The syllabus presents students with a first impression of your course. It offers many opportunities to share what the learning experience in your course will be like—both explicitly, with the information that you choose to include, and implicitly, with the tone that you set.

Think about how the syllabus functions in your teaching. Which of these roles does your syllabus play in your courses? Is there a new function for your syllabus that you might want to try with your next course?

The syllabus can be:

  • a clearinghouse of logistical information
  • a teaser for the content of the course
  • a manifestation of your course design
  • an invitation to students to join you on an intellectual journey
  • an opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to creating an inclusive educational environment for all students
  • a contract with students outlining expectations and consequences
  • a reflection of your teaching philosophy
  • an explanation of how to be a successful student in the course
  • a representation of university- or program-level policies and approaches (see this Syllabus Policies site to explore several ways to do this)
  • a roadmap of the course
  • a way to scaffold students throughout the course
  • a guidepost to orient your course within the larger field of study
  • a resource for students who want to explore the topic further

Syllabus Policies

The syllabus document serves as your students' compass, regarding classroom and course expectations and policies. Be sure to communicate what you expect with your students. Explore approaches to several policies Georgetown faculty have taken on this Syllabus Policies site.

Key elements

What should a carefully crafted syllabus contain? This checklist offers a reminder of key elements as well as some ideas for optional items you may want to include.

Georgetown Professor Betsy Sigman on syllabus necessities. : : Transcript

  • Major assignments and grading criteria (work, graded and ungraded, that must be completed in order to receive credit for the course); information on how assignments should be submitted
  • List of required readings (and any other required materials) and information on how to obtain them (e.g. Canvas, library e-reserves, campus bookstore, etc.)
  • Plan for instructional continuity, i.e. how work will continue in the case of campus closings due to weather or other factors
  • Course schedule

Optional elements

  • Information about how this course fits in with other courses in the department/program, or how the course adheres to university values
  • A graphic depiction of the course elements or conceptual structure
  • A statement of your teaching philosophy
  • Explanation of pedagogical approaches that will be used in the course
  • Rubrics or descriptors of different levels of student performance

Georgetown Professor Marcia Chatelain on putting together an effective syllabus. : : Transcript

  • Resources to assist student learning, such as the Georgetown Writing Center, the Academic Resource Center, and Lauinger Library
  • Resources to support student self-care throughout their time on the Hilltop, through Health Education Services (self-care brochure)
  • List of recommended optional texts or other materials (films, cultural events, etc.)
  • Information about professional development opportunities outside of class (conferences, internships, etc.)
  • Additional course policies and expectations, such as policies on classroom behavior, technology use, course activities outside the classroom, grade adjustment requests, etc.
  • General information about any course affiliations, such as the Engelhard Project, Ignatius Seminars, etc.

Ask yourself

Does your syllabus make sense to someone who is unfamiliar with your course material? Ask a friend or colleague, ideally someone outside your department, to review your syllabus and identify any points of confusion.

What does your syllabus do to create an inclusive environment for students of all backgrounds and identities? In their Trans, Non-Binary, and Gender Non-Conforming Resource Guide, Georgetown's LGBTQ Resource Center offers some sample language to consider if you want to make a statement about gender inclusivity on your syllabus. You'll also find resources for gender-inclusivity that can be shared with students.

Additional Resources

Syllabus Template

Google Doc syllabus template with Georgetown branding and some key section headers.