General Question

Aethelflaed's avatar

Professors, are you required to have a syllabus?

Asked by Aethelflaed (13712 points ) August 27th, 2012

Does your university require you to have a syllabus for your students, or are they optional?

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26 Answers

nikipedia's avatar

Although I’m not a professor I have been the instructor of record on a few courses. I have never been required to have a syllabus, but I can’t imagine any reason not to use one. Why do you ask?

Aethelflaed's avatar

@nikipedia Because today, the instructor did not have a syllabus, but just asked us to write everything down as she read it off, and then looked at me surprised when I asked at the end of the class if she had a syllabus and said “um… yeah… I guess I could do that…”. I had always assumed universities required instructors to have them.

cookieman's avatar

I am a college instructor and currently a department chair. I have always been required to have a syllabus on file and to distribute it to my students (on paper and electronically). As the chair, I always require my teachers to do the same.

Bellatrix's avatar

All of our courses are required to have a ‘course outline’ that specifies the course aims, learning outcomes, assessment profile including due dates/week nos, late submission policy/extension policy, who the key teaching personnel are and how to contact them. This document includes the topics to be covered each week and the readings students should complete during each week.

DrBill's avatar

I have taught at four colleges, and they all required it

bookish1's avatar

I’m just a prof in training, and I am unsure of whether a silly bus is required by department guidelines, but I would frankly be astonished to hear that a professor in my department had not given one. @Aethelflaed, beware of this professor, she might be a total disorganized flake…

Aethelflaed's avatar

@bookish1 She is a total disorganized flake (for this, and other reasons). Luckily, I’ve already swapped this class for another!

SavoirFaire's avatar

Yes, my university requires all lead instructors to have and distribute a syllabus for each class they teach. Starting next fall, it will also be mandatory to post the syllabus online.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@SavoirFaire Are there follower instructors, that do not have to have a syllabus?

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Aethelflaed Teaching assistants and the like are not considered lead instructors since they work under the direction and supervision of a professor. I am not required to hand out anything in addition to the course syllabus when I am the TA for a course (though I do, just to make it clear what I expect in my discussion sections). As I will be the lead instructor for a course this semester, however, I am required to create and distribute a syllabus for that class.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@SavoirFaire Ah. So someone has to make a syllabus for each class, just not necessarily each instructor. That makes more sense.

Bellatrix's avatar

That is true for my university too @Aethelflaed. The course convenor (the lead professor) would produce these materials. In our university these are all available online for students and they are used by all teaching staff.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Oh, update: She has now provided a syllabus, but it is in French, and only French.

SavoirFaire's avatar

How advanced of a French course is it? That is, what level of French proficiency is expected going into the class? While I don’t think I would ever do a syllabus entirely in a language that my students are still learning—even if they were advanced learners—I suppose it might be defensible in a sort of “if you can’t read the syllabus, this class isn’t for you” kind of way.

Though if it’s not actually a French class…

Aethelflaed's avatar

@SavoirFaire Oh, it’s a 101. People seem to know how to say “bonjour” and “oui” and “voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir”, and that’s it.

bookish1's avatar

@Aethelflaed : Ok, that’s reprehensible. Is she a French professor of French? I’m not sure they’re as syllabus-obsessed as American academics are, but she won’t last long over here if she doesn’t realize that her students expect this.
Even for my Arabic 101 course with a fresh off the boat professor, I received a syllabus in English with Arabic translations to help us learn some terms.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@bookish1 Yes, and I’m fairly sure her only qualification is being a native speaker, because I think she may never have even been in a class before, much less given any consideration as to how to teach things to someone else.

bookish1's avatar

@Aethelflaed: I’ve seen that happen before… I wish her well O_o

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Aethelflaed Wow… that’s absurd (and not the good kind of French absurdity you get from Camus). Just because someone can do something doesn’t mean they can teach others how to do it. Good call swapping out the class, and maybe encourage whoever you’ve got on the inside feeding you these updates to do the same.

blueknight73's avatar

My wife is a college professor and has been for 25 years. She has always been required to post a syllabus.

Bellatrix's avatar

If you get an opportunity to evaluate your learning experience, take it. I certainly read all evaluations and act upon them and they are sent to the Head of School and Dean too. Share the details of your very poor experience. I realise you may feel uncomfortable doing this by sending an email, but our evaluation process is anonymous. Hopefully you get this opportunity.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Bellatrix Unfortunately, you don’t get to fill out an eval unless you finish the class, and they are usually given to the teacher a semester and a half after you’ve left the class. I think our school also gets rid of the comments before giving it to the teacher. Good job, school, I like what you’re doing with my money.

bookish1's avatar

@Aethelflaed : Weird and weird. My school gives evaluation results back to profs and TAs the very same semester, with comments… Because that is usually the most informative part! Only administrators care about the statistics…

Aethelflaed's avatar

@bookish1 Good for your school!

Bellatrix's avatar

Crazy. The whole purpose is so we, the teachers, gain insight from you, the students, about the quality of the learning experience you had. Even if I get negative feedback I appreciate it. That’s actually the most valuable. I can really learn from that and it helps me (and my team) to improve what we are doing. Sighs…

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Aethelflaed You could try writing out your own evaluation and putting it in the professor’s mailbox. You might even be able to get an official evaluation form by asking the relevant department’s secretary for it, though that seems less likely given your school’s attitude about evaluations. If you think someone other than the professor should read your comments, leave a copy in their mailbox as well.

It might not do any good at all, of course, but your comments might be taken seriously so long as they’re written with a “just thought this could help” tone. I think it would be perfectly appropriate to do this anonymously, though the professor would probably be able to guess that it was written by someone who had already dropped the class. I’m not sure how much you care about the possibility of being identified.

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