Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Read That Syllabus

Of all the handouts you’ll get in your classes next week, none are as important as your SYLLABUS.

What’s a syllabus? you ask. 

Think of it as a contract of sorts between your professor and you.  A syllabus (also known as a course outline) says, “Here’s what students are going to study in this class, here’s how the professor is going to teach the material, and here’s what everyone has to do to learn and succeed.”

A syllabus typically

*     lists the professor’s name, telephone number, email address, and office hours (times the professor
      is available to meet with students out of class);

*     outlines the material the course will be covering; and

*     states the course’s requirements—attendance policy, textbooks, readings and assignments, 
      important dates (exams, due dates for papers and projects, etc.), and grading policies.

The idea behind a syllabus is that students should know, in advance, what’s expected of them. That way they can work to meet the course requirements, all the while keeping track of the "rules."

Make sense?  Sure.  So why do so many students (a) lose their syllabus, (b) fail to read it, or (c) forget they ever received it?  Why do so many people get in trouble in their classes because they've overlooked something important in the syllabus?

Who knows?  But blowing off a syllabus doesn’t change its importance.  And if you don't pay attention to the syllabus and mess up as a result, well, it's on you.

Don’t make this mistake. 

When you go to each of your classes next week and get your syllabus, read it carefully.  Ask questions if you don’t understand something you’ve read.  Hang onto it.  Staple it into your notebook and use it to guide you through the course.  Don't let it disappear in the back seat of your car.

Remember: Your syllabus is your contract with your professor.  It spells out everyone’s end of the “bargain,” including yours.

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