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.  

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. The Montclair Syllabus is embedded in all Canvas courses. To preview, go to SYLLABUS in your Canvas course. To work on your syllabus in a google doc in advance, use this writable google doc template.

If you’d like more help in writing your syllabus, you may find this longer version of the syllabus template, Write Your Syllabus Right, helpful. This template follows a backward design framework to support creating a well-aligned, organized course and syllabus.

Creating A Weekly Schedule Calendar

Every regular full term course meets for 15 weeks. However, due to holidays and reading days, and other irregularities, to reach 15 full weeks for classes regardless of what days classes are held, the spring calendar runs for 17 calendar weeks — from January 17th through to May 12th.  See the academic calendar for details.

In Spring 2023, on the following days classes are not held:

Monday, January 16th

Tuesday, May 2nd

Wednesday, May 3rd

Thursday, May 11th

Friday, April 7th

Spring Recess — March 6-10

On Canvas Commons you will find two templates that are helpful in making simple tables of dates, activities, readings, etc.

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.

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.

Updated 1/6/23 EJI


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

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