Module 2:
Conceptualizing and Creating the Syllabus

Module Author: Beatrice Dupuy, University of Arizona

Overview: What is a syllabus?

What is a syllabus? The answer to this question is surprisingly complex, but the common standard definition of a syllabus in higher education is a statement of intent and schedule of topics/activities that serves as an implicit agreement between the instructor and students. The definition becomes more complex when the following questions come into focus:

  • Is a syllabus the same as a curriculum?
  • Is a syllabus a theoretical or practical document?
  • Which units of analysis should I consider in the design of my syllabus and therefore, which type of syllabus should I select?
  • Which components does my institution require me to include in a syllabus?
  • Which users’ perspective should I consider when designing my syllabus: students, faculty, administrators, or accreditation staff?
  • What role will my syllabus play: Will it be a communication mechanism, a planning and teaching tool for instructors, a course plan for students, an artifact for instructor evaluation, or evidence for accreditation?

This module provides you with an overview of syllabus design, definitions of key syllabus types and parts, and tips and strategies to create a course syllabus that respects diversity, is inclusive, and appeals to students.

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • Differentiate between curriculum and a syllabus
  • Summarize the different syllabus types
  • Explain best practices in syllabus design
  • Select resources to create a culturally responsive and inclusive syllabus
  • Design a syllabus that your students can and want to read
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