Posted by: Dorianne Cotter-Lockard | 23 September 2008

A Prof’s Learning Curve – the syllabus

I spent a lot of time designing the course I taught at CLU over the summer.  I used Blueprint for Learning by Laurie Richlin (2006) as my resource on how to design college courses.  The syllabus turned out to be (in my opinion) clear and complete.  However, I learned a whole lot about how to actually use the syllabus while teaching my class.

Here’s what I learned:

Next time, I will spend much more time discussing the content of the syllabus with students during the first class. I will also emphasize different aspects of the syllabus throughout the semester. In addition to course goals, points I will cover more thoroughly include:

  • Academic honesty and plagiarism: I will add a sentence to the syllabus that states; “the instructor may periodically run students’ papers through turnitin software to detect instances of plagiarism.”  I was shocked to find out that this is really an issue and that it happens fairly frequently.
  • Grading criteria: I will cover the point system and emphasize that everyone has 0 points to begin with and that the points add up over the semester. Since the points are posted all semester long, the student will always know where they stand with their grade.  Some students have the attitude that they start with an “A” and “get docked” points.
  • I will offer students the opportunity to earn up to 15 extra credit points for giving a presentation on a relevant topic that isn’t already being covered during regular classes.  This is an opportunity for a student who needs to make up for missed classes or a poor grade on an assignment.
  • I will give concrete examples of what constitutes “good” or “excellent” class participation and how many points are assigned for participation each week.  Again, few students seem to feel entitled to an “excellent” participation grade even though they don’t participate in class.
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