The Syllabus as a Tool for Setting a Climate

“…More important, perhaps, is the recognition that we teach as much by what we do and value and prioritize in the learning environments we create as by the information we impart.”  (…Start Talking, Chapter 3, 2008)

Developing or revising your syllabus can be a form of reflection.

  • Why do I select the content I do?
  • What assumptions have I made about the learners in my class?
  • Are these the best teaching strategies for this course and these students?
  • Do I use examples and text throughout that are representative of my students?
  • Do I encourage and present alternative perspectives?
  • Are there alternative or better ways to evaluate student work than I currently use?

Adapted from:http://www1.umn.edu/ohr/teachlearn/tutorials/syllabus/what/index.html

The syllabus can be a tool for socialization.

  • You can set the overall tone for the course and your expectations for participation and interaction with you and others
  • It can set the environment for co-constructing learning (Consider what input students might be able to have in shaping the syllabus.)
  • It can convey your expectations of hard work with the possibility of all students achieving excellence

Some Effective Practices When Designing Your Course

  1. Make your goals and objectives explicit.
  2. Vary the ways students can demonstrate their learning.
  3. Include diverse names, images and examples throughout the course.
  4. Include multiple perspectives on each topic in the course.
  5. Build into the course calendar times when you will ask for feedback.
  6. Vary the ways students can demonstrate their learning.

Reflection

Whether you are reviewing a prior syllabus or creating a new one, most of us make some revisions. As mentioned above, the syllabus is a primary tool for helping to set an inclusive, supportive climate for learners. It reflects your tone and pedagogical choices that will make student feel supported and able to be successful, or not.
 In this document is an incomplete, but beginning list of questions to help you make your syllabus more inclusive.

Resources:

Make a More Inclusive Syllabus with Tulane’s Accessible Syllabus Project

Gender Inclusive Guidelines

A Syllabus’ Worth of Difference