Focus on Teaching: The Top 5 Things Your Syllabus Needs

Your syllabus is the roadmap for your course. Designing it carefully can help you to identify your teaching goals, and help your students plan their study schedule.  Check our Top 5 to make sure you’ve got the basics covered.

1.       Course evaluation scheme:  Include a breakdown of the work that your students are required to complete, and the weight of each piece in the final grade. Knowing this information early on helps students plan for the work that they will be required to complete, and understand what areas to prioritize.

2.       How your students can communicate with you: Your students will have questions throughout the term, so it is crucial to tell them how they can get in touch with you. You may also consider working with one of your TAs to manage communication, or look at other in-class or online alternatives. While e-mail and scheduled office hours are the most traditional methods, different approaches like digital office hours using online discussion boards, wikis, chat or instant messaging, social media, in-class question & answer sessions, and group office hours are all strategies that promote positive interaction with your students.

3.       Course deadlines:  Deadlines for submission of work should be included with the evaluation scheme, in a list of weekly topics and readings, or in a separate section related to assignments and tests. When you are determining deadlines, be sure to consult the important sessional dates for your division. Keep in mind that students must receive at least one piece of graded term work before the last date to drop the course without academic penalty, which is usually in the middle of term.

4.       List of assigned readings and how students can obtain them: Most textbooks and fiction can be obtained through the UofT Bookstore, who can consult with you about ordering information and deadlines.  Course readers can be created through Canadian Scholars Press. If your readings are available online, you may wish to include links on your course website as well as in your syllabus.

5.       Information on course policies: This includes policies on accommodation, submission of work, lateness, extensions, illness, academic honesty, and use of turnitin.com. Stating these clearly in the syllabus will let you refer to them throughout the term in announcements and responses to questions.

  • If using turnitin.com in your course, you must include a syllabus statement that makes this clear to your students. More information about this, and how to enrol with turnitin.com, can be found on the CTSI website.
  • Some students registered with Accessibility Services who require accommodation may request an extension or your involvement in determining an appropriate accommodation. Clear statements of deadlines and accessible policies will help your students plan ahead.

Remember, your students will need to refer to their syllabus throughout the term, so refer to it often in class to remind them of important dates and procedures!

Find more ideas on how to improve your course syllabus on our syllabus tips page, and our upcoming Back to School Workshop Series.