Syllabus Guide CTL

Faculty Resource: A Guide To Syllabus Design

Faculty devote an enormous amount of time and energy to planning their courses. But they may not always think as much about how they communicate those thoughtful plans through their syllabi.


Many of us follow the syllabus conventions of our departments or fields, and, increasingly, respond to administrative calls to include specific policies or information. Some worry that the imperative to add more is at odds with our sense that the more we add, the less likely students are to read. Although it may seem counterintuitive, a study by Saville et al. (2010), shows that the instructor is viewed more favorably by students when the syllabus is more detailed. So, which details should you include and how should you present them? 

Though there is no one right way to write a syllabus, research on syllabus design suggests:

  • The syllabus is one of the first ways you establish a relationship with your students and should reflect your ethos as a teacher and scholar. 
  • A welcoming syllabus can play an important role in creating an inclusive learning environment. 
  • Being explicit about what students most need to know about the class will help all students succeed, and it will help the least privileged students in your class the most.

Check out the Center for Teaching & Learning’s (CTL) new Guide to Syllabus Design for more information, research, and resources that can help you rethink this important document. 

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About the CTL: The Center for Teaching & Learning collaborates with faculty and graduate students and offers individualized consultations, workshops, seminars, and institutes designed to promote critical reflection and experimentation in teaching and support core initiatives across the University.