A syllabus is one of the most significant documents of any course: it sets the tone and expectations for the entire semester, and expresses the instructor’s core pedagogical values and approaches to teaching and learning. At the TRC, we strive to help instructors create what Ken Bain calls a “promising syllabus”: a learning-focused document that communicates clearly and compellingly what students will gain from the course, what they will do to achieve the promise it lays out, how they will know whether they are getting there, and how to best go about studying. It can be challenging to know if a syllabus successfully reflects those values and approaches, so we have designed a rubric to assess the capacity of a syllabus to contribute to a meaningful learning environment.
In this workshop, participants will learn how to use a newly-developed syllabus rubric that assesses the degree to which a syllabus achieves a learning-centered orientation. After a brief introduction to key concepts such as backward design, and learning goals and objectives, participants will have a chance to test the rubric’s functionality by applying it to sample syllabi. In pair and group discussions, participants will compare their scores to those given by trained raters. At the conclusion of the session, the presenter will briefly describe the results of scoring over 50 “before” and “after” syllabus pairs collected from instructors that participated in the Teaching Resource Center’s week-long Course Design Institute.
Upon completion of the session, participants will be able to:
- articulate the basic purposes, functions, and limitations of the syllabus rubric;
- use the syllabus rubric to score a range of syllabi;
- consider how they may use the rubric to create learner-focused syllabi for their own classes
Bain, K. (2004). What the best college teachers do. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.