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Teaching/Learning Center

Building a Syllabus

Your Academic Department may provide you with a custom syllabus template that includes specific information they would like you to incorporate.

College-wide policies and information to include in your syllabus can be found online to copy + paste into your syllabus. Or you can include hyperlink if easier in your syllabus.


Chronicle of Higher Education Dos + Don'ts


  • Use your syllabus to send the right message. It makes a big first impression. Ask yourself: What am I saying to my students?
  • Connect it to your course goals (Learning Objectives). Explain what purpose your course serves and what students will learn by taking it.
  • Make sure it actually explains how to be successful. Lay out a roadmap to the promised land.
  • Think about what you might want to change. Recycling material from old syllabi is fine. But the one you’re using might need a fresh coat of paint.


  • Scold. And definitely DON’T USE ALL CAPS. On the internet, that’s yelling, remember?
  • Forget the importance of proofreading. Sloppy editing sends a bad message: Do as I say, not as I do.
  • Read the syllabus out loud on the first day. Zzzzzzzz. Sorry, what were you saying?
  • Stop referencing it after the first week. Keep it relevant by connecting the assignments listed on the syllabus to the course goals.

Exercise: Write down one line that explains what your syllabus is for. Then ask yourself: Is the purpose of my syllabus aligned with my course goals?

Upload Syllabus File

Developing Learning Objectives

Step 1: Pick your type of knowledge

Types of knowledge are categorized on the knowledge dimension from concrete to abstract.  The major categories are factual, conceptual, procedural and metacognitive.  See the pdf for more details.

Step 2: Pick your verb

Verbs correspond with different levels of cognitive processing and are categorized from lower order thinking skills to higher order thinking skills.  The major categories are to remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create.

Step 3: Use the chart to track learning objectives

No more than four learning objectives should be used at a time.  Objectives should include both lower level and higher level cognitive processing as well as concrete and abstract knowledge types.  

Moving Away From Bloom's Taxonomy
There is an opportunity to move away from a system based on Bloom's Taxonomy - rethink learning objectives from a multicultural lens. A great example is the medicine wheel which uses a four domain framework.

four domains of the medicine wheel

According to LaFever (2016) The role of the instructor and that of the learner are inextricably tied to achieving the desired outcomes. Both the instructor and the learner should see their roles and responsibilities in the learning environment reflected in the following conceptualizations of the outcome progression.

  • Honoring: conscious or aware of learning that is not based in material or physical things, and transcends narrow self-interest;
  • Value/d: building relationships that honor the importance, worth, or usefulness of qualities that are related to the welfare of the human spirit;
  • Connect/ed: build/develop a sense of belonging (group identity/cohesion) in the classroom, community, culture, etc.;
  • Empower/ed: provide support and feel supported by an environment that encourages strength and confidence, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights;
  • Self-Actualise/d: ability as a unique entity in the group to become what one is meant to be.

Writing Effective Assignment Prompts

Writing Successful Assignment Prompts

  • The key is to provide clear and direct communication to your students.
  • Keep it concise and focused.
  • Consider what they need to know to complete the assignment.
  • Think about what type of work you want to see and go from there.
  • Consider including a step guide if assignment is complex.

Long and complicated explanations.

Resource: How Do I Create Meaningful Assignments?

Features of Effective Assignment Prompts:

  1. explains what you want them to do (the task + procedure)
  2. provides the purpose + goals (why this assignment is important)
  3. includes specific format information
  4. includes grading criteria like a rubric so students are aware of instructor expectations

More Top Tips

From: "Pedagogy Unbound: How to Make Your Assignments Better

  • Offer both a big-picture and a close-up view of the assignment at the outset.
  • Show examples, and keep them online
  • Teach students how to complete the assignment
  • "Dogfood" (test) your own assignments

Student Level

Consider the student level. Beginning students may need more direction and guidance. For intermediate or advanced students, you want to allow students more freedom and flexibility to develop their own topics and encourage more critical thinking. 


Online resource for creative writing prompts.

How to Hold a Better Class Discussion: Advice Guide from Chronicle of Higher Education

"Whether you are a new faculty member or a teaching veteran, if you’re looking for advice on how to hold a better class discussion, you’ll find it here in The Chronicle’s guide. You’ll learn how to structure your course and particular class sessions in ways that will get students actively participating — and will enhance their learning."

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