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John Carroll has a institutional expectations for course syllabi that the Associate Deans circulate in a memo every year.  The College of Arts and Sciences model syllabus is here.  The Boler School of Business Syllabus Content and Class Management Policies are here.

James Lang’s book On Course offers useful advice on how to approach a syllabus:

“. . . syllabus writing really means course planning.  The process of drafting the syllabus forces you to think about the learning objectives you want to establish for the students in the course, and those objectives should be formulated by answering a simple question: What should students know, or be able to do, as a result of taking this course?” (Lang, p. 1)

Lang argues for the framing the following elements of your syllabus accordingly:

1) A course description that provides a brief overview but also a) captures student interest; b) explains why the knowledge and skills you are offering matter–one way to do this is by offering a “meta-question”– a broad question that frames the course and that students should be able to address or answer by the end of the semester.

2) A set of ‘course promises’–goals or objectives about what students will know and be able to do as a result of taking your course (Ken Bain introduced the idea of course promises in his book What the Best College Teachers Do)

3) A description of student responsibilities (usually known as course policies, but Lang prefers to pair “promises” with “responsibilities”)–basically your expectations for classroom behavior and work habits

4) An explanation of coursework evaluation in terms of both the nature and weight of course assignments and how they will be graded

Cornell University offers a rubric for reviewing syllabi with an eye to completeness and clarity here.

As you decide how to approach student cellphones, laptops, etc. in the classroom, a few recent studies about student multitasking are linked below:

Anne Curzan, “Why I’m Asking You Not to Use Laptops” Chronicle of Higher Education August 25, 2014

Annie Murphy Paul, “The New Marshmallow Test: Resisting the Temptations of the Web” The Hechinger Report

Maryellen Weimer, “Students Think They Can Multitask.  Here’s Proof They Can’t.” Teaching Professor Blog September 26, 2012 ( and her followup blog entry “The Age of Distraction: Getting Students to Put Away Their Phones and Focus on Learning” January 8, 2014.

John Warner, “New Cell Phone/Computer Policy Draft Version” Inside Higher Ed August 14, 2014

And here’s an article in the New Yorker about reading online versus reading in print:

Maria Konnikova, “Being a Better Online Reader” The New YorkerJuly 16, 2014

Additional resources to consult include:

Athanassiou, N., McNett, Jeanne, and Carol Harvey. (2003).  “Bloom’s Taxonomy as a Learning Tool,” Journal of Management Education 47:5 533-555.

Bain, Ken. (2004).  What the Best College Teachers Do.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Davis, B. G. (2009). Tools for teaching (2nd ed). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.*

Fink, L. D. (2003). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Lang, James (2008).  On Course: A Week-by-Week Guide to Your First Semester of College Teaching. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.*

Nilson, L.B. (2010). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors (3rd. ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

O’Brien, J. G., Millis, B. J., & Cohen, M. W. (2008). The course syllabus: A learning-centered approach. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

*A copy of this book is available for consultation in the Faculty Lounge