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SETTING THE STAGE FOR SUCCESS WITH THE SYLLABUS Christine Harrington Ph.D. Middlesex County College

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Presentation on theme: "SETTING THE STAGE FOR SUCCESS WITH THE SYLLABUS Christine Harrington Ph.D. Middlesex County College"— Presentation transcript:

1 SETTING THE STAGE FOR SUCCESS WITH THE SYLLABUS Christine Harrington Ph.D. Middlesex County College January 7, 2015

2 Agenda

3 WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A SYLLABUS?

4 Purpose of the Syllabus Matejka, & Kurke, 1994

5 Purpose of the Syllabus Grunert, O’Brien, Millis, & Cohen (2008)

6 What do you want students to know, think or do? Learning Outcomes

7 Learning Activities How will students accomplish the learning outcomes?

8 Need for Accountability: Helping Students Master Content

9 Mastering Content: Retrieval Practice is a Memory Tool! Roediger & Karpicke (2006)

10 Re-thinking Assignments: An Equity Issue (Taras, 2006) 10

11 Assessment How will you know if students achieved the learning outcomes?

12 Processing Time… How do you hold students accountable for learning outside of class? How can you increase feedback opportunities for students?

13 A Matrix Tool…

14 RESEARCH ON THE SYLLABUS (AND PRACTICAL PPLICATIONS!)

15 Doolittle, P. E., & Siudzinski, R. A. (2010). Recommended syllabus components: What do higher education faculty include in their syllabi?. Journal On Excellence In College Teaching, 21(3), Retrieved from Academic Search Premiere. WHAT’S IN A SYLLABUS?

16 What’s Important on a Syllabus? Doolittle & Siudzinski, 2010

17 Next Steps Themes from 24 Components Reviewed 1000 Syllabi (Google) Doolittle & Siudzinski, 2010

18 Prediction Time… What percentage of faculty included: Late/Missed work policies Disability statements Information about supports available?

19 What do faculty include? Doolittle & Siudzinski, 2010

20 Perrine, R. M., Lisle, J., & Tucker, D. L. (1995). Effects of a syllabus offer of help, student age, and class size on college students' willingness to seek support from faculty. Journal of Experimental Education, 64(1), REACHING OUT FOR SUPPORT

21 The Study Seek help from instructor? Perrine, Lisle, & Tucker, 1995

22 Results- Willingness to Seek Help Potential ProblemSupportiveNeutral Trouble understanding textbook Low grade on first exam Hard to hear instructor's lectures Study skills ineffective for course Thinking about dropping course Trouble understanding major topic All significantly different! Perrine, Lisle, & Tucker, 1995

23 Application Explicitly communicate your interest and willingness to work with students outside of class Provide specific information about supportive services (counseling, tutoring, etc.) on campus

24 How Long Should a Syllabus Be?

25 Saville, B. K., Zinn, T. E., Brown, A. R., & Marchuk, K. A. (2010). Syllabus detail and students' perceptions of teacher effectiveness. Teaching Of Psychology, 37(3), doi: / SYLLABUS DETAIL

26 The Study Survey on Teacher Behaviors Saville, Zinn, Brown, & Marchuk, 2010

27 The Syllabus Brief Version- 2 pages Instructor name/contact information Course objectives Textbook Brief Overview of Assignments (ex. 6 exams) Grading distribution Brief overview of policies Calendar with due dates Detailed Version- 6 pages Same information with more detail 6 exams consisting of multiple choice and short answer questions Calendar included chapters that would be covered

28 Results! Teacher CharacteristicDetailedBrief Approachable/personable Creative/interesting Effective communicator Encouraging/cares for students Enthusiastic Flexible/open-minded Knowledgeable Prepared Present current information Promotes critical thinking Realistic expectations/fair All significantly different! Saville, Zinn, Brown, & Marchuk, 2010

29 More Results Saville, Zinn, Brown, & Marchuk, 2010

30 Application Add specific information – especially about course schedule and assignments (i.e. rubrics) All essential information is in one place Sends positive message about instructor, setting a positive tone for course Visual images, charts or tools- longer syllabus but perhaps better!

31 Consider Adding Inviting Image

32 Add Photo of Textbook, Shading and Color

33 Use Graphs

34 Add Details about Assignments

35 Consider Adding Rationale

36 Grigorovici, D., Nam, S., & Russill, C. (2003). The Effects of Online Syllabus Interactivity on Students' Perception of the Course and Instructor. Internet And Higher Education, 6(1), Retrieved from ERIC. ON-LINE SYLLABUS

37 The Study Student Perception of Instructor Grigorovici, Nam, & Russill, 2003

38 Results Grigorovici, Nam, & Russill, 2003

39 Application Slow down…. Use caution when considering hyperlinks Easy access Visual organization

40 Smith, M. F., & Razzouk, N. Y. (1993). Improving classroom communication: The case of the course syllabus. Journal of Education for Business, 68(4), Retrieved from Academic Search Premiere. STUDENT USE AND RECALL

41 The Study Completed Questionnaire On Syllabus Content and Use Surveyed at 3 weeks or 7 weeks Smith & Razzouk, 1993

42 Prediction Time! What percentage of students report using their syllabus at least once per week?

43 The Results! Syllabus UsageFrequency Every day20% Once a week57% Smith & Razzouk, 1993

44 The Results! Syllabus RecallPercent Correct Course title, instructor name, credits, textbook % Project purpose, course code, number of exams 85-90% Topic for day, instructor office information, textbook author 8-48% Smith & Razzouk, 1993

45 The Results! Course ObjectivesPercent Recalled One objective60% Two objectives8% More than 2 objectives3% No objectivesAlmost 30% Smith & Razzouk, 1993

46 Applications of Research First Day of Class Avoid Cognitive Overload- No Need to “Cover” Entire Syllabus How can you draw attention to what’s most important (i.e. learning outcomes)?

47 An Example…

48 A Better Example…

49 Processing Time… Do you bring attention to the course learning outcomes? How might you bring even more attention to important parts of your syllabus?

50 What’s the Syllabus Say About the Professor and the Course?

51 Harnish, R. J., & Bridges, K. (2011). Effect of Syllabus Tone: Students' Perceptions of Instructor and Course. Social Psychology Of Education: An International Journal, 14(3), Retrieved from ERIC. SYLLABUS TONE

52 The Study Students thought they were evaluating an adjunct. Harnish & Bridges, 2011

53 Examples from Syllabus Unfriendly If you need to contact me outside of office hours, you may me…. Come prepared to actively participate in this course. This is the best way to engage you in learning…. Friendly I welcome you to contact me outside of class and student hours. You may me…. I hope you actively participate in this course. I say this because I found it is the best way to engage you in learning…. Directly quoted from Harnish and Bridges (2011)

54 The Results! TopicFriendly Average Unfriendly Average Approachability Faculty Level of Motivation to Teach Difficulty Harnish & Bridges, 2011

55 Application Syllabus is often first impression- especially if given out electronically before class Use Positive Language and Tone Use “you” instead of “students” Simple changes = powerful attitudinal shifts

56 How Should Faculty Address the Syllabus in Class?

57 Get Students Involved with Syllabus Syllabus Quiz Interact with syllabus every class- student or faculty reviews plan for the day

58 Raymark, P. H., & Connor-Greene, P. A. (2002). The Syllabus Quiz. Teaching Of Psychology, 29(4), SYLLABUS QUIZ

59 The Study 21 Question True/False Test on Syllabus Week 2 Raymark & Connor-Greene, 2002

60 The Results! Performance Raymark & Connor-Greene, 2002

61 Ongoing Interactions with the Syllabus are Needed

62 Syllabus Checklist Are core components included? Course Information Name/Number, Description, Purpose, Learning Outcomes, Content Areas, Location/Times/Days, Textbooks, Supplemental Readings, Calendar, Due Dates Instructor and Campus Support Information Name, Office Location/Hours, Phone, Address, Welcome Statement/Teaching Philosophy, Campus Resources Available Assignments and Grading Information Grading Policy, Scale, Assignment Names/Descriptions, Grading Details/Rubrics, Course Outline with Due Dates and Learning Activities Policy Information Late/Missed Work Policy, Attendance Policy, Academic Conduct Policy, Disability Policy

63 Syllabus Checklist Continued Organization and Clarity of Information Is it well-organized and easy to follow? Were there enough details provided? Can you easily see what is expected of you? Were visual tools such as charts used to organize the information and clearly communicate information?

64 Syllabus Checklist Continued Initial Reaction to Syllabus and Professor How would you describe this course to someone? How would you describe the professor based on this syllabus? Would you be likely to register for this course or take this professor? Would you be likely to suggest that a friend take this course or take this professor? What did you like the most about the syllabus? What suggestions do you have to make the syllabus better?

65 References Doolittle, P. E., & Siudzinski, R. A. (2010). Recommended syllabus components: What do higher education faculty include in their syllabi?. Journal on Excellence In College Teaching, 21(3), Retrieved from Academic Search Premiere. Grunert O’Brien, J., Millis, B. J., & Cohen, M. W. (2008). The Course Syllabus: A Learning-Centered Approach. San Francisco: Jossey Bass. Harnish, R. J., & Bridges, K. (2011). Effect of Syllabus Tone: Students' Perceptions of Instructor and Course. Social Psychology of Education: An International Journal, 14(3), Matejka, K., & Kurke, L. B. (1994). Designing a great syllabus. College Teaching, 42(3), 115. Perrine, R. M., Lisle, J., & Tucker, D. L. (1995). Effects of a syllabus offer of help, student age, and class size on college students' willingness to seek support from faculty. Journal of Experimental Education, 64(1), Saville, B. K., Zinn, T. E., Brown, A. R., & Marchuk, K. A. (2010). Syllabus detail and students' perceptions of teacher effectiveness. Teaching of Psychology, 37(3), doi: / Smith, M. F., & Razzouk, N. Y. (1993). Improving classroom communication: The case of the course syllabus. Journal of Education for Business, 68(4), Retrieved from Academic Search Premiere.

66 THANK YOU AND BEST WISHES AS YOU CREATE POWERFUL SYLLABI! Questions? me at


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