Why have a Syllabus?
Although Penn State Faculty Senate Policy 43-00 requires a syllabus for all Penn State courses, there many other reasons why a detailed syllabus is beneficial to students and instructors.
Benefits of a Syllabus
- A Syllabus is a Contract - Though not in the legal sense, it allows you to spell out course expectations and assignments early in the semester. As a written document, a syllabus presents fewer ambiguities than a spoken presentation would (and you can refer students who missed early classes to the syllabus).
- Central Reference for Students - Students like to refer to a central document containing detailed assignments, readings and schedules throughout a semester in order to keep themselves on track.
- Effective Planning Document - A detailed syllabus stating course goals and methods can help instructors better plan the most effective presentation of course content. A poorly-written syllabus can affect student attitude, performance, civility, and may cause legal complications.
- Repository for Other Instructors - A strong syllabus can be used by other instructors to plan similar courses they may be teaching.
- Be Thorough – Include (or provide access to) all the required and other information detailed on this site.
- Be Specific - Specify specific details about upcoming assignments, readings, grading policies, attendance, course goals and other information and expectations. This can include due dates, page length, samples and more.
- Note: In some cases, it may be more sensible to provide some details later or in a different document, but specifying in the syllabus that details are coming or available elsewhere (with links to them if the syllabus is online) can ease student anxieties.
Special thanks to Dr. Patricia Hinchey, Penn State Worthington-Scranton, for her contributions to these documents.