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Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Syllabus is a document with an outline and summary of topics to be covered in a course. It is often either set out by an exam board, or prepared by the professor who teaches the course, and is usually given to each student during the first class session. A syllabus usually contains specific information about the course, such as information on how, where and when to contact the lecturer and teaching assistants; an outline of what will be covered in the course; a schedule of test dates and the due dates for assignments; the grading policy for the course; specific classroom rules; etc.
Within many courses concluding in an exam, syllabi are used to ensure consistency between schools and that all teachers know what must be taught and what is not required. Exams can only test based on information included in the syllabus.
The common plural form syllabi is sometimes considered a hypercorrection, as we do not know that syllabus is a second-declension Latin noun, simply because there are not enough classical uses of the term to definitively discern its declension. If, as the vast majority of Latin nouns ending in "-us", "syllabus" belongs to the second-declension, the plural would be syllabi; if fourth, the plural would again be syllabus. For this reason, syllabi, syllabus, and syllabuses are all commonly accepted. However, the word syllabus originally comes from a mis-transliteration by Cicero, who mis-copied the word σιττύβας (accusative plural of σιττύβα, meaning label or title page) as syllabos, making any Latin-ized plural form technically incorrect.
The syllabus serves many purposes for the students and the teacher such as 1) ensuring a fair and upfront contract between the instuctor and students such that there is mimimal confusion on policies relating to the course, 2) setting clear expectations of a) material to be learned, b) behavior in the classroom, and c) effort of student's behalf to be put into the course, 3) providing a roadmap of course organization/direction 4) relaying the instructor's teaching philosophy to the students, and 5) providing a marketing angle of the course such that students may choose early in the course whether the subject material is attractive.
Many items can be included in a syllabus to maximize course organization and student understanding of expected material such as 1) grading policy (grading scale optional but helpful), 2) locations and times (classroom location/time, instructor office hours and location, teaching assistant office hours and location), 3) other contact information for instructor and teaching assistant such as phone or email, 4) materials required and/or recommended such as textbooks, assigned reading books, calculators (or other equipment), lab vouchers, etc 5) outside resources for subject material assistance (extra-curricular books, tutor locations, resource centers, etc), 6) important dates in course such as exams and paper due-dates 7) tips for succeeding in mastering course content such as study habits and expected time allotment, 8) suggested problems if applicable 9) necessary pre-requisites or co-requisites to current course, 10) safety rules if appropriate, and most importantly 11) objectives of course.
The syllabus must be clear and organized in its presentation of course objectives and the grading break-down should leave no confusion or doubt in the student's mind as to how she or he is scoring in the class. A helpful syllabus should encourage rather than intimidate students from the course and should provide a broad overpanning of subject significance as well as illustrate connectiveness of material relevance through the lecture schedule.
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posted by Armin Ade @ 12:36 AM  
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