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The Course Syllabus

A Learning-Centered Approach (2nd ed.) OBrien, J., Mills, B, and Cohen (2008)

The Psychology of the First Day of Class

What are students thinking about when they first enter your class? What information are they looking for? What are your purposes and goals for the first day? What do you do to attain these purposes and goals? What do you think students say to each other when they leave your class the first day.

The research on teaching and learning is consistent: The more information you provide your students about the goals of a course, their responsibilities, and the criteria you use to evaluate their performance, they more successful they will be as students and the more successful you will be as a teacher. (p. xi)

A learning-centered syllabus requires that you shift from what you, the instructor are going to cover in your course to a concern for what information, tools, assignments, and activities you can provide to promote your students learning and intellectual development (p. xiv)

As an instructor, making your students learning and development a priority means that you must consider their varied educational needs, interests, and motivations as you determine the content and structure of your course. (p.1)

Developing a Learning-Centered Syllabus

A commitment how each aspect of your course will support student learning. Teach the students you have, not the students you wish you had (Kuh et al. 2005, p. 78). In addition to providing information about the content and requirements of the course, the learning-centered syllabus, it can help you: 1. Convey to your students what matters to you about learning. 2. Set a tone for learning and how to learn that students will accept. 3. Send a message about what students can expect from you and the campus community to support their learning during the term.

In what ways do syllabi promote or impede students:

confidence and motivation related to understanding how to succeed in the course. utilization of academic services seeking help from their peers and instructors working collaboratively with peers knowing about course requirements, policies, expectations , evaluation, and grading. identification of alternative reading that can help them master the material.

Do Syllabi promote or Impede Students Confidence and Motivation?

From a study of community college course syllabi by Estela Bensimon at the University of Southern California:

Syllabi rarely demonstrate an encouraging tone, respect for students, or high expectations. Only one syllabi acknowledged students anxieties Few included ungraded assignments for students practice and confidence-building

Few syllabi included a comprehensive calendar of activities to allow students to anticipate upcoming class assignments and balance their responsibilities

Do Syllabi Encourage Help Seeking and Utilization of Academic Services?

Adapted in part from a study of community college course syllabi by Estela Bensimon at the University of Southern California:
Syllabi Only

rarely include information about academic services on campus

one syllabus contained an instructional resource for students, e.g. reading the textbook, taking notes, etc. Syllabi rarely list alternative resources beyond campus services for students Syllabi rarely explain how an instructor can help students succeed in the class or what to expect during a visit to an instructors office hours.

To what extent do the two syllabi provide a learnercentered approach to the class?


Syllabus Checklist
Instructor information Student information form Teaching philosophy statement Purpose of the course Course objectives Readings

Resources Course calendar Policies and expectations Evaluation Grading procedures How to succeed in this course: Tools for study and learning


Instructor Information
Name: Fred Jones Office: Room 433 Phone: 847- 882-4356 E-mail: fjones Office Hours: MW: 1-3pm or by appointment


Instructor Information
Contacting Fred Jones My office hours are 1-3pm on Monday and Wednesday. I would prefer you sign up for an appointment by notifying me in class or sending me an email fjones and I will reply to confirm the appointment. In this way, I will be available to meet you at the time you requested. I also will have walk in appointments from 2-3pm on Monday where you do not have to have an appointment. I will also be available by phone during the appointments hours so you can schedule a phone appointment (847: 882-4356). Each Tuesday I am at the Coffee Bean on campus from 10:00 am to 11:00 am. Join me and we can talk about the class or try to solve the big issues of the day.


Student Information Form


Teaching Philosophy Statement


Purpose of the Course

The purpose of this course is to explore important questions about contemporary families in the United States (and beyond): 1) How has the family changed in form and function over time? 2) What explanations do social theories offer for these changes and which are supported by empirical evidence? 3) What are the consequences of these changes for the well-being of individuals, families, and society as whole? The statistics cited on the previous page represent objective truths and collectively serve as a barometer for calibrating how todays families are different from those in the recent and distant past. However, there are many questions up for debate: How did we get to where we are today? What historical and societal forces have given shape to current family forms? Who are the winners and losers in the modern and post-modern family? Does social change signal that the family is at risk of disintegrating or losing its important functions? If so, is a correction needed to put the family back on the right track? Or, is the family an evolving institution meant to adapt to new societal conditions? How do families contribute to the welfare of society? How should we best strengthen families? There is no one set of answers. Addressing the above questions will occupy much of our time this semester. Each student will come to their own position based on their assessment of the empirical evidence, their values and informed judgment, and their capacity to acknowledge the merits of the opposing position. In coming to a conclusion, students will be asked to confront their assumptions about the family. sociology

Course Objectives

You will develop skills in recognizing, defining and applying key learning and motivation theories, concepts, processes and principles taught in the course in order to plan instructional solutions to learning challenges for a variety of learners from different cultural backgrounds who are learning in diverse urban settings. You will identify common learning problems, explain their cause and suggest instructional solutions based on learning research and theory. You will develop skills in identifying educational goals, measuring current progress towards those goals and the gaps that must be closed to insure educational goal achievement for a variety of learners from different cultural backgrounds. You will learn to identify common learning, motivation and cultural causes of gaps, and validate the causes in urban educational settings. You will learn to identify instructional, motivational and cultural solutions for closing gaps that are based on learning research and theory. You will practice gap analysis by developing a case study of an urban educational setting. You will have the opportunity to practice group collaborative problem solving, speaking in front of others, active listening and analyzing problems.






Course Calendar


Policies and Expectations




Grading Procedures


How to Succeed in this Course