University of Minnesota
Office of Human Resources

What Is an Effective Syllabus?

An effective syllabus conveys what the class will be like, what students will do and learn, as well as what they can expect of you. A well designed syllabus achieves the following:

It increases the likelihood of student success in your class. It guides student learning in accordance with your expectations and demonstrates to students that you care about their learning.

It decreases the number of problems which arise in the course. Fewer misunderstandings arise when the "rules of the game" are explicitly stated.

It assists in your professional development. Writing and revising your syllabi provide you the reoccurring opportunity to reflect on both the form and purpose of your approach to teaching such questions as:

  • Why do I select the content I do?
  • Should I present the content in this order?
  • Are these the best teaching strategies for this course?
  • Is there a better way to evaluate achievement?

It tacitly records and transmits your teaching philosophy. The syllabus is a public document. When you are up for tenure or a promotion, your colleagues look to your syllabus for information about how you teach.

It provides pertinent information about your course to your colleagues and department. For example, colleagues who teach subsequent courses in your department will be able to make assumptions about what students who took your course know and are able to do.

This checklist lists the University of Minnesota expectations for inclusion in your syllabus.