Strengthen Your Syllabus

Evidence-based approaches to more engaging, effective syllabi

The syllabus serves a number of purposes – communicating with students in ways that support learning, belonging and more effective decision-making, as well as fulfilling university expectations and meeting accreditation standards.

Ideally, the syllabus will help students know what they need to do to succeed in your course. This page provides a number of considerations and examples that may be useful as you create or revise your syllabus. For details on the three core components of a UW–Madison syllabus and a downloadable resource to start creating a syllabus, visit Course Syllabi at UW–Madison.

Key considerations for your syllabus

Share why this course matters

  • How can students apply what they learn to their lives or future careers?
  • What skills will they develop?
  • What makes this course unique or interesting?

Source: Madison Teaching & Learning Excellence

Use language that promotes belonging and success

Sources: L&S Instructional Design Collaborative, Madison Teaching & Learning Excellence, University Health Services

Structure your course and syllabus with learners in mind 

  • Share specific resources that will help students succeed in your course as well as campus academic support services.
  • Review your course learning outcomes with the eyes of a student. Do they seem measurable as they are currently written?
  • Provide specific details about each assessment: Will a test be take-home? Cumulative? What is the word count range for papers/discussion posts? When will essay prompts be distributed?
  • Clearly explain grading policies and how grades are calculated.
  • If teaching online or hybrid, communicate all expectations and deadlines as you would on the first day of a face-to-face class.

Sources: Madison Teaching & Learning Excellence, Instructional Resources KnowledgeBase

For a deeper look...