An explicit and accessible syllabus serves as a central document and record of your course. Students rely on the syllabus as a guide throughout the course and as a type of contractual agreement established from the beginning of the term. Below are some questions (and answers) that can assist in the development of a syllabus reflective of Universal Design principles.
In what ways does a well-crafted syllabus assist student learning within your field of discipline?
- It demonstrates how the course content not only represents a specialized body information on its own but also how it fits into the larger context of your discipline/field.
- It defines the essential elements and focus of the course.
- It explains the methods, procedures and processes used by scholars in your field.
- It describes the organization of your presentation of the course content.
- It defines learner outcomes in objective terms.
- It explains assessment procedures and their contribution to the learning process.
How does a syllabus promote my teaching goals? A learner-centered syllabus will help students meet the course goals when it:
- Organizes the structure and content of the course.
- Establishes a framework for thinking about the subject from the instructor's own point of view.
- Clearly explains the goals of the course in terms of information and learning processes.
- Establishes clear rules and boundaries for performance.
- Suggests resources to promote successful learning experiences.
What might this include for a science based syllabus? (We see this as a general example, which can be modified across disciplines to include the information important to your field.)
For example in a biology course, one of the overarching themes related to the wider discipline would be for students to learn how to use the scientific method. The syllabus serves as a foundation for explaining to students how they will learn to conduct observations and generate hypotheses that lead to testable questions, which then can act as the starting point for discussions about how to properly conduct scientific inquiries throughout the term.
The lab and reading activities developed during the term (in class and out of class) can relate back to the main themes of the discipline. This provides an avenue for students to constantly see the relationship of how your course fits into the wider context of the scientific community.
Design your syllabus: The organization of information and formatting are both important. The information should be designed so that each section is easily read, designated, and understood. Examples of Universal Design based syllabi and additional information about syllabus formation can be found at the CAST website http://udloncampus.cast.org/page/planning_syllabus#.VgsQLXshn-s (this link will open in a new browser window). The TEP links below also highlight simple and meaningful ways that you can make your syllabus accessible to all students..
Guiding accessibility language to include in your syllabus: “The University of Oregon is working to create inclusive learning environments. Please notify me if aspects of the instruction or course design result in disability related barriers to your participation. You are also encouraged to contact the Accessible Education Center in 164 Oregon Hall at 541-346-1155.”