Friday, July 20, 2007


Adviser and adjunct instructor Monica D'Antonio proofreads other people's syllabi at Temple University:

When I was an undergraduate, I was always afraid of a professor with a detailed syllabus. To me, the longer the syllabus, the more work I was going to have to do, and the more thorough the professor was going to be.

That isn't always true. But after proofreading so many syllabi, I have concluded that the professors with the most detailed syllabi sometimes did require the most work but were also the ones who seemed most approachable and helpful.
Read it all:
If Your Syllabus Could Talk (Chronicle of Higher Education)

comments: 4

Jason said...

The more detailed the syllabi, the firmer the ground the professor can stand on, too, in cases of grade challenges or complaints to a department chair. If all policies are clearly explained, a student cannot claim that he/she was treated unfairly. I say, the more detailed, the better.

Michael Leddy said...

I agree, Jason. The syllabi that I received as an undergrad look, in retrospect, amazingly minimal. They rarely ran more than a page. Now constructing a syllabus often involves reading for every possible ambiguity or loophole.

Jason said...

I often wonder what, if anything, this says about some of our students. When I was a student, and, in the courses I still take, the syllabus is a page or two, but the professor is viewed as the authority who is not challenged, for it is his/her class. But if we are now lengthening the syllabus, ensuring that nothing is ambiguous or left open to interpretation, or misinterpretation, are we doing so to help the students or to protect the professor? hmmmmm.

Michael Leddy said...

Some of the length could be a matter of helpfulness: my syllabus, for instance, has a statement about discussion and its relation to education ("to educe"). But some is a matter of protection: someone who begins giving quizzes when the syllabus makes no mention of quizzes would likely run into difficulty in a grade appeal.

I sometimes wonder whether vague syllabi are the explanation of at least some pleading about missed deadlines and low grades. A prof who doesn't offer a late policy or specify how semester grades are determined seems to be inviting desperate excuses and complaints.