syllabus design

Incorporating social support and love into the classroom


Gretchen Brion-MeiselsGretchen Brion-Meisels, Lecturer on Education, focuses on ensuring that holistic support is apparent and felt deeply in her classroom. From listing mental health resources on all her syllabi to convening opening circles to build relationships at the start of class, Brion-Meisels incorporates ways of “checking in.” In her course Establishing Loving Spaces for Learning, students are asked to keep reflective journals and share them with a peer to engage in a conversation around their experiences. “Fundamentally, my biggest goal is to normalize the idea that everyone needs support. We’re all works-in-progress, learning and growing,... Read more about Incorporating social support and love into the classroom

Planning a course (SLATE)

The Strengthening Learning and Teaching Excellence (SLATE) initiative at Harvard Kennedy School offers insight on designing a course and building a syllabus.

Syllabus Explorer

Syllabus Explorer, a web-based application developed by VPAL-Research, allows FAS community members to search, explore, and download FAS course syllabi.

Transforming your syllabus to reach and engage students


Katharina PiechockiWhen Katharina Piechocki, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, prepares for a course she has taught before, she significantly changes the syllabus to stay relevant in a rapidly-changing world, respond to students’ (and her own) growing interests, and take advantage of events outside the classroom.  

The benefits: Piechocki finds this approach increases student interest in comparative literature by helping them see connections in unexpected places—at Harvard, in the world, and in their own life experience.... Read more about Transforming your syllabus to reach and engage students

A balancing act: Making established courses your own


Karin ObergKarin Öberg, Thomas D. Cabot Associate Professor of Astronomy, taught departmental introductory course Stellar and Planetary Astronomy in 2016 by building on established material and modifying the curriculum using student feedback and her own observational assessment.

The benefits: Öberg saved pre-semester preparation time by using the same in-class worksheets of earlier iterations and retaining the course’s primary elements—three lab sessions; weekly blog post assignments; and an active, collaborative learning in-class format supervised and assisted by roaming instructors.... Read more about A balancing act: Making established courses your own

Research: Should syllabi communicate expectations regarding appropriate classroom behaviors?

Students poorly predict instructor expectations, according to an analysis of student and instructor survey responses about in-class behaviors such as arriving late, talking to other students, not taking notes, and monopolizing class time. The authors underscore the importance of clearly defining...

Read more about Research: Should syllabi communicate expectations regarding appropriate classroom behaviors?

The hidden curriculum: Engaging students on another level


Bernard Nickel Into Practice profile PicBernhard Nickel, Professor of Philosophy, engages students in his introductory College courses about the “hidden curriculum”—defined here as the social and disciplinary norms often invisible to both students and the teaching staff, including expectations about class preparation, in-session focus, respectful discussion behavior, and the role of feedback.

The benefits: Addressing the hidden curriculum explicitly in class surfaces and dispels student assumptions about conduct (for example, concerns that discussing a paper with the instructor during office hours is cheating) that often cause poor academic performance but cannot be solved with narrowly academic feedback.... Read more about The hidden curriculum: Engaging students on another level

Syllabus guides (Canvas)

Instructors have multiple opportunities via the Canvas learning management system to provide week-by-week course updates to students, including syllabus updates.

Communicating course culture: Beyond the syllabus

Karen Brennan

Karen Brennan, Assistant Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, designs her syllabus for T550: Designing for Learning by Creating to not only communicate the plan for the course, but to introduce students to the course culture.

The benefits: Her use of quotations, images, and color appeals to the various ways that we engage with text, and gives students (many of them future instructors themselves) a glimpse of their upcoming course experience. Drawing on other forms of expression expands the possibilities for communicating the aspirations and intentions for the course.... Read more about Communicating course culture: Beyond the syllabus