (Svinicki & McKeachie, 2011).
- Agreed (clearly understood)
- Related, with a clear structure and links between assignments
- Time frame
Tips for Using Your Learning-Centered Syllabus
- Make it a living, breathing document students will want to consult often.
- Consider quizzing the students about important aspects of the syllabus the first week of class.
- Refer to it when explaining assignments, always relating them to course learning outcomes.
- Remind students to stay current on key dates and learning goals.
- Empower students to take responsibility for their own success.
- Make the syllabus available in multiple formats and locations.
Books on Syllabus Design
Grunert O’Brien, J., Millis, B. J., & Cohen, M. W. (2008). The course syllabus: A learning-centered approach (second ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Huba, M. E. & Freed, J. (2000). Learner-centered assessment on college campuses:Shifting the focus from teaching to learning. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
McCombs, B. L., & Whisler, J. S. (1997). The learner-centered classroom and school: Strategies for increasing student motivation and achievement. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
O’Banion, T. (1997). A learning college for the 21st Century. Phoenix: ACE/Oryx Press.Weimer, M. G. (2002). Learner-centered teaching: Five key changes to practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Weimer, M. G. (2002). Learner-centered teaching: Five key changes to practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.