Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Write Your Syllabus for a New Course

Build your syllabus by first designing the main components of your course and ensuring that these components are aligned with each other. Then, write the syllabus to communicate your course design and expectations to your students. The steps below address the key aspects of course and syllabus design and, as such, cover Faculty Senate's syllabus recommendations.

In thinking about what you want your students to learn and how you will assess this learning, it’s important to first consider who your students are. Before you begin writing your syllabus, consider the following questions (Fink, 2003):
  • Is the course lower division, upper division, or graduate level?
  • How many students are in the class?
  • How long and frequent are the class meetings?
  • What curricular goals does the institution or department have that affect this course or program?
  • Is the subject primarily cognitive, or does it include the learning of significant physical skills?
  • What prior experiences, knowledge, skills, and attitudes do the students have regarding the subject?

Learning Objectives, Assessments, & Course Description

Course Policies and Statements

  • Clearly explain your Course Policies & Statements by reviewing samples and considering key guiding questions. Policies addressed include: grading, attendance, academic integrity, students wellness, laptop policies, and others.

Course Materials

  • List all required and optional books (with authors, editions, and ISBN's), reserve readings, course readers, software, and supplies with information about where they can be obtained (bookstore, library reserve, course LMS, etc.).

Course Schedule

  • Include a Course Schedule that indicates important due dates and provides a day-to-day breakdown of topics and assignments (including readings, homework, project due-dates). Think about the learning objectives addressed for each session/week and consider listing them on the schedule.

Other Details

  • Where does the class meet? Is there a lab/recitation/studio section? If so, when and where does it meet?
  • When are your office hours? Where is your office? How should students contact you/your TA? How quickly do you respond to emails?
  • What are the course prerequisites?
  • What teaching methods are you going to use?


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