The Syllabus: What to Include
The University Faculty Senate is charged with establishing many of the policies relevant to instruction. The Academic Administrative Policies and Procedures Manual provides important information and detail about their implementation. A written (paper or electronic form) syllabus must be distributed to students in each course on or before the first class meeting. In addition to course content and expectations, the syllabus must include contact information for all course instructors, the course examination policy, grade breakdown by assessment type and percentage, required course materials, and the academic integrity policy for the course, and information on procedures related to academic adjustments identified by the Office for Disability Services. Changes to the syllabus shall also be given to the student in written (paper or electronic) form.
Faculty should review the appropriate University Faculty Senate and AAPP websites for specific details related to instructional policies as they prepare the course policies for students. The following course policies are some of the most frequently cited.
Grading (Senate Policies 47-00, 48-00, 49-00, and AAPP G-1 through G-10). These policies cover the basis for grades; the grading system for undergraduate and graduate students and candidates enrolled in M.D. programs; definition of grades; the repeating of courses when a grade of D or F was received; failure to complete a course; corrected grades; deferred grades; no grades; grades for credit by examination; symbols for course audits; academic integrity; research grades; and satisfactory/unsatisfactory grades.
Class Attendance (Senate Policy 42-27 and AAPP E-11). Students who will miss a class in accordance with Senate Policy 42-27, should, where appropriate, present a class absence form to the faculty member as soon as possible and, except in unavoidable situations, at least one week in advance of a planned absence. In the case of illness, students are not required to secure the signature of medical personnel.
Students should be provided with a reasonable opportunity to make up missed work. Ordinarily, it is inappropriate to substitute for the missed assignment the weighting of a semester's work that does not include the missed assignment. Completion of all assignments assures the greatest chance for students to develop heightened understanding and content mastery that is unavailable through the weighting process. The opportunity to complete all assignments supports the University's desire to enable students to make responsible situational decisions without endangering their academic work.
Examinations (Senate Policy 44-10, AAPP F-1 through F-5). Faculty members teaching and coordinating courses are responsible for determining the examination policy used in the courses. Written notification of the examination policies must be made available to students during the first ten calendar days of the semester or its equivalent.
Evening examinations (Senate Policy 44-30, AAPP F-5). The holding of evening non-final examinations in courses that are not normally scheduled in the evening requires approval in advance by the dean or chancellor. Students must be informed during the first week of the semester if such examinations are to be expected.
Academic integrity (Senate Policy 49-20 and AAPP G-9). The policy defines academic integrity and the procedures to be followed in a charge of academic dishonesty. The instructor is responsible for providing a statement clarifying the application of academic integrity criteria to each course at the beginning of the semester.
Rescheduling of class meeting times (Senate Policy 34-83). Changes in class meeting times must be approved by the dean of the college or the chancellor.
Final exam conflicts (Senate Policy 44-25). Students should follow the procedures described in the policy when they have two or more final examinations scheduled at the same time [conflict final examinations], or three or more final examinations scheduled on any one calendar day or in three consecutive examination periods [overload conflict].
Office Hours. Although there is no applicable Senate Policy, each department and campus has its own set of procedures for establishing office hours. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the policies and procedures for your unit or campus. List your office hours in the syllabus and announce them in class. Encourage students to see you if they need help or advice. You should have at least one office hour per week for each course that you teach. If you have several office hours each week, it is a good idea (and some units require) that you stagger them so that they are not all within the same class period, thereby reducing the possibility that a student will not be able to make your office hours because of a class conflict. You should also make yourself available by appointment and be willing to extend your office hours during times of stress for your students, particularly at the beginning and end of the semester and preceding and following exams.
Inform your students where your mailbox is located, and regularly check your mailbox and your e-mail, if you have told your students that you are available via e-mail. Some instructors also set up e-mail hours, so that students know when you will be checking your messages for student queries. E-mail availability, however, is not a substitute for keeping regular office hours, which should be held on campus in your office.
A well-crafted syllabus may also include:
Dates for major assignments
Required special events
Topic outline for the course
Dates for exams/quizzes
Class meeting times
Textbook title, author(s), edition (see AAPP R-1)
Availability of textbook in library or on reserve
Supplementary readings, required or recommended
Supplementary readings location (library or bookstore)
Instructor's full name and title
Office location and phone number
Phone number (or where to leave messages)
Electronic mail address
Instructor's accessibility (e.g., hours when permissible to call at home)
Teaching assistants' names, phone numbers, and office addresses
Available Support Services (if applicable):
Library - www.libraries.psu.edu/
Penn State Learning - www.pennstatelearning.psu.edu/
Labs - Refer to specific college Web site for information
Technology - http://its.psu.edu/