Center for Teaching Excellence

Designing Your Course:

Goals, Assessment, and Teaching Tools

Teaching success starts way before the first day of class. Crucial decisions about what you want your students to learn affect everything you do, and allow you to plan what to teach, how to teach it, and how to figure out whether it resulted in meaningful student learning. 

The basic components of planning are:

  • Goals. Identify your desired results.

  • Evidence. Consider what evidence will show you how the students' learning is progressing.

  • Tools. Plan learning experiences and instruction so the students can engage the new material and apply it, providing the raw material for progress toward your goals

  • Communication. Taking all of this into consideration, draft a Syllabus that will guide your students through the course.

Course Design Resources:

A number of resources are available to walk you through this process. Additional articles can be made available upon request.

(theoretical and practical steps from Carnegie Mellon)

(reflects on the challenges and rewards of planning a course starting with learning goals rather than just chunking content)

(originally for Geology, but works for most subjects)

(Cornell University)

(theory plus concrete guidance)

(Stanford University)

(University of Washington) 

The Syllabus:

Syllabi aren't just assignment calendars:  they serve several important purposes.  The syllabus communicates the instructor’s course design (e.g., goals, organization, policies, expectations, requirements) to students. A well-constructed syllabus can do more.  It can share enthusiasm for the topic, set the tone for the semester, and help students manage their learning by making explicit what you expect them to learn.  The resources on this page give advice and tools for efficient and effective syllabus construction.

Creating Your Syllabus

Writing the Syllabus comes fairly late in the course planning process, and it incorporates the thinking that you have done about course design. These links provide helpful advice about syllabus construction, as well as interactive templates that can help you construct an excellent syllabus.

The Syllabus (good advice from Carnegie Mellon on content & strategy, plus examples of creative syllabi)

Syllabus Construction Tool (video showing how Utah State's free, open-source syllabus creator works and how to get it)

Salsa Open Source Syllabus Builder

Syllabus Checklist (essential elements plus meta-analysis)

Syllabus Rubric (evaluate your syllabus)

Required Syllabus Elements:

At SMU all syllabi are required to contain certain information. In addition, courses that meet University Curriculum Requirements have prescribed elements. Below are links to these requirements.

Provost's Syllabus Letter Spring 2019

Provost's Additional Recommendations

DASS Faculty Information

Optional Elements:

Laptops in the Classroom (discussion of issues to consider and sample syllabus statements)

Multiple Topics (such as academic honesty, classroom conduct, research skills, communication protocols, use of class notes)