Cleveland State University
Teaching Assistant Handbook

College of Graduate Studies

THE COURSE SYLLABUS*

The syllabus is a formal statement of what the course is about, what students are being asked to do, and how their performance will be evaluated. Unlike verbal comments an instructor makes in class, it is a document to which students can refer throughout the semester. Careful construction of a syllabus limits confusion and is the first step toward producing a successful learning environment. The course syllabus is a contract with the students. The instructor and students are required to abide by the syllabus throughout the semester.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SYLLABUS

Having a well-developed course syllabus requires the instructor to organize early and think precisely about teaching. It will help students know what is expected from them from the start of the course, and the syllabus will allow them to plan their semester efficiently. A well-prepared syllabus is evidence that the instructor takes teaching seriously. A syllabus also provides the departmental office, faculty, supervisor and others with pertinent information about the course.

The University Ombudsman reported that a large number of student complaints have at their root a lack of understanding of the requirements and expectations for a course. A well-prepared syllabus consolidates into a single document all of the routine matters that surround teaching: a course-reading schedule, grading procedures, due dates, class topics, etc., that would otherwise have to be communicated only verbally to the class.

PREPARING AN EFFECTIVE SYLLABUS

Instructors can review syllabi from other classes or those that have been used previously in the course being taught. Instructors might also check with their department for specific guidelines about the syllabus format. Some departments have created syllabi for introductory courses that meet already established goals and objectives for these courses. Check with your supervisor or the instructor of the course to determine if you should be using one of these syllabi.

The following should normally be included in a syllabus:

    1. Relevant information about the course - The information should include the current year, semester, course number, title, and the time and location of the class. It should also include the instructor's name, office phone number, office location and office hours. This information is normally placed at the beginning of the syllabus.

    2. A clear statement of course objectives - The course objectives should be stated clearly and should describe what the students are expected to know and the level of competency that is expected of the student by the end of the semester. Use specific, measurable objectives. Avoid the use of vague terminology such as "students will develop a clear understanding," which can result in arguments over degrees of understanding.

    3. A description of the activities by which the course objectives will be met - Possible items include field trips, guest lecturers, discussions with active student participation, problem-solving groups, assignments, use of audiovisual materials, assessments, etc. It is often helpful to estimate the amount of time required for each activity.

    4. A list of texts and materials for the course- Identify the required and optional texts for the course. It is important to check that the bookstore or library has the texts on the shelves before students are sent to find them. Explain any other materials that are required of students. Any supplemental materials, such as lecture tapes, films, or sample projects that are available for examination can be mentioned.

    5. A statement of grading criteria - Explain the CSU grading system, the components of the final course grade, the weighting of various grades, the relationship of class participation and attendance to the final grade, and other relevant items and information about your grading system. The number of tests each semester should be included, along with a description of each test. The numerical equivalent of letter grades, or the "ranges" of each grade, should be provided.

    6. A statement of course policy - This is best expressed in a clear, non-threatening form. Policies should be set for events such as missing an exam, turning in a late assignment, missing class, requesting an extension for an assignment, and reporting an illness. It is a good idea to go on record with a fairly stringent policy about these matters that can be tempered at a later date on an individual basis, when warranted. The Ombudsman recommends avoiding absolutes on the grounds that they are often more trouble than they are worth. There also can be a short statement defining academic misconduct.

    7. A schedule - The syllabus should, at a minimum, contain dates with the corresponding sequence of lecture or lab topics, the preparations that are required or suggested, and the assignments that are due. Note holidays and the date and time of any tests, the midterm, as well as the final examination.

    8. Disability Statement - An important part of the syllabus is a statement that informs students with disabilities that materials are available in alternate form and that accommodations will be made. The statement provided by the Office for Disability Services is available at http://www.csuohio.edu/offices/disability/faculty/index.html.

    9. A List of references - A list of books, journals and electronic sources used by the instructor to prepare for the class or to be used by students for additional information should be included in the syllabus. Be sure your references are current.

USING THE SYLLABUS IN CLASS

The syllabus for your class can be posted on Blackboard and/or you can distribute hard copies to your students. Prior to distributing the syllabus to your students, check over the final typed copy for mistakes and typos. If the instructor does not spot them, it is certain that the students will. It is a good policy to hand out the syllabus on the first day of class. This lets the students know that their teacher is well prepared and the syllabus provides an easy way to begin the interaction with students and to reduce some of the uncertainty and anxiety of the first class meeting.

The instructor should review and discuss the syllabus with the students, answer any questions that they may have, and provide more details where necessary. The instructor will probably find that most student feedback will concern the section on grading.

It is vital to have enough copies of the syllabus. One should allow for the need to replace lost copies and to accommodate students who have registered for the class but do not appear on the initial roster. If changes are made in the syllabus, distribute the changes to the students in writing. Needless ambiguity and confusion can result from misunderstood verbal instructions.

One copy of each course syllabus must be filed with the Department Chairperson.

(*Excerpt from: University Center for the Advancement of Teaching. (2009). Handbook on Teaching @Ohio State, Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University.)

SYLLABUS TEMPLATE

The following syllabus format was developed by the College of Education and Human Services (CEHS) at CSU. The template is helpful when preparing the syllabus for your course(s).

Cleveland State University Course Syllabus

College of Education and Human Services

Course Title:  Title of Course

Semester Credits:  Number of contact hours

Course Description:  Description of the course

Required Text(s):  This information must be very specific.  Include textbooks, websites, or even articles that will be used during the course of study.

Course Objectives:  What is expected from the student?

        1.   

        2.

        3.

        4.

        5.

 

Course Outline/Schedule of Activities: All assignments need to be explained in detail.

Day/Session

Topics/Activities

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evaluation:  How will the student be evaluated and by what percentage?

Item

Description

Percentage of Grade

1

 

%

2

 

%

3

 

%

4

 

%

5

 

%

 

Grading Scale:  To be stated by the instructor according to the policies of the Undergraduate and Graduate Colleges.

A                     

B         

C        

D        

F 

Course or Instructor Policies:  State policies and procedures related to absences, tardiness, missing assignments, cell phone use, and any other events relevant to your class.

Disability Statement:  You may use the statement provided by the CSU Office of Disability services.

Selected References:   Any additional materials that would be helpful for the student.

        1.

        2.

        3.

        4.

Add any other information relevant to the course that you would like to provide that is not mentioned above.

 

COURSE GOALS

Clear goals for the course will assist the instructor and students in the following ways:

    1. Provide direction for determining relevant content, materials, teaching strategies, learning activities and assessments.

    2. Clarify the topics and direction for each class as well as assessments.

    3. Identify opportunities for using a variety of teaching styles to meet the variety of learning styles in the class.

    4. Help students recognize the relevance of the course and its content to their personal educational goals.

    5. Help students to organize content and make connections to prior learning or personal experiences.

INSTRUCTIONAL OBJECTIVES

The objectives for your course or an individual lesson identify the outcomes, in terms of student learning, that should result from the learning experiences in the course. Broad definitions of instructional objectives state that objectives identify the learning to be achieved by the student at the end of the lesson. More specifically, instructional objectives should identify the following information for your students:

    1. What do you want students to learn?

    2. How will the students achieve the learning objectives?

    3. How will you evaluate students' learning?

PLAGIARISM

The CSU Student Handbook describes plagiarism as stealing and/or using the ideas or writings of another in a paper or report and claiming them as your own. This includes but is not limited to the use, by paraphrase or direct quotation, of the work of another person without full and clear acknowledgment.

Minor infractions comprise those instances of cheating, plagiarism, and/or tampering which affect the grade of an individual class assignment or project of lesser (<25% of grade) importance. Multiple instances of minor infractions within a course or across courses constitute a major infraction.

Major infractions comprise those instances of cheating, plagiarism, and/or tampering which affect the overall course grade, such as a major/comprehensive exam, term paper or project, final grade evaluation, or academic standing and status. Major infractions automatically result in an entry on the student's permanent record that the student has engaged in academic misconduct.

Procedures of reporting plagiarism are described in the Student Handbook, available at http://www.csuohio.edu/studentlife/.

Additional information on plagiarism is available at the CSU Writing Center, RT Library 124; (216) 687-6981 or http://www.csuohio.edu/academic/writingcenter.

STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES

The Office of Disability Services is charged with determining who is an eligible person with a disability and coordinating the accommodation needs of individuals with disabilities who participate in our programs. As an instructor, it helps all students, including students with disabilities, to have the content of the course presented in multiple ways, such as visually, orally and kinesthetically.

You may have one or more students in your class with a variety of disabilities, including learning disabilities, chronic health issues, attention deficit disorders, psychological conditions, visual impairments, mobility impairments, and hearing impairments. Any student who requests accommodations due to a disability is required to make that request through the Office of Disability Services.

Additional information is available at the Office of Disability Services, located in Main Classroom, Room 147; telephone 216.687.2015 or http://www.csuohio.edu/offices/disability.

STRATEGIES TO ASSIST STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES

1. You are required to include in your course syllabus a statement regarding accommodations for students with disabilities. The sample below can be copied/pasted into your syllabus. It is available online at http://www.csuohio.edu/offices/disability/faculty/index.html):

    Educational access is the provision of classroom accommodations, auxiliary aids and services to ensure equal educational opportunities for all students regardless of their disability. Any student who feels he or she may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact the Office of Disability Services at (216)687-2015. The Office is located in MC 147. Accommodations need to be requested in advance and will not be granted retroactively.

This statement on the course syllabus affirms the commitment of CSU to uphold our responsibilities under the law. It also welcomes students to feel comfortable in disclosing their needs so that they can meet their educational goals.

2. Choose your textbooks early. Choose by the end of Spring semester for Fall texts; choose by mid-October for Spring texts. Students with disabilities sometimes need to make special arrangements for texts (e.g., audio or Braille versions).

3. Students with physical or learning disabilities may require accommodations such as extra time to take a test, a reader to read a test to them, or special equipment to complete written assignments. If a student requests accommodations from you and does not have an "accommodations memo" from Disability Services at CSU, refer them directly to Disability Services, MC 147, 216-687-2015. The Director, Kate Yurick, may be reached by email as well: r.c.yurick@csuohio.edu .

(Excerpt from Center for Teaching Excellence: Teaching Resources. Additional information is available at http://www.csuohio.edu/offices/teachingexcellence).
engaged learning

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Phone: 216.687.9370
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