Teaching Tips

See also: Course Design and Development  

Course Syllabus Guidelines
(prepared by the CIIA at WWU)

Students should expect to receive a course syllabus during the first week of class, preferably at the first meeting, which serves as a contract with the students and effectively communicates the mechanics of the course, the instructor's expectations of student participation, and the methods used to evaluate students' work. The syllabus is a tool that answers some of the most basic questions that students need to know early in the course in order to lessen their anxiety and to set the tone of the learning environment. Although there are necessary elements, these guidelines allow individual discretion with regard to additional information which may be included. A copy of the syllabus should be sent to your department chair, to be kept on file.

The syllabus should consist of:

  • Current year and quarter
  • Course number, course title, and number of credits
  • Instructor name, office location, office hours
  • Instructor contact information (office telephone number, campus email address)
  • Title and author(s) of textbook(s), including ISBN; other required materials
  • Course description, explaining how the course fits into the curriculum
  • Departmental goals/learning objectives
  • Course goals/learning objectives
  • Grading standards, including a definition of S/U, P/NP grading options 
  • Assignments and other required activities (e.g. field trips, research projects)
  • Course agenda (by week), important due dates and assignments, and holidays
  • Flexibility Statement such as "This syllabus is subject to change. Changes, if any, will be announced in class. Students will be held responsible for all changes."

    To allow for flexibility during the quarter (for example, you can expect to stray from the proposed schedule in order to pursue student interests) you may give approximate or tentative dates/deadlines in your syllabus, as long as every student receives revised or updated final decisions regarding course scheduling.
    See also Student Affairs Policies and Procedures
    • Academic Honesty Policy.  Students could be referred to:
      • Plagiarism Policies & Guidelines at WWU WWU Libraries
      • The Student's Guide to Avoiding Plagiarism This PDF file requires Adobe Acrobat Reader to view. WWU Dept. of Sociology
      • Understanding and Avoiding Plagiarism This PDF file requires Adobe Acrobat Reader to view. (brochure) WWU Libraries
      • Appendix D of the Western Catalog: Academic Honesty Policy and Procedure. 
        Short version:  
        • WWU Academic Honesty Policy (WWU Catalog 2009)
          Academic dishonesty is not tolerated at Western Washington University. Someone commits an act of academic dishonesty when he or she participates in representing something as the work of a student that is not in fact the work of that student. A Western student who is caught committing such an act at Western typically fails the course in which it occurred, and repeated such acts can lead to dismissal from the University. For a full description of the academic honesty policy and procedures at Western, see Appendix D in the catalog.
    • Attendance policy
      • WWU Attendance Policy (WWU Catalog 2009)
    • Course attendance normally is required by the instructor. Any student who fails to attend the first meeting of a course may be required to drop it if another student, previously unable to register for the course due to enrollment limitations, seeks admission.

      A student absent from any exam or class activity through sickness or other cause judged by the instructor to be unavoidable shall be given an opportunity to take a rescheduled exam or make up the class assignment in a timely manner agreed upon by the instructor (see Leaves of Absence). Examples of unavoidable cause may include participation in University-sponsored activities such as debating contests, musical or theatrical performances, or intercollegiate athletic competition.

      University policy does not allow a student to attend a class without formally being registered for it. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that he or she is properly registered for each course.

      • NOTE: Attendance policies at WWU vary by department and program.
      • A specific note regarding illness may be appropriate, such as:

        A note regarding illness: If you have signs of flu (i.e., fever, sore throat, cough), you are encouraged not to attend class. Notify your instructor before class; accommodations will be made.
    • Reasonable Accommodation - an invitation to students with special needs to request accommodations for any physical or learning disability:

           Sample statements:
      • Reasonable accommodation for persons with documented disabilities should be established within the first week of class and may be arranged through: Disability Resources for Students, Old Main 110; additional information is available at  https://www.wwu.edu/depts/drs/ Telephone: 650-3083 / Email: drs@wwu.edu
      • Reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities may be arranged through Disability Resources for Students (Old Main 110; 650-3083; drs@wwu.edu; https://www.wwu.edu/depts/drs/)
      • To request disability accommodation or assistance related to required course procedures, please contact Disability Resources for Students located in Old Main 110; additional information is available at:
        https://www.wwu.edu/depts/drs/ Telephone: 650-3083 / Email: drs@wwu.edu
      • Western is committed to equal opportunity and non-discrimination in all programs and activities. Requests for accommodation or assistance should be directed to Disability Resources for Students located in Old Main 110; additional information is available at:
        https://www.wwu.edu/depts/drs/ Telephone: 650-3083 / Email: drs@wwu.edu
    • Student Rights & Responsibilities Code - statement about or link to online version
      Sample statement:
    • Emergency Response Guide- WWU recommends faculty include a statement about emergency response at Western.

      Sample statement:
      • Campus Emergencies: If during class an emergency arises in this classroom, building or vicinity, your instructor may inform you of actions to follow to enhance your safety. As a student in this class, you are responsible for knowing emergency evacuation routes from this classroom. Know which of Western’s three major disaster meeting locations is closest to this building (Old Main green, grassy oval at Communications Facility or tennis courts).

        Watch emergency videos and information at
        emergency.wwu.edu. If police or university officials order the class to evacuate the classroom or building, do so in a calm and orderly manner. Assist those who might need help in reaching a barrier-free exit. You may receive Western Alert emergency information via the building enunciation system or by text message, email, Facebook or Twitter.

In addition to the above, syllabi might include the following where appropriate:

  • Course web page URL and/or Blackboard information
  • Names of and contact information for teaching assistants
  • Indicate whether you require or make appointments with students during office hours
  • Late work policy
  • Make-up exam/quiz policy
  • Incomplete (K grade) policy
  • Policy concerning extra credit and/or curved grades 
  • An estimate of student work load
  • Sample exam questions (or old tests)
  • Lecture handouts
  • Expectations - You may also want to include any additional expectations of students (eg. classroom behavior and in-class discussion), and what the students may expect from you, the instructor.