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Office for academic affairs


Syllabus Construction:

A guide for faculty

Prepared by:

Dr. Mark D. Nelson

Assistant Provost for Academic Affairs

Box 870114,  Tuscaloosa, AL  35487-0114



I.  Faculty handbook requirements (Chapter 5. Section IV.)



A.         Accurate Course Descriptions and Syllabi


Faculty members are required at the beginning of each course to provide their students with an accurate syllabus.  Items to be covered in the course syllabus include:  prerequisites, course description, objectives, outline of topics covered during the semester, attendance policy, the planned number and timing of major examinations and assignments, grading policy, the policy for making up missed course work (including examinations), and required texts and other course material.  Students will be given timely notice of any changes in the syllabus.  Any special considerations (e.g., opportunities to earn extra credit) offered to a student shall be available to all students in the class.


Faculty members must provide the departmental chairperson with a current syllabus for each course they teach.  The chairperson is responsible for maintaining a file of current course syllabi, for monitoring the syllabi with regard to the above requirements, and for ensuring that the official course descriptions published in University catalogs agree with the syllabi and give an adequate summary of the material to be covered and the prerequisites and co-requisites needed to complete the course successfully.



1.       prerequisites

2.       course description

3.       *objectives (see note below)

4.       outline of topics covered during the semester

5.       attendance policy

6.       the planned number and timing of major examinations and assignments

7.       grading policy

8.       the policy for making up missed course work (including examinations)

9.       required texts and other course material


*The SACS Principles of Accreditation suggest that objectives are best stated in the form of “student learning outcomes,” i.e., what students should be able to know and do at the end of the course.  Faculty have found it helpful to begin the Student Learning Outcomes section of a syllabus with a statement such as, “At the conclusion of the course, students will be able to…”





II.  Commonly agreed upon elements of a good syllabus



A.    Course Number, Title, and Number of Credit Hours


        B.    Catalog Course Description, including all prerequisites


        C.    University Core designation, if appropriate


        D.    Course goals and specific educational objectives for each major instructional unit


        E.    Required Text(s) and/or readings


        F.     Descriptions of required clinical experiences and assignments, if appropriate


        G.    Description of assignments and due dates


        H.    Number and Nature of examinations, including policy for make-up tests


        I.     Grading procedure for tests and assignments


        J.      Procedures for determining final grades


        K.    Attendance policy


        L.     Policy on academic misconduct


        M.   Course bibliography, if appropriate


        N.    Course outline describing schedule of topics, dates, and related information and resources


III.  UA specific information and examples to consider





                The Code of Academic Conduct must be contained in all course syllabi.


All students in attendance at the University of Alabama are expected to be honorable and to observe standards of conduct appropriate to a community of scholars.  The University expects from its students a higher standard of conduct than the minimum required to avoid discipline.  Academic misconduct includes all acts of dishonesty in any academically related matter and any knowing or intentional help or attempt to help, or conspiracy to help, another student. 


The Academic Misconduct Disciplinary Policy will be followed in the event of academic misconduct.






If your course has grade and/or course prerequisites it should be noted in your syllabus






Attendance policies should be reasonable and enforceable.  The policy should detail for the student your expectations of their behavior in the event of an absence.  The Faculty handbook addresses this issue in two areas:


First in Chapter 5, Part III, Section, C, “Students are expected to attend classes as scheduled.  Attendance policies must be provided to each student at the beginning of the semester.  These policies must allow for the possibility that students may experience difficulties beyond their control which result in failure to attend class or failure to complete an assignment on time.”


Second in Chapter 5, Part V, Section D, “Students should be given the opportunity to hand in assignments and to make up work missed due to legitimate circumstances beyond the students' control.  Methods for making up missed assignments may vary from course to course, and from discipline to discipline but normally should be the same from student to student within the same course.   The appropriate method(s) used for each course must be stated in the course policy provided each student at the start of the semester.”






A grade requirement notice is also in order if, for example, students must earn a certain grade in order to pass the class.  Below is one such example:


                                Students must earn a “C-” or better in all required and elective courses in the major.  A “C-” or better is required in all external courses required by the major whether they serve as a prerequisite to a major course or are simply required by the major.





According to the Office of Disability Services, the purpose of the syllabus statement is to promote early dialogue between the student and instructor about any needed accommodations as they relate to the specific course or requirement.  It is the student’s responsibility to disclose his/her status as a disabled student by delivering to the faculty member the accommodation request letter prepared by the Office of Disability Services, however, faculty can help students feel comfortable coming forward by inviting discussion of accommodations.  Faculty can also help assure that students with disabilities are aware of the services of the Office of Disability Services and the need to register with that office to establish their eligibility for accommodation.


Below is one suggestion of wording for such a statement:


Students with disabilities are encouraged to register with the Office of Disability Services, 348-4285.  Thereafter, you are invited to schedule appointments to see me during my office hours to discuss accommodations and other special needs.






Multicultural issues are mentioned by several accrediting agencies.  These standards strongly suggest covering diversity issues in appropriate ways depending on the subject matter (e.g.  gender-neutral language, contributions of women and minorities in history and current events.)  Individual instructors may approach the requirement in a number of ways, for example, readings, lecture content, student projects, written assignments, guest lectures.  Diversity material may include content concerning the contributions of minorities, but it could also address contemporary diversity issues in the context of how minorities are affected by prevailing norms and practices.  Faculty should address questions concerning diversity as they arise in normal classroom discussion.


In addition to covering diversity material in class, many instructors have incorporated some type of diversity statement into their course syllabi.  Below is one such example:


"A university is a place where the universality of the human                                              experience manifests itself."

                                         --Albert Einstein

In keeping with the spirit of Einstein's viewpoint, the Department of Communication Studies is committed to providing an atmosphere of learning that is representative of a variety of perspectives.  In this class, you will have the opportunity to express and experience cultural diversity as we focus on issues such as: sex, gender and communication in small groups, communication in the multicultural group, and cross-cultural and intercultural work group communication.  In addition, writing assignments and daily activities have been designed to encourage individuality and creative expression.  You are encouraged to not only take advantage of these opportunities in your own work, but also, learn from the information and ideas shared by other students. 





According to the Office of Student Judicial Affairs, the purpose of the syllabus statement is to create an expectation of behavior that the University and the Professor deem acceptable.  The statement should also help to prevent student behavior that is disruptive to the teaching/learning environment.  By fulfilling these expectations, students can enjoy their own rights, while also respecting their classmates’ rights and furthering the University’s goals.


Below is one suggestion for wording such a statement:


The Code of Student Conduct requires that students behave in a manner that is conducive to a teaching/learning environment.  Students who engage in behavior that is disruptive or obstructive to the teaching/learning environment will be subject to disciplinary sanctions outlined by the Code of Student Conduct.  Disruptive/obstructive behavior is not limited to but may include the following:  physical abuse, verbal abuse, threats, stalking, intimidation harassment, hazing, possession of controlled substances, possession of alcoholic beverages…(you may also include a statement detailing any behavior that you consider to be particularly disruptive or annoying such as cell phones, beepers, reading the newspaper etc.).






The University has purchased a site license for the plagiarism detection software,  Ideally, this technology should be used to help students to learn about and prevent plagiarism. Instructors wishing to use the software may learn more about it at  Furthermore, those Instructors using the software in their classes are strongly encouraged to include information about the software in their syllabi.


Below is one suggestion of wording for such a statement:


The University of Alabama is committed to helping students to uphold the ethical standards of academic integrity in all areas of study. Students agree that their enrollment in this course allows the instructor the right to use electronic devices to help prevent plagiarism. All course materials are subject to submission to for the purpose of detecting textual similarities. will be used as a source document to help students avoid plagiarism in written documents.