Perceptions of Syllabi


This week I was fortunate to chat with students on the topic of teaching methods. They mentioned that the syllabus is often unhelpful, so I would like to share this 2019 article, entitled, Students’ Perceptions of Course Syllabi: The Role of Syllabi in Motivating Students by Wheeler, Palmer & Aneece. The authors explored students’ perceptions of syllabi types, the course, and the instructor articulated through the syllabi. "Students were randomly assigned to read a content-focused or a learning-focused syllabus (LFS), which is characterized by

  • active, measurable learning outcomes,

  • authentic assessments, and a

  • positive, motivating tone.

Results show that LFS participants had significantly more positive perceptions. They found more of the syllabus components to be useful, anticipated more student involvement, expected to learn more useful concepts and skills, and anticipated that the instructor would help them be successful."

LFS developed from principles of backward-integrated course design (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005) and student motivation (Schunk, Pintrich, & Meece, 2007) are characterized by:

  • an engaging, question-driven course description;

  • long-ranging, multi-faceted learning goals;

  • clear, measurable learning outcomes;

  • robust assessment and activity descriptions;

  • a detailed course schedule;”

  • an inviting, approachable, and motivating tone; and

  • a focus on student success.

Also, the LFS participants believed the instructor would be more approachable, caring, encouraging, helpful, and supportive. Further, the tone and language of a content-focused syllabus may have a negative impact on students’ perceptions of the instructor.

Schunk, D. H., Pintrich, P. R., & Meece, J. R. (2007). Motivation in education: Theory, research, and applications. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Wheeler, B., Palmer, M, & Aneece, I. (2019) Students’ perceptions of course syllabi: The Role of syllabi in motivating students, International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 13(3). https://doi.org/10.20429/ijsotl.2019.130307

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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