Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology
Illinois State University
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Creating Your Syllabus

Syllabi can provide an important “first impression” and serve as a factor in establishing course climate. As Ambrose et al. note, one study (Ishiyama and Hartlaub, 2002) revealed that the tone used in syllabus policy statements (punitive v. encouraging) “influenced students’ judgments about instructor approachability” (Ambrose et al., 2010, p. 176). Ken Bain, author of What the Best College Teachers Do (2004), concurs, calling this encouraging tone warm language, and identifying it as a key component of promising syllabi. According to Bain, the drafting and distribution of promising syllabi is one characteristic shared by “the best college teachers.” What’s more, “the impact of tone extends even to classroom incivilities, such as tardiness, inappropriate cell phone and laptop use in class, and rudeness” (Ambrose et al.,2010, p. 177). In fact, Boice (1998) found that “the absence of positive motivators, both in the instructor’s speech and non-verbal signals” can be linked to an increase in less civil behavior by students” (Ambrose et al., 2010, p. 177).

The Center for Teaching Learning, and Technology created this document as a useful resource for Illinois State University faculty in the preparation of their syllabi. While parts were drawn from official University sources, it is not intended to be “the final word” in syllabus design. In fact, Illinois State faculty have tremendous latitude in the design of their syllabi. Thus, the only real expectations are as follows:

“Faculty should provide students access to a written syllabus (printed or electronic) in a timely fashion, normally on the first day of class, for each course that they teach. The syllabus should include specific course information, office hours and location (or other means of faculty availability appropriate to the teaching assignment), objectives of the course, tentative assignment and examination schedule, attendance and other course policies. Faculty members should clearly explain to their students methods of evaluation for the final grade. Faculty should reasonably adhere to the course syllabus and should announce and explain to the class all changes to the syllabus as far in advance as possible.” (

Syllabus Structure

The University Curriculum Committee has created an online guide to structuring your syllabus and related policies.

Required Syllabus Statements

  • Student Accommodation Statement (all courses)
  • Creating a Statement for General Education (Gen Ed courses only)

Student Access and Accommodation Services:
Any student needing to arrange a reasonable accommodation for a documented disability and/or medical/mental health condition should contact Student Access and Accommodation Services at 350 Fell Hall, (309) 438-5853, or visit the website at

General Education Program
To ensure that students understand the continuity of General Education as a whole and the specific goals of each course, we ask that you include the Gen Ed statement from the appropriate category on your syllabus. These statements can be downloaded at

Suggested Syllabus Statements

Several units on campus have suggested language to include in syllabi. You may choose to include entire statements or provide links, as seen in the following examples. You may also choose to compose your own statements.

  • Attendance
  • Absence Due to Illness or Bereavement
  • Academic Integrity
  • Campus Safety and Security
  • Classroom Behavior
  • Diversity
  • Mental Health
  • Student Well-Being
  • Video Recording

As stated in the Undergraduate Catalog, you are responsible for attending class and completing all academic work. Make arrangements with me in advance if you will be missing class due to participation in a Sanctioned University Activity or to fulfill a religious obligation.

If you have to miss class due to an extended illness (3 or more consecutive class days) or a bereavement, the Dean of Students Office can help. It’s located in Room 387, Student Services Building.

You are expected to be honest in all academic work, consistent with the academic integrity policy as outlined in the Code of Student Conduct. All work is to be appropriately cited when it is borrowed, directly or indirectly, from another source. Unauthorized and unacknowledged collaboration on any work, or the presentation of someone else’s work, is plagiarism. In certain circumstances, I may be required to refer violations to the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution.

Illinois State University is committed to maintaining a safe environment for the University community. Please take a few moments to make sure you are signed up for ISU Emergency Alerts at Also, note the information posted in each classroom about emergency shelters and evacuation assembly areas (both are indicated on stickers inside every classroom). Additional safety information is available on the Campus Safety and Security website,

In the classroom and elsewhere, you are expected to conduct yourself in a manner consistent with Illinois State University’s Code of Student Conduct.

ISU remains committed to creating and maintaining a working, learning and living environment that is welcoming, supportive, respectful, inclusive, diverse and free from discrimination and harassment.

Life at college can get complicated. If you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, lost, anxious, depressed or are struggling with personal issues, do not hesitate to call or visit Student Counseling Services (SCS). These services are free and completely confidential. SCS is located at 320 Student Services Building, 309-438-3655.

It's hard to learn if you're hungry or couch surfing. If you are having difficulty affording groceries, accessing sufficient food to eat every day, or securing a safe and stable place to live, help may be available. I urge you to contact the Dean of Students Office to learn more.

Full denial to record

Students may not photograph or use audio or video devices to record classroom lectures or discussions or visual materials that accompany them (e.g., lecture slides, whiteboard notes/equations). Students with disabilities who need to record classroom lectures or discussions must contact Student Access and Accommodation Services to register, request and be approved for an accommodation. Students who violate this policy may be subject to both legal sanctions for violations of copyright law and disciplinary action under the University’s Code of Student Conduct.

Permission required to record

Students must obtain written permission from the instructor if they wish either to photograph classroom lectures or discussions or to record them using audio or video devices. This restriction includes visual materials that accompany the lecture/discussion, such as lecture slides, whiteboard notes/equations, etc. Such recordings are to be used solely for the purposes of individual or group study with other students enrolled in the class in that semester. They may not be reproduced, shared in any way (including electronically or posting in any web environment) with those not in the class in that semester. Students with disabilities who need to record classroom lectures or discussions must contact Student Access and Accommodation Services to register, request and be approved for an accommodation. Students who violate this policy may be subject to both legal sanctions for violations of copyright law and disciplinary action under the University’s Code of Student Conduct.

Additional Reading

Tonic for a Boring Syllabus - Faculty Focus

How to Create a Syllabus - Chronicle of Higher Education


Ambrose, S. A., et al. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Bain, K. (2004). What the best college teachers do. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Boice, R. (1998). Classroom incivilities. In K. A. Feldman & M. B. Paulsen (Eds.), Teaching and learning in the college classroom. Needham Heights, MA: Simon & Schuster.

Ishiyama, J. T., & Hartlaub, S. (2002). Does the wording of syllabi affect student course assessment in introductory political science classes? PS: Political Science and Politics, 35(3), 567–570.

2019-01-07T12:24:00.418-06:00 2019