Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Setting the Stage: A Learner-Centered Syllabus vs. A Teacher-Centered Syllabus?

As they say, first impressions matter.

That got me thinking about the sorts of first impressions I am making with my students when the first contact that I have with most of my students is, unfortunately, often through my course syllabus.  So, with finals nearly over for the fall term, I am taking a fresh look at my course syllabus to try to look at my syllabus from the viewpoint of my students.  

What tone does my syllabus set?

What does it say about our upcoming term together?  

Does my syllabus present the course as a "painstakingly dull walk through a dimly lit path" or does it "shine with adventures in learning?" 

Well, truth be told, my syllabus is rather drab, littered with dates and topics and reading assignments but really without much of a heart of excitement.  And yet, I really am excited about working with my students next semester with the goal of embarking on a richly-awarding journey together in learning. So, why not make that excitement shine in my syllabus?  But how?

Well, here are a just a few free resources that I came across to help me evaluate, reflect, and re-write my syllabus so that I can better set the stage for an exciting adventure of learning with my students next term.

First, I love Cornell University's "Course Decision Guide" because it walks through step-by-step reflective questions to help me "size up" my course before I re-draft my syllabus in terms of learning objectives, learning activities, formative assessment activities, resource issues, student motivation, summative assessment, etc.  https://www.cte.cornell.edu/CourseDecisionGuide

Second, I appreciate the insights shared by Mary Bart in her article entitled "A Learner-Centered Syllabus Helps Set the Tone for Learning," reminding me in a "big picture sort-of-way" of concrete tips to set a positive learning environment right from the get-go just by how I frame my course description, for instance, in my syllabus.  https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-classroom-management/a-learner-centered-syllabus-helps-set-the-tone-for-learning/

With these resources as a initial start, I'm off to re-envision my syllabus so that the first impression that I make with my students next semester is hopefully a positive one that gets us started off strong on a cooperative learning experience together.  Let the adventure begin...with me rethinking and remaking me (or at least my syllabus)! (Scott Johns).

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/academic_support/2017/12/setting-the-stage-a-learner-centered-vs-a-teacher-centered-syllabus.html

Encouragement & Inspiration, Learning Styles, Teaching Tips | Permalink

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