Both class and institutional policies are essential elements of the college course. They establish the norms and expectations we have for our classrooms: how we interact with one another and do the work of the class. Relational policies establish ground rules for civility, group work, mobile device use and class participation; while operational policies provide guidance on late work, attendance, academic integrity and collaboration.
When our policies and statements are transparent and equitable, they can also support student success, especially for first-generation students. A robust syllabus provides policies and statements that:
Ultimately, the reason why we communicate these policies and statements in our syllabi is so that all of our students have access to the information they need to help them succeed in our classes and in college. Yet sometimes, a policy can get in the way of student success and also make your life more complicated.
Policies and statements that help – rather than hinder – you and your students share the following characteristics:
For Openers... An Inclusive Syllabus - Terry Collins [PDF]
"I’d like to propose that we think about the syllabus more complexly, for the sake of our students and for the sake of our own professional development. The syllabus lets us help students think of themselves as insiders in the strange world built by academics, and the process of its construction and revision affords us periodically recurring opportunities to be self-critical about our course, its content, and our approach to it. As much as any research monograph, the syllabus is a site where our "professional integrity is tested and where our professional identity is formed."
Collins, Terrence. "For openers... An inclusive syllabus." New paradigms for college teaching. Edina, MN: Interaction Book, 1997. [COD Library: print]
The Syllabus with William Germano and Kit Nicholls - Dead Ideas in Teaching and Learning podcast (41 min)
What does the syllabus do? Who is it for? Why is it chronically unread? And how can it be written to foster an environment of trust and collaboration in the classroom? William Germano, Professor of English at Cooper Union, and Kit Nicholls, Director of the Center for Writing at Cooper Union, are authors of the book Syllabus: The Remarkable, Unremarkable Document That Changes Everything (2020). In this episode, they tackle these fundamental questions about the syllabus, and discuss how it serves as a starting point for addressing larger dead ideas about teaching, learning, and student engagement.