alas, my ambitious 9-part how to design a syllabus is not going to be completed ... this semester. with luck, i'll return to it next semester. or maybe i'll do it every semester until i get it right. but, for now, with classes starting tuesday, family in town, and spending the last splinters of summer celebrating siena's six-week old milestone, it's just not gonna happen.
but for those curious, here's steps 6-9, abridged!
step 6: grades! too many students obsess over them, nearly all professors hate them, and most classes seem to need them.
step 7: rules! i've seen syllabi with pages of rules, i've seen (and designed) syllabi with a few sentences of rules. my rule of thumb on rules: class rules should be brief enough to fill a tweet. if a rule can't be explained in 140 characters or less, pare it down to make it more digestible.
step 8: course description! now that you've done it all - basic info, course calendar, learning goals, course readings, assignments, grades, and rules - you are finally in a position to actually know what your course is all about. in a concise paragraph, describe your course, paying special attention to be clear, and stick it on the top (directly after "basic info") of your syllabus. you are now nearly finished with your syllabus. congratulations!
step 9: give it away! why hoard a syllabus? why keep it on your computer desktop or walled behind blackboard? make your syllabus public and accessible for free - give it away. let other people - professors, students, graduate students - access it, use it, tweak it. if you think your syllabus is good, give it away so that other professors and teachers can make their courses that much better. if you think your syllabus isn't so good, give it away so that other professors and teachers and students can offer you feedback on it. just give it away.
with luck, one day i'll return to this exercise, maybe recruit others to help me, and try to draft an extensive 9-part series on how to design a syllabus. but for now, with summer beginning to set and with my own syllabus screaming for attention, i'll have to let it go, put it to a temporary rest, and give it away.