University of Vermont

Center for Teaching and Learning

Syllabus Guidelines

These guidelines have been developed by the CTL and the Curricular Affairs Committee of the Faculty Senate to assist faculty in providing informative and complete syllabi to their students.

On this page:

  1. Introduction to Syllabus Development
  2. Syllabus Elements:
    1. Syllabus Element: Basic Information
    2. Syllabus Element: Course Description
    3. Syllabus Element: Schedule
    4. Syllabus Element: Values and Policies
  3. Download Template [.doc file]
  4. Other Syllabus Design Resources

I. Introduction to Syllabus Development

As the initial and primary written communication between faculty and students, an effective syllabus:

  • Clarifies the purpose of the course
  • Informs students of the learning objectives
  • Describes expectations for student participation and conduct
  • Outlines how students can achieve success in the course
  • Reinforces institutional values related to student learning
  • Provides all logistical course-related information

The syllabus is an organizational tool as well as a kind of contract between you and your students, describing your expectations of them and what they can expect of you.

Developing an effective syllabus begins with considering the overall purpose of the course and articulating the overarching goals. Next, think about what knowledge and skills your students should attain by the end of the course. This can be articulated in a list of action statements called learning objectives. Read more about writing effective learning objectives. As you plan your course, formulating the learning objectives and deciding how they will be achieved and measured—by readings, activities, and assessments—you are creating the backbone of the syllabus.

Course Alignment
Keep in mind that every assignment and assessment should be aligned with your learning objectives. By providing students with a rationale for each assignment—how it relates to the learning objectives you've outlined—you give them a meaningful context and an understanding of why the work they are doing matters.

As an organizational tool the syllabus should contain the logistical information, e.g., instructor contact information, meeting time and place, and office hours. It should provide information about assignments, including specific due dates and instructions about how to submit the assignments to you. A detachable calendar listing all the assignments and their due dates can be helpful for many students.

The syllabus should also communicate your standards of classroom etiquette, such as use of cellphones and computers, arriving late, talking, leaving the class during session, how you wish to be addressed, and your attendance policy.

Finally, the syllabus should reinforce and direct students to institutional values and policies, such as academic integrity or valuing multiple perspectives and identities in the classroom.

Syllabus design is an iterative process. Student feedback, new ideas, different teaching techniques, and new technologies pave the way for changes in the design and delivery of the course over time. Reflect on your syllabus regularly!


II. Syllabus Elements:

A. Basic Information
  • Title, course number, section, credit hours, pre-requisites
  • Semester/year, meeting place and time
  • Instructor name, contact info, office hours
  • Teaching Assistant name(s), contact info, office hours
B. Course Description
  • Summary: why the course is important or interesting, how it fits in the context of the discipline
  • Learning objectives
  • Required texts and/or materials
  • Grading criteria and attendance policy
  • Classroom environment expectations, e.g. participation expectations, cellphone and computer use policies
  • Prerequisite knowledge and competencies required to take the course
C. Schedule - a table or listing:
  • Assignment details with due dates
  • Quiz and exam dates
D. Values and Policies

Inclusiveness and Universal Design

  • Student Learning Accommodations Statement
    In keeping with University policy, any student with a documented disability interested in utilizing accommodations should contact ACCESS, the office of Disability Services on campus. ACCESS works with students to create reasonable and appropriate accommodations via an accommodation letter to their professors as early as possible each semester.
    Contact ACCESS: A170 Living/Learning Center - 802-656-7753 -
  • ACCESS Office:
  • Policy on disability certification and student support:
  • Religious Holiday Policy Statement
    Religious Holidays: Students have the right to practice the religion of their choice. If you need to miss class to observe a religious holiday, please submit the dates of your absence to me in writing by the end of the second full week of classes. You will be permitted to make up work within a mutually agreed-upon time.

Student Responsibilities and Rights

III. Syllabus Template

This Word document can be used as a prompt for developing your syllabus.
Download the document here.

IV. Other Syllabus Design Resources

From UVM Libraries:

From Other Institutions

  1. University of Minnesota Center for Teaching and Learning
    Syllabus Development

  2. Cornell University Center for Teaching Excellence Writing a Syllabus

  3. Duquesne University:
    The Importance of the Course Syllabus

  4. IDEA Paper #42, Integrated Course Design [PDF], by L. Dee Fink


Resources: McKeachie, Wilbert James,2006, McKeachie's Teaching Tips : Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers, 12th Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company

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