Write Your Syllabus Right

The most effective syllabi communicate essential information about the course and instructor, learning objectives, required materials, and assessments, and link to a course calendar.

Along with essential information, syllabi communicate teacher presence, attitude, and orientation toward students and student learning. Interestingly, whereas many faculty prefer the brief “one-page” syllabus of days gone by, Saville et al. (2010) found that detailed syllabi inspired higher perceptions of instructor effectiveness than did brief syllabi. Using positive, transparent, and friendly language to convey information and expectations for student behavior also helps students feel welcome and sets the stage for better classroom relationships and engagement. Avoid including long lists of warnings and admonitions that may inadvertently communicate an anti-student, hostile attitude.  

Consider the tone of your syllabus as well. See Warming up Your Syllabus for strategies.

Montclair Syllabus

The Montclair Syllabus is a template, updated each semester, that ensures instructors provide all the essential elements for their students in a consistent way so that students understand the expectations for each course they are taking and can find the information they need more easily. The Montclair Syllabus also contains links to campus resources that are updated regularly so that you can direct students to them without needing to research them yourself–or copy and paste bad links from past semesters.

To work on your syllabus in a google doc in advance, use one of these writable google doc templates:

For Fall 2024 Montclair campus courses, the Montclair Syllabus is available in Canvas in two forms: a static version labeled “Syllabus” and a dynamic version labeled “Montclair Syllabus.” For Fall 2024, both options will appear in the Canvas left-navigation menu. To prevent student confusion, choose only one of the syllabi options to use, and adjust your course’s Canvas navigation settings so that only the syllabus option you are using remains. For instructions see Configure Simple Syllabus In Canvas or contact ITDS.

For Fall 2024 Bloomfield campus courses, the Montclair Syllabus is available in Canvas in a dynamic version labeled “Montclair Syllabus.”

Don’t see “Montclair Syllabus” in your Canvas left nav? To enable the Simple Syllabus version in Canvas, go to “Settings” and then “Navigation.” Find and drag “Montclair Syllabus” into the top section, and then drag “Syllabus” down to the bottom section. The Montclair Syllabus is also available in the embedded section called “Syllabus.”

Note: If you “course copy” from a previous semester, be aware that this may overwrite the new template unless you either selectively course copy or enable the course syllabus in the navigation after you perform the course copy.

If you’d like more help in planning your course and your syllabus, you may find OFE’s Guided Course Planning template helpful. This template follows a backward design framework to support creating a well-aligned, organized course and syllabus. In addition, we invite you to meet with one of our faculty developers or to use our Syllabus and Assignment Review service for additional discussion and feedback.

Creating A Weekly Schedule Calendar

Every regular full term course is 16 weeks in length, with 15 meetings for every day of the work week (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday). Due to holidays, reading days, and other irregularities, to reach 15 full weeks for classes regardless of what days classes are held, the fall calendar runs for 16 calendar weeks — from September 4 to December 20, 2024.  See the academic calendar for details. Classes begin on September 4, 2024. For more details, see Important Dates.

Fall 2024: Schedule quirk

November 27-December 1 (Wed-Sun): Thanksgiving break (no classes)

Irregular Term Calendars

In addition to a fall regular full term and a spring regular full term, the University offers courses in several other lengths, from 3 weeks to 16 weeks. For details of the scheduled terms upcoming, see the add/drop calendar on the Registrar’s website.

If you need a template for any of these terms, please contact OFE at faculty@montclair.edu.

Rice University’s Generic Syllabus Maker quickly populates your course schedule.

Resources and References

Fuentes, M. A., Zelaya, D. G., & Madsen, J. W. (2021). Rethinking the Course Syllabus: Considerations for Promoting Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Teaching of Psychology, 48(1), 69–79.

Gurung, R. A. R., & Galardi, N. R. (2022). Syllabus Tone, More Than Mental Health Statements, Influence Intentions to Seek Help. Teaching of Psychology, 49(3), 218–223. https://doi.org/10.1177/0098628321994632

Harnish, R., & Bridges, K. (2011). Effect of syllabus tone: students’ perceptions of instructor and course. Social Psychology of Education, 14(3), 319–330. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11218-011-9152-4

Harnish, R. J., McElwee, R. O. B., Slattery, J. M., Frantz, S., Haney, M. R., Shore, C. M., & Penley, J. (2011, January 11). Creating the foundation for a warm classroom climate. Association for Psychological Science. Retrieved July 13, 2022, from https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/creating-the-foundation-for-a-warm-classroom-climate.

Saville, B. K., Zinn, T. E., Brown, A. R., & Marchuk, K. A. (2010). Syllabus Detail and Students’ Perceptions of Teacher Effectiveness. Teaching of Psychology, 37(3), 186–189.

Last Modified: Tuesday, June 4, 2024 3:46 pm


For more information or help, please email the Office for Faculty Excellence or make an appointment with a consultant.

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