Writing a Goal-Centered Syllabus

  • Rebecca Ericson George Mason University; Physics and Astronomy Department
Keywords: student engagement, assessment, pedagogy

Abstract

BRIEF SESSION DESCRIPTION:

Syllabi don't always align well with stated course goals. It is important for students and faculty both to have a clear idea of the bigger picture purpose of a course and be able to see what students will do to accomplish learning in line with these goals.à Developing a goal centered syllabus is critical for those teaching core courses, courses with a large number of sections, or distance courses that may be ââ¬Åhanded offââ¬Â to other instructors. Particularly in survey courses it is easy to let content drive the instruction and lose sight of broader course goals. àThis session will showcase different versions of a science course syllabus as an example to explore strategies for creating effective syllabi for a class in any discipline that centers around specified learning outcomes. àParticipants will have time to work on and receive feedback on their learning outcomes and syllabi.

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FULL ABSTRACT: Syllabi don't always align well with stated course goals. It is important for students and faculty both to have a clear idea of the bigger picture purpose of a course and be able to see what students will do to accomplish learning in line with these goals.à Developing a goal centered syllabus is critical for those teaching core courses, courses with a large number of sections, or distance courses that may be ââ¬Åhanded offââ¬Â to other instructors. Particularly in survey courses it is easy to let content drive the instruction and lose sight of broader course goals. I will present two versions of a current syllabus for a science course to show discontinuities regarding goasl in the original document and how these were reduced or eliminated in the re-write. I will explain how learning goals can be integrated into a syllabus in a way that will help instructors, as well as students, get a clear picture of what the course should be about. Research on learning goals and their value in structuring student thinking as they approach course material will give depth and broaden the value of the exercise. While based on a specific example, I plan to generalize the approach so that it could be used by instructors at multiple levels in a variety of disciplines. Because the syllabus is often the first encounter a student has with a course beyond a title and a sentence long description, I will encourage making the syllabus somewhat more enjoyable to read, and clear in its vision of what the student be able to do as a result of the course. I plan to include a handout that faculty can use to read more abut designing goal-oriented syllabi and research that supports the concept. I would hope that faculty from any discipline will benefit from stepping back to take a look a their own syllabi after the presentation with the idea of seeing how goals are woven into the whole document rather than merely stated. àParticipants will have time to work on and receive feedback on their syllabi.

More more resources about writing a syllabus:àhttps://stearnscenter.gmu.edu/teaching/designing-your-syllabus

Author Biography

Rebecca Ericson, George Mason University; Physics and Astronomy Department

Rebecca Ericson is an instructor of Physics and Astronomy.

**2015 GMU Teaching Excellence Award-General Education**

Published
2017-06-06
Section
1:50pm-2:30pm Mini-Workshops, Panels, & Roundtables