You are here

UIC TA Handbook - Designing a Syllabus

By Julia Fish

Professor Emerita and UIC Distinguished Professor Emerita of Art
School of Art and Design
UIC College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts



The purpose of a syllabus is to allow you to present a well­ organized, visually coherent and complete outline of the course you have been appointed to teach. Essentially, the Syllabus is an agreement -- it outlines what you will provide within the scope and structure of the course, and proposes the requirements that the student will be asked to complete to achieve a successful evaluation.

Before designing your own syllabus, inquire within your department, and I or consult with the professor with whom you will be working about general requirements for the courses offered. Use other syllabi, if available, to assist you in covering the essential aspects of the course. Consider supplementing the basic catalog description of the course with your own introduction; students will appreciate hearing your language, your voice. This can also assist you in identifying and emphasizing the most important things about the course from a personal perspective -- your interest will spark theirs!

The syllabus should:

Present basic information on the course:

  • course number, title
  • catalog description & other course I subject background
  • year and semester
  • meeting times & location
  • instructor(s) name(s), office phone number, e-mail access
  • location of your office and your office hours
  • pre-requisites, if any

Describe course goals and objectives and expectations for successful completion:

  • describe what the course will cover & its place within the larger discipline
  • what the student will be expected to learn & comprehend

Outline course components, policies and requirements:

  • how the content will be presented: readings lectures, demonstrations, discussions, field trips, hands-on experience, studio I lab work, etc. (as appropriate)
  • basic student responsibilities: assignments, presentations, essays or research papers, mid-term and/or final exams
  • course policies: cheating, plagiarism
  • attendance policies & requirements: excused and un­ excused absences
  • grading criteria: discuss weight given to written, oral presentations, class participation, attendance, and other requirements which impact grading
  • list texts to be purchased, books on reserve, other bibliographic information
  • list additional materials, tools, or resources which the student must provide
  • if this is a foundation-level course, a list of topic-specific terminology is sometimes useful

Provide an overview of the class schedule:

  • daily or weekly schedule
  • content & topics to be covered during each segment of the course
  • dates that assignments are due, readings dis­ cussed, exams scheduled
  • note and plan for federal, state and religious holidays
  • note other changes in regular meeting time or place
  • the schedule can be altered--mid-term is a good time to revise your plans--but offer a revised schedule in writing

Teaching Assistant Handbook Home