The Baruch College Faculty Handbook
Suggestions for Creating a Good Syllabus
Last updated on 4/19/10A syllabus is an excellent tool for communicating course content, course methods and goals, what we expect of our students, and how we will evaluate them. That said, there are probably as many different approaches to creating syllabi as there are instructors. At a meeting in May 2003 of the Teaching Task Force of the Zicklin School of Business, general consensus emerged around many of the items that should appear in a syllabus, but not all of them. This website advances suggestions as to content and, in some cases, provides links to excerpts from syllabi (for undergraduate and graduate courses) by colleagues from all three schools, used by permission. (For entire sample syllabi, see the bottom of this page.) Cutting, pasting, or revising the linked prose for your own syllabus is fine.
NB: Many members of the faculty feel that even when syllabi are posted electronically, hard copies should be distributed and discussed in the first session of the class.
This page will remain a work in progress. Please send suggestions and additional exemplars (especially if significantly different from those included here) to Associate Provost, Dennis Slavin.
ITEM: CONTACT INFORMATION
Name of the instructor
Name of the course (MSC 1005) and section marker (e.g., MW54)
Office location (carrel if part time)
- A rule of thumb is to schedule at least one office hour on each teaching day; many faculty members also indicate availability by appointment. - Faculty are expected to post office hours outside their offices and to be available during those hours.
- Adjunct faculty teaching six or more hours in a given semester receive pay for an additional hour per week. Use of that hour as a regular office hour is possible; this should be discussed with the department chair.
- A helpful approach is to indicate the days/hours when you are most likely to check email and respond.
- State whether assignments are acceptable via email or Blackboard.
- Office phone and/or other numbers at discretion of instructor.
- May indicate the times when the instructor is most likely to check for messages.
- Indicate whether and under what conditions faxed assignments will be accepted.
ITEM: COURSE DESCRIPTION (content/goals/objectives/themes)
Description of the course content, goals and/or objectives is helpful. Generic descriptions are available from the Baruch College Bulletin (UG or G), but individual faculty members might like to present alternative descriptions. These should be congruent with those in the Bulletin . (If the course has evolved away from the Bulletin description significantly, the description should be changed for the next edition.) Descriptions employed in different sections of multi-section courses should be similar. This link will take you to some sample course descriptions.
ITEM: LEARNING GOALS
All syllabi should include learning goals--clear indications of what your students will leave the course being able to do (e.g., at the end of this course you will be able to: identify, describe, and compare and contrast, the theoretical concepts covered in class; summarize the reasons for [ x ]; cite five [y ]; etc.). Good learning goals make your expections of students clear. Choosing the right active verb is helpful, such as: cite, define, describe, identify, list, arrange, classify, defend, explain, apply, change, demonstrate, interpret, analyze, calculate, contrast, debate, outline, solve, assemble, compare, contrast, criticize, evaluate, interpret, justify... etc. Some further guidelines (and more verbs) for writing learning goals.
Courses that meet in multiple sections should share learning goals. If you don't know the goals for a course you've been asked to teach, ask the department chair or the course coordinator.
ITEM: COURSE MATERIALS
Books and other materials required, recommended, or on reserve in the library should be listed, with editions specified as appropriate. The most convenient place for Baruch students to buy textbooks is the Baruch College Bookstore, located on the first floor of the Vertical Campus. Prices for new and used books at the Bookstore are competitive and ordering books is easy. Asking other stores to stock books for your courses means that your students will be inconvenienced by having to purchase books at more than one location. See the "Bookstore" entry in the Faculty Handbook for information on ordering through the College Bookstore.
ITEM: COURSE ASSIGNMENTS (assignments, examinations, presentations, etc.)
The nature and number of course requirements should be spelled out. Clarifying the purpose of a requirement (to make sure the student has read and comprehended a text, to develop communication skills, to test the students ability to synthesize information, to develop the students capacity to work together etc.) can result in better student work.
ITEM: GRADING POLICIES
The fairest way to grade is to establish and communicate grading criteria from the start and to follow those criteria as systematically and objectively as possible. The weighting of specific assignments/examinations is often expressed as a percentage of the total grade. Overwhelming emphasis on a single examination or paper, especially at the end of the semester, makes it difficult for students to learn from errors. This link will take you to some sample grading policies/distributions.For information on the grades available and what they mean see the "Grading" entry in the Faculty Handbook.When class participation figures in determining the grade (many instructors point out that good participation cannot take place without prompt attendance), the instructor should communicate her/his expectations and, perhaps, the rationale. This link takes you to a discussion of why participation (explicitly labeled contribution) may be so important for some classes.
ITEM: POLICY REGARDING MAKE-UP EXAMS
a student who is otherwise passing a course misses the final
exam, s/he should be given a grade of ABS (see the Bulletin
or the "Grading"
entry in the Faculty Handbook
for more information). Such students must take a make-up exam
no later than the end of the following semester to avoid the
ABS automatically turning into an F. For exams missed during
the semester, faculty may schedule make-ups at their discretion.
Not offering make-ups or other arrangements (such as averaging
grades from other exams) risks penalizing students for documented
ITEM: CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT POLICIES
Behavior acceptable elsewhere might not be appropriate in classrooms. Faculty members have discretion in this regard and should make clear what the boundaries are -- and not necessarily only in classes for freshmen. Some of the classroom behaviors that are subject to faculty discretion include seating (assigned general seating; a separate area for late arrivals), eating, sleeping, private conversations, use of cell phones and other technology (one can restrict use of laptops to the taking of notes), use of dictionariesespecially during exams, etc. This link contains some examples (from freshmen syllabi) of faculty statements on classroom management. For more extended discussion of classroom management, see the "Classroom Management" page in the Faculty Handbook.
ITEM: ATTENDANCE AND LATENESS POLICIES
If a freshman or sophomore is absent in excess of twice the number of class sessions per week, the instructor must give the student a WU grade, which counts as an F. The instructor may give a junior or senior a WU grade if he/she has excessive absences. Attendance and lateness clearly play a role in class participation. Instructors have the right to weigh attendance, lateness, and class participation in determining grades. This link will take you to some attendance and lateness statements.
ITEM: SCHEDULE OF TOPICS
Schedules can be general (just the topic)or specific (with designated reading/study questions etc.). Specificity, when feasible, allows students to budget their time and to plan their off-campus work schedule. Your schedule may be presented as provisional -- subject to revision as the semester progresses. Items that might appear include:
what will be covered/what preparation (e.g. reading) is expected when assignments/papers are due when exams will be given and what they will cover date by which a course needs to be dropped by the student to receive a grade of W rather than WU (assigned by the instructor)
STATEMENT(S) REGARDING ACADEMIC HONESTY
Faculty approaches to these issues range from explanations of the centrality of honesty to the academic process to threats of punishment if the student is caught cheating or plagiarizing. Students should understand these issues from the start of the semester, including definitions of cheating and plagiarism. (Discussion works best, but instructors may refer students to the colleges own definitions and ask them to certify that they have read and understood them.) If a student commits an act of academic dishonesty and admits to it (almost always the case), the punishment is usually up to the faculty member. To enable the college to keep track of first time violators, names should be communicated to Associate Dean Ron Aaron. Here are links to more on Baruch College policies and to examples of how the issue of academic honesty is approached on some colleagues' syllabi.
ITEM: DISABILITIES STATEMENTS
The Provost circulates a memo each semester that, based on the principle of reasonable accommodation, discusses the colleges policies regarding students with disabilities. The memo contains a paragraph meant to be read aloud to students. Copying and pasting that paragraph into a syllabus could be very helpful to students with disabilities. The Provosts memo is available here.
ITEM: REFERENCES TO BLACKBOARD
Follow this link for examples of how some colleagues refer to Blackboard sites on their syllabi. If you dont know what Blackboard is or how to use it Blackboard is a program that allows instructors to create, deliver, and manage web-based educational technologies for courses. It can be used to add online elements to a traditional course, or to develop completely online courses with few or no face-to-face meetings. Baruch College has been using Blackboard since September 1999. The current version is 5.5, the latest edition of the software. Available features in Blackboard 5.5 include:
- course announcements personalized course calendars threaded discussion, live chat, and online whiteboard online quizzes and surveys, with automated grading and statistics course assignment and documents areas course-related external links online file sharing timed release of quizzes and other course materials student rosters, e-mail, and online gradebook
- group project areas
Blackboard course pages are easy to create. Instructors use built-in templates to create announcements quizzes, and external links. Other course materials can be created in a similar fashion, or can be written using any software you choose, and then uploaded into the Blackboard course site. For more information on Blackboard contact Jim_Russell@baruch.cuny.edu. Here is a link to the schedule for technology training sessions.
ITEM: WRITING / THE WRITING HANDBOOK
Please see the "Writing" entry in the Faculty Handbook for information on help available for students writing. All undergraduates who entered as freshmen beginning September 2002 should have copies of Ann Raimes, Keys for Writers (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002), the writing handbook adopted by the Department of English. Members of the faculty should feel free to direct their students to specific sections of Keys as necessary. This link (from a freshman-level class) alerts the students to ways they might find Keys helpful. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
of the links above are to excerpts from syllabi prepared by
the colleagues listed below. We are indebted to them for their
willingness go public. The complete syllabus for each course
is linked below:
Paul Arpaia, History 1003
Additional syllabi have been posted below in the order received. As mentioned above, please feel free to send syllabi significantly different from those included here to Associate Provost, Dennis Slavin.