Key Components of a Syllabus
Congratulations! You are a member of the faculty at a community college! But what do you do first? How do you prepare for this role? Before you can teach anything, you have to make a plan. This plan must include, among other things, an overview of the course, your objectives for the course, expectations of the students, and often the list of assignments and dates that they are due. This document will become your syllabus and serve as a contract between you and your students.

Creating a syllabus requires extensive forethought. Before delving too deep into the content of your course, you want to look more broadly at your place in the program you are teaching in. To begin, think about what the students will already know (Barrus, 2010). Next, consider where your course is in the sequence of the program and make sure that you know what the requisite skills are for the next class in the series (Barrus, 2010). Determine your objectives for the course, based on where the students are and where they need to be. According to Ediger (2002), you should include three types of objectives: knowledge objectives (fact based), skills objectives (application based), and attitudinal objectives (based on developing a positive attitude toward learning). Select the materials you will need to ensure your students can meet your objectives (Barrus, 2010). Finally, create your syllabus, presenting students with your expectations for the course and serving as a contract between both parties (Barrus, 2010).

Creating a Syllabus

See "Developing a Course Syllabus"

Three strong beliefs associated with a course syllabus:
  1. The syllabus is the key tangible evidence of planning from instructor to the world.
  2. The planning manifested through the syllabus can reduce, before a class even meets, about half the work for teaching a course.
  3. The syllabus serves as a communication device and contract, presenting the roles and responsibilities of the teacher and students participating in the course.

The benefits of the course syllabus can be seen through the administrative, accreditation, instructor, or student perspective. Below are 17 possible functions of a syllabus.

  1. Describing course content scope
  2. Communicating course focus
  3. Suggesting prerequisites
  4. Detailing logistics
  5. Identifying course goals
  6. Sequencing/scheduling instruction
  7. Identifying performance objectives
  8. Constituting a contract
  9. Identifying reference material
  10. Providing modifications base
  11. Motivating students
  12. Permitting self monitoring
  13. Facilitating optional learning activities
  14. Establishing evaluation system
  15. Advertising/promoting/recruiting clientele
  16. Serving as an articulation tool
  17. Meeting accreditation requirements

The principal purpose of a syllabus is to inform students in a formal and timely way of the nature and content of the course, policies and procedures that will apply, and logistics involved in participating in classes. In addition to being informative, however, a syllabus is also a promise of yours that is both explicit in what it states will be part of the course, and implicit in what it infers (by not including) will not be part of the course. The syllabus needs to be consistent with the latest approved curriculum action, and everything done or required in the class at any time throughout the term should be in agreement with what the syllabus states or does not state. Additional textbooks should not be required during the term, the grading system should not be significantly altered, important projects should not be required if not explained or provided for in the syllabus, attendance should not be graded if the syllabus does not make it clear that it will be factored into the final grade, etc. If anything will be significant and unique, it should be explained in the syllabus, or it would better be left until another term. A well planned and well written syllabus is always well worth the time and effort required to prepare it. A weak syllabus, on the other hand, or no syllabus, could result in serious personal, professional, and legal problems.

For additional information on creating a syllabus and to see sample syllabus formats, please see the following sources:

The University of Massachusetts Center for Teaching on creating a syllabus
The University of Minnesota Center for Teaching and Learning on syllabus development and a syllabus checklist.
Materials from the University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching:

Barrus, J. (2010). How to design a new college course curriculum. eHow: How to do Just About Everything. Retrieved from

Ediger, M. (2002). Designing the community college curriculum. College Student Journal, 36(3), 403-409.