Updating your syllabus with current requirements

The end of fall semester is rapidly approaching and soon we’ll be planning our classes for spring. Of course, part of this process is refreshing course syllabi. A syllabus is the document that serves as the key to the course for both students and faculty. It’s the document that frames the scope of the semester, outlines objectives, and points students to support resources they may need during their time with the university. In addition to the information we want to include in our syllabi, there is information that is required by the UAF Faculty Senate. With an eye toward the upcoming semester, let’s take a look at the current requirements.

The UAF Faculty Senate states requirements for syllabi on the UAF website. There you can find a checklist of required information (PDF) as well as the syllabus addendum added in 2020, and updated again in August of 2021. In the PDF checklist you will find a list of required components for your syllabus, and a list of recommended components that include boilerplate language you can borrow and customize to suit your course. The required components include*:

  • Course information (Title, number, credits, prerequisites, location, meeting times)
  • Course type (in person, online, online synchronous, field, lab, internship, etc.)
  • Instructor information
  • Course description
  • Representative Course Readings/Materials
  • Student learning outcomes
  • Instructional methods
  • Course calendar
  • Course policies
  • Evaluation
  • Statement acknowledging cooperation with Disability Services
  • Student protections statement
  • COVID-19 statement

*Please refer to the PDF for more in-depth clarification into each of the above bullet points.

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The syllabus you submit to the UAF Faculty Senate for course approval will be different than the one you convey to students. The former is a document designed to travel through the administrative steps of course approval. The latter is a living, iterative document that reflects your voice and teaching practice. For this reason, consider framing your student learning objectives broadly to accommodate student-responsive changes while you’re teaching the course. This strategy builds flexibility into your course design and enables you to make adjustments for each unique class cohort.

In addition to revisiting the required elements in your syllabus, review the language it contains. Does the language align with a tone of inclusivity one might expect in a learner-centered course? Does it reflect how you value learning, community, and student success in your class? Does it reflect the types of students who may be in your class such as non-traditional students, first-generation college students, indigenous students, and remote students? Deana Waters, the paralegal studies department program coordinator here at UAF, provides some helpful example language in her article on the Learner-centered Syllabus.

Along the lines of crafting a learner-centered syllabus, consider the Cruelty-free syllabus presentation. This presentation, by Matthew Cheney of Plymouth State University, calls out the “my way or the highway” language instructors sometimes include in their course policies – either inadvertently or deliberately. Instead, he suggests that communicating understanding and encouraging conversations around course policies can serve as recognition that life will happen during the semester and that both the student and the instructor have an opportunity to navigate unexpected roadblocks collaboratively. Matthew Cheney has written a blog post which the presentation is based on, that provides context for the information in his slides.

A well-crafted syllabus can be a tool that clearly communicates both the required administrative policies of your classroom and the core values of your teaching practice, while being warm and inviting to students. Refer to the additional reading below for additional voices and research supporting learner-centered syllabi.

Additional Reading

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Christen Booth

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