Skip to Content

What is a syllabus? 

As per LRCFT contract (8.3.4) “the course syllabus refers to those handouts that describe the  procedures, practices, texts, office hours, grading policies, etc., normally distributed during the  first class meeting.” A syllabus functions as:

  • Agreement - between student & instructor, making the implicit explicit in terms of behavioral expectations, accountability & methods of evaluation for what the instructor  expects from the students and what the students can expect from the instructor
  • Record – of what courses cover, useful as a public facing document
  • Communication device – sharing how teaching & learning will be approached
  • Learning tool – helping students develop learning practices and strategies appropriate to the course
  • Connection – helps students make a positive connection with the instructor, course, and fellow students

Syllabi should be constructed in such a way as to demystify institutional processes and  resources, and communicate to students in a clear, accessible, and succinct manner only the  essential information about the course. A useful way to think about what belongs in a syllabus  is to consider that syllabi serve the students, the instructor, the course, and the institution.

Serving the Students – in order to reduce uncertainty about how to succeed and provide  strategies & tools for student success it is necessary for a syllabus to:

  • be provided to each student in an accessible format as soon as possible at the beginning of the term for every course. (LRCFT Contract 8.4.1.7) “Provides for each student a current  course syllabus consistent with the approved course outline for each course taught (a copy of  which will be maintained each year in the area/division office) and provides a copy to the  appropriate administrator.”

If during the semester any changes need to be made to the syllabus due to error or  change in policy, you must provide students with an updated copy 

Syllabi that serve students well will: 

  • Include welcoming language, enthusiasm, and passion for the course ❖ Provide information students need to successfully complete the course and frame the instructor as a resource for success in the course
  • Set expectations for respect and inclusion as class norm
  • Communicate practices for meeting individual student needs including accessibility and honoring accommodations
  • Provide contextualized information about college resources
  • Be easy to access & understand
  • Be well-edited & brief

Serving the Instructor – in order to share classroom expectations, contact information, and  teaching philosophy it is necessary for a syllabus to contain:

  • Instructor name
  • Instructor contact information including office hour and location.
  • (LRCFT 4.7.2.2.2) If using online office format: email address, time and day, expectations as to response time 

Because the syllabus will prepare students for what to expect from you, it is also very useful to  contain specific information regarding

  • Expectations for student behavior that will result in success and a positive environment & consequences for noncompliance
  • Policies that will be used to determine student grades and/or right to continue attending

Other items you can consider adding to your syllabus that help students get to know you  better and prepare for your method of teaching include brief descriptions of your  teaching philosophy, pronouns, ice-breaking personal tidbits, quotes, pictures. It  may also be important for you to include information about how you plan to contact 

students when necessary and/or how quickly students can expect you to respond to  emails, voicemails, etc.

Serving the Course – in order to inform about materials, assignments, dates, topics, related to a  specific course it is necessary for a syllabus to contain:

  • Course name with some description
  • Course assignments and grading criteria (such as how assignments will be weighted in determining grades)
  • Required and/or recommended textbooks/materials

It is useful to include: a calendar of meeting dates including the final exam  time, the course code/semester/year

Other items you can consider adding to your syllabus that serve the course include more  detailed descriptions/philosophy of the material that will be covered, transfer and  articulation notations, due dates of assignments, options for turning in work. Note that you do not have to put all the information about assignments into the syllabus; as long  as this information becomes accessible to the students in a timely manner it is fine to  provide just the basics in the syllabus. 

Serving the Institution – in order to meet policy/regulation and accreditation standards it is  necessary for a syllabus to contain:

  • Attendance policy (as per regulation 2222 https://losrios.edu/docs/lrccd/board/regulations/R-2222.pdf ). Section 2.2 “Instructors shall state in each course syllabus what constitutes excessive absence for that course.” Best practice  to include steps instructors will take when students do not attend.
  • Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) (as per accreditation standard)

It is useful to include a reference to Student Code of Conduct (eg plagiarism & cheating policy)

Other items you can consider adding to your syllabus that serve the institution include  the ARC Indigenous Land Statement, Mission/Vision statement, etc. Note that you will  want to include institutional serving items that you believe are relevant to your specific course since students can also access these statements and information elsewhere  including the ARC website.

Adopted 12/12/2019 by unanimous vote of the American River College Academic Senate.