The R&C Course Syllabus
Once you have settled on the design of your course (see Course Design for R&C), it’s time to formulate your plan for students to read in the course syllabus.
*NB: We recommend reviewing the basic elements of syllabus creation in Create a Section Syllabus or Information Sheet. This page offers advice on statements about accommodations, respectful discussion, etc. applicable to most syllabi across campus.
As noted in Create a Section Syllabus, consider distributing your syllabus in multiple forms – for example, a hard copy for the first class and an online copy to follow (or even precede the first class). Keeping a stable, online location for students to easily access the syllabus throughout the semester will help students remain aware of deadlines and save you time in cases when you may have to remind students of course policies. Most R&C GSIs choose to upload their syllabus to their bCourses site or copy and paste its information onto their bCourses frontpage. Some GSIs have tinkered with using another online platform for hosting their syllabus. However, if you choose to go this latter route, keep in mind that the university may not have vetted these platforms for privacy, security, and accessibility. For a list of supported online learning tools, see Berkeley Research, Teaching, and Learning (RTL).
An R&C syllabus should have the following elements at least; your department may ask for other items not listed here.
1. Contact Information
- Course name, course control number (CCN), class meeting times, and location
- Your name, email address, office location and hours, mailbox location
2. Brief Course Description
The course description on a syllabus needs to be an accessible and accurate indication of the questions and materials students can expect to work with in your course. Try to capture in your description a central curiosity, metaphor, or paradox in your course. Try to keep it short. Avoid scholarly jargon. If you find that a technical term or phrase is central to your description, provide a brief explanation of it and connect it with other terms that students are likely to find more immediately intuitive or interesting.
That being said, you can also also expect a more specialized academic audience to read your course description: course syllabi are a key component of a teaching portfolio when applying to academic jobs and you may want to keep in mind that your description may be read by future hiring committees (if you choose to include it in your Teaching Portfolio). Accordingly, it is reasonable to want to demonstrate a certain level of sophistication and formality that fits with the professional codes of your discipline. However, remember that the goal is less to show your academic sophistication to your field than to demonstrate how you can communicate those academic interests to a more general audience. Such a statement reflects well on your pedagogical ability to bridge abstract ideas with student interests and the wider public intellectual discourse.
It may be helpful to think of your course description as modeling the kind of excellence in writing that you reasonably expect your students to achieve over the course: clear and sophisticated writing that remains accessible to a general intellectual audience.
3. Learning Objectives
In a sentence or two, indicate the overarching learning goals for your course in terms of reading, writing, and content. These might be combined with the course description.
- Give a detailed list of books to procure, with editions specified where relevant.
- If readings are provided in a hard-copy reader, tell students where they can purchase it.
- If readings will be available on the bCourses site or other websites, let students know.
5. Assignments and Grading
- Major assignments with due dates and their value toward final grade
- A grading rubric, or at least a brief statement of the qualities of a successful formal essay in your course
- Any specific requirements you have about the form in which student work is turned in, including things that save you time such as consistent, readable formatting or stapling pages together
- Statement of your policy on late papers or other assignments
This section should at least include policies on class participation, diversity of views, accommodations, and plagiarism. See Creating a Section Syllabus or Information Sheet, which provides detailed suggestions and university resources about crafting syllabus language around such policies.
7. Course Schedule
GSIs usually provide a chronological list or chart of the readings, activities, and major assignments for the course.
It can be useful to stipulate that this schedule is subject to revision, in case you find you need to make adjustments partway through the semester. If you do revise the schedule, give students the revised schedule as early as possible. They use this information to coordinate their work for all their courses.
Sample Syllabi for R&C
A few examples of syllabi for R&C courses, along with some evaluation criteria, are available from the page Sample Syllabi for R&C Courses. Your department may have others you can peruse.
Additionally, you might also wish to consult the UC Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning web page Syllabus Design.