How I Design My Assessments

How I Design My Assessments

Maybe some of this is pretty obvious, especially to more seasoned teachers, but a recent request from a colleague sparked a personal reflection into how I approach my test design.

This is the first semester with a new book for the academic English class at my university. As a result, this semester all the professors are creating their exams to reflect the textbook change. Last week were midterms and I received a message from a my colleague. He is somewhat new to university, in the beginning of his second year, so just a little more green around the ears than myself. However, we both have completely different backgrounds and ask each other for perspectives to problems we’re experiencing in our classrooms from time to time. This week’s question was:

“Hey, I am looking at the grades of my students’ midterm exams and they aren’t what I was expecting. They looked especially troubled during the exam. Would you take a look at my exams or let me know what you do for your tests?”

This made me think about what my approach actually was. In general, I approach choices in the classroom from three fronts: 1) as a teacher, 2) as a linguist, and 3) as a language learner. With each of these these three areas I have theoretical knowledge on but also practical knowledge as a result of my years teaching and studying language and I try to blend these together in my class.

So, how do I approach exams? By asking myself a series of questions.

How is the Class Designed?

This refers to your daily lesson plan (DLP). What is the structure of your class? Does it look like “warm-up, lesson, practice, wrap-up” or “vocabulary, grammar, textbook reading, video lesson, etc.”? It could be a mix of these or they could be embedded in each other. For example, I break my class into two parts: textbook and skills. I use the textbook study as a way to reinforce the skills. So, when I am creating my exam, I break my test into similar parts to ensure that what I am teaching on a daily basis is reflected into my test questions.

What are the Objectives of Your Class (and How Does This Align With Those of Your Students and Department)?

The biggie here is, “What do I want my students to learn by the end of this class?” I ask this question before I start the class and work backwards when I am designing my DLP and my assessments as well as how to scaffold and present this information. I am not a fan of teaching vocabulary. As a student, I always forgot the vocabulary, what is preventing my students from the same fate? However, I do still remember the grammar and the skills my teachers taught me. To this day I can’t help but use the plot analysis that English teachers drove into my skull so much with everything I consume (i.e. movies, T.V. shows, stories from friends, etc.)! I took this into consideration as I asked myself this same question from two other perspectives.

What does your school want for the students in this course? For example, my academic English class has a TOEIC pre- and post- test required by the department. This is in addition to my midterm and final. My solution was to make the TOEIC and exams similar or at least to work together. The largest portion on my exam is on the practical skills that we study all semester long. Skills that are a balance of general testing skills and comprehension/critical thinking tasks. Ultimately, what they study for my midterm and final will bleed over into the TOEIC exams as well.

And finally, what are your students goals for the class? I think it’s safe to say that the answer to this is a good grade, but an easy class that isn’t engaging or offers up into knowledge the students care about is going to turn them off to the whole experience. My Korean students are accustomed to a testing format, basically multiple choice questions. In a previous semester, I added fill-in-the-blank and matching questions. Even my brightest students had bombed these portions. What had happened? I realized my students are used to a type of test and their brain is work in that way in regards to a test. They study for that type of test. Studying for to simply recognize a correct answer is very different from studying to produce a specific word (and spell it correctly). Had I wanted to put more fill-in-the-blank style questions, I should have given them pop-quizzes or practice tests (possibly ungraded or complete/incomplete) to let them start seeing a different style of test and give them a chance to adjust their study habits accordingly.

How Do You Prepare Students For the Test?

I do not believe in surprising my students. It only leaves them feeling discouraged and feeling bitter towards me, my class, and probably the content of my classes (e.g. the English language). That helps no one and does not align with my goals for the class. Sometimes in class, I will remind my students, “This will be on your test. Take notes!” or “This is the exact type of question that will come up on the test. If you do not understand this concept, I highly recommend that you study or ask me questions.” This is helpful, of course, but there is another way that some teachers my not think about to prepare their students.

Another thing I do is to prepare them by focusing their attention on what will be presented in the test, including the format of the test. South Korean students have grown up in a testing culture where the Korean SAT is the test you spend you whole life studying late into the night for and if you fail, your life is essentially over. As mentioned above, the way they study has been tailored for a type of test. I believe a part of preparing them for the test is familiarizing them with the format of the test. How many questions, what style of question, how many points each one is worth, and the overall time they will have to take this test.

Have you thought about taking your exam in your foreign language (if you even have one)?

This is probably the question that guides me most in my teaching. I also think that it is the most important one and I have saved it for last for a reason. My 10+ years of being a language student has greatly been influenced by the decisions of my teachers. I’ve had good teachers, bad teachers, and everything in between. All of them have taught me something about the language learning experience within a classroom. We’ve all known someone who made the mistake of thinking, “I was a student for 20 years, I could teach a class. How hard could it be?” Teachers know how hard it can be. We realize all the work that went into those great (and horrible) classrooms we spent so much time in. We focus on what we have to do to get the job done.

However, teachers can get lost in their side of the classroom exchange and forget what it was like on the other side of their decisions. Asking this question is probably one of the things that made my tests much better. Before, I designed my test as a native speaker and forgot to adjust things for my students level. Yes, they’re smart, but no matter how smart you are, you know the fear, apprehension, self-doubt, and overall struggle it is to show how smart you are in a foreign language. Our students are going through all that.  The first three questions you will have answered with your current mindset, but your answer to this question will determine if you need to go back and reassess the others. This is because if you haven’t thought about this question yet, then your perspective from the beginning may not going to be as helpful and your results will be less preferable… for yourself and the students.


I hope that this can give some teacher some things to think about the next time they are churning out a test. I would love to hear what others do.

Teachers Aren’t Always the Teachers Students Need

Teachers Aren’t Always the Teachers Students Need

I often ask a basic knowledge or comprehension question to the class, get the answer, and following it by asking the other students to further analyze why that is the correct answer. A typical exchange looks like this:

Me: What is the main idea of this paragraph?
Student 1: The main idea is…
Me: Great! I agree. Who can tell me how you know that is the main idea?
Student 2: It’s in the beginning of the paragraph…?
Me: Uh-huh… Anyone else have another way they knew it was the main idea?
Student 3: The supporting sentences are about that main idea.
Me: Excellent!

Being a teacher who loves to arm her students with just as many practical skills as knowledge, a lot of times, the information is new and students ask a lot of questions (I LOVE QUESTIONS!) I always explain or go to my dear old friend Google right there in the classroom to find the answer for them. Sometimes, though, I like to ask another student to explain to the person if I feel its a concept I have covered myself.

They laughed like I was crazy because if I  was the teacher and didn’t have all the answers, what was I doing in front of the classroom? 

This isn’t because I don’t know the answer, but because I have been a student for many years. Sometimes, no matter how much I asked my teacher, the way they explained it just didn’t make sense to me, but when I asked a classmate who had mastered the concept and they broke it down, it just clicked. Here’s an example from class today:

Me: *Went over my lesson on the types of critical thinking questions* Now, class, look at these three sentences. With your group and your notes, try to figure out what type of questions these are.
Student 1: Teacher, I don’t understand the difference between Application questions and Creation/Synthesis questions.
Me: That’s a great question. Can another student try to explain it to her?
Student 2: An application question is a question that just has one answer, it’s like a math problem. You solve it with information the same way every time. One plus one always equals two. A creation/synthesis question is similar, you are using information, but there can be many answers you can create using knowledge.

Even I was impressed with Student 2’s answer. I hadn’t thought about it that way. Sure enough, that was just what Student 1 needed to understand. I would be lying if I said Student 2’s answer didn’t help me understand it in a simpler terms.

I told the class, “Sometimes, I am not the best teacher for you!” They laughed like I was crazy because if I  was the teacher and didn’t have all the answers, what was I doing in front of the classroom? I told them, “Sometimes your friends who understand it can explain it to you in a good way to help you understand. Don’t be afraid to ask your classmates for help. ” Plus, it does feel good as the teacher to see a student who just gets it well enough to teach it themselves.

So, fellow educators, don’t be afraid to let the students teach one another by answering their own questions. They may just surprise you!

Teaching Practical Skills | Bonus: Context Clues Activity

Teaching Practical Skills | Bonus: Context Clues Activity

It’s been quite a few months since I have updated this thing! Life gets busy and sometimes we get into reflection slumps (or is this just me?)- which are just as frustrating as reading slumps are to readers. I feel I am slowly coming out of this slump and ready to start exploring my teaching (and sharing ideas) again!


My teaching style has never been much of the sage on the stage. I like setting my classes into groups, give them a little practical knowledge or skill, and set them off on a task, allowing them time to explore this new topic, making their own mistakes -or being guided to one when needed. All the while I am down in the trenches with them, weaving through their desks and hopping over bags, offering advice, checking their progress, and noticing common issues to address for spontaneous mini lessons. As such, a lot of the material that I center my class around is less about a reading and its associated vocabulary and grammar (that I am sure they will soon forget), but instead using these as the tools to get them to apply practical skills.

Over the last couple of years, I noticed that a lot of my freshmen were not coming in with knowledge of basic skills. Skills that I believed were essential regardless of the language. Skills that make them better readers, that teach them how to understand words or grammar using only what they have available in the moment, organize their thoughts,  pick through a reading to really understand it (which didn’t entail knowing every single word-contrary to how they believed), and to think more critically about the work they were doing.

I do not doubt that some of my higher level students had these skills figured out, no matter the language. It is easy to pick out the students who have had a good experience in school and really excelled. They are always the ones smiling, sitting at the front of the desk, and whose hands shoot up before I even have a question finished. But I can’t help but look at the other, less enthusiastic students and imagine why they were so over learning, especially English. I look at them and feel they are missing so much, because these skills that I learned in school have never stayed at school. I use skills like skimming and scanning, inference, context clues, and asking critical questions in all areas of my life. When I read a book or when I watch a movie. My life is much richer because of it. Tests never intimidated me like they did my peers, like they do many of my students. I don’t think it was because I knew everything or spent all night cramming the night before, but because I felt comfortable and confident in my study/life skills to engage with material effectively.

This semester, I decided to apply this approach to my academic English four-skills course. Half of the class is dedicated to understanding the textbook’s standard material (i.e. vocabulary, grammar, and a reading) and the other half is dedicated to these skill sets. Also, the skills were selected and arranged to build upon each other and are recycled week after week in class. It’s only the sixth week of the semester and I already see changes in my classes, even lower leveled students or students who really can’t be bothered with English anymore. I look forward to seeing how this approach works overall by the end of the semester.


Bonus! Context Clue Activity

This past April’s Fools Day on social media was full of just as many gems as any other year, but one video stuck out at me and inspired me. This video was of an elementary school teacher who was giving his kids a spelling test…full of made up words. This sounded like fun as a teacher- probably cruel to his students-, but it stuck into a part of my brain that was already thinking about my lesson this week where I was introducing students to how to use context clues. Why couldn’t I give my students made up words embedded in a sentence or paragraph and they use the clues to guess the meaning?

After teaching the lesson and watching them work in groups as they applied the skill, I heard higher leveled students whisper the word in Korean to their partners. It’s bound to happen and I do not think the L1 should be restricted from the FL classroom, but in this instance it essentially deflected the purpose of the skill. This reaffirmed the need for my diabolical idea to be actualized.

Prerequisites: Teach context clues. I liked this website for reference.

Preparation: Questions that mirror the skill sets that you have taught. (i.e. I taught 6 types of context clues in both sentences and paragraphs, so I would create both types of question types.) Be sure to insert made up words into the paragraph and underline. Depending on your students’ levels, they could be given possible definitions or be asked to write one themselves.

Reading Quiz Challenge! Activity | Four Skills

Reading Quiz Challenge! Activity | Four Skills

Normally, reading is a somewhat solitary activity. Students may answer comprehension questions from a book or teacher about the contents of the reading. They may also encounter it again on the test, but this is usually about it. I love reading and as a teacher, I want to make it more fun and interactive for my students.

This is an activity that I did last week in my Conversation English II course that the class seemed to really enjoy. This is a freshman-level English course so students are generally at a lower level (high beginner to intermediate).

Before the Activity (5 minutes)

  1. Review grammar for asking and answering questions. This activity was designed to have students practice asking and answering questions. As my students were in the second conversation course, they should know how to do this, but I wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page before we began.

Reading the Text (5 minutes)

  1. Start by having students in groups. My students are in tables of 4 every class and this number works well for my class size.
  2. Give students the text and adequate time to read it.
  3. Make sure students don’t have questions about the reading before moving on. 

Comprehension Questions (5-10 minutes)

  1. Students should establish one person as their scribe. They can do this with rock-paper-scissors or a democratic process of their choice. I highly recommend always taking 10 seconds for students to chose a person to write for the whole group.
  2. Have students now write as many comprehension questions about the text as possible. You may want to give them a number as a goal or simply a time limit to complete the task within. But the more the better in this case. I originally gave students 5 minutes to write 10 questions but they asked for more time.
  3. Walk around and check grammar as they work. This is a chance for one-on-one feedback and to see if the students understand the grammar. You may choose to review the topic if you see reoccurring grammatical issues.

Challenge Activity (10-15 minutes)

  1. Have students close their books. I did not tell my students this in the beginning of the assignment because I didn’t want any to take notes or be sneaky about trying to win. They are allowed to discuss (in English) before giving an answer (in English) so they can draw from their teammates’ knowledge.
  2. Now draw a grid on the board with a space for each team. This is where you will record their points. I set a goal of the first team to 3 wins because of time, but you could easily draw it out for 5+ for more time.
  3. Explain how points work to students. You may adjust the rules as you see fit, but how I did it was that teams will take turns challenging a team of their choice with a question. The team that received the question will have ten seconds to discuss and come up with an answer. If the answer is correct, the team that answered will get the point. If the team is wrong, the challenging team will receive the point. My students really started to use strategy and pick questions and opponents more carefully.
  4. Play until you get x of points or time runs out. An issue I found was some students created questions that had an answer with three parts and the challenging team got 2/3. I asked the teams what they felt was fair and they said that they’d split the points, so that is what we did, but you may design otherwise. Other than this, the game went by very smoothly and they had a lot of laughs.

I have some very competitive students and when we finally had a winner, they asked what they won. I said, “More practice with English!” and the class all laughed, but you may decide to give everyone participation points or just the winning team.

Although this was a conversation class and the activity centered around a reading, there was a lot of speaking and the questioning and answering was not too challenging so I found it accessible for even lower level students who weren’t confident.

If you give this a go in your class or have tried something similar, I would love to hear about it!

What I Have Learned From Assigning Group Work

What I Have Learned From Assigning Group Work

My third semester at university is coming to an end and the projects and presentations along with it. In my academic English class which happened to be flipped (learning at home and work in class), production skills were focused on in class.

As such, I gave a group presentation + essay as their semester project. Students had half of class time to work in their groups on a topic related to the chapters in the book. Some examples of general themes were People (famous people), Sports and Competition, Technology, Weather, Language, Business, Culture, etc. Once students chose a theme, they had to develop a topic within it. This in itself was difficult which I will explain later. The rest of the assignment required students to research and develop an essay, then to present that essay in normal presentation style.

These students were all high level (over 700 TOEIC score) but they still had trouble that I imagine many Korean university students will have and that other educators may encounter. I would like to share what I did to address these issues and some things that I noticed.

1. Choosing a Topic

I recently saw a video that talked about the steps to critical thinking (a skill I have heard many teachers complain their students lacked). The first of the 5 steps was “formulating a question”. This sounds easy, especially for people from some backgrounds, but my students found it extremely difficult. The initial topics they were giving me were simply, “Global Warming” or “Types of Food Festivals Around the World”. When I then asked them what value their classmates will get from this topic, they couldn’t give me an answer. Whats more, when I asked them if they had any critical questions about these topics, they said no.

My Solution:

I guided each group to a topic that: 1. gave them a better goal to focus their research, 2. forced them to think beyond the research, and 3. had value or offered something to their lives whether it be a new way of thinking, a solution, or simply new knowledge about some aspect of their lives. In hindsight, I could give these three aspects as requirements for selecting a topic beforehand and let them find the answer on their own.

2. Research Sources

When I was looking at a lot of their research being reviewed together in class, I noticed many students had research done in Korean. In other classes, I noticed information students gave me as a result of Naver (Korea’s answer to Google) searches or information found in their native language was very different from my understanding of the topic that I had researched prior to class myself where I was using Google and English respectively. Different countries and their internet culture is a result of their real life culture and ways of thinking. Similarly, the information they post is more limited than information posted in the world’s Lingua Franca.

My Solution:

Unfortunately, I forgot this when designing this project and did not require students to do their research in English, but for future classes this will certainly be how I solve this issue. This will also help students use resources like Citation Machine to easily site sources from the internet or books.

3. Knowing Where to Focus

The next problem came during the stage where they had done their research and were starting to write an essay. In class we discussed the usual, what the parts of an essay are and what sort of information should be included in them. There were some small issues with the introduction and conclusion which I know are a result of Korean essay structure that were easy to correct. The biggest problem was in the information included in body paragraphs. A bulk of what the students were doing were simply regurgitating information like it was a history lesson or a basic presentation of facts.

When I asked them if this is what is normally what is required of them in previous projects, they said yes.  Presenting facts as part of a presentation is not a problem in itself but this goes back to what their topics were. I had students with great topics like, “Anna Sullivan: Hellen Keller’s Teacher” where they wanted to focus on the importance of a good teacher, but two entire paragraphs of their body were simply restating her history and one paragraph addressed her work. Many students had this issue. They were having trouble assessing how to select the most relevant research, how to organize and apply it in their essay.

My Solution:

Because my class was flipped, students did most of their work in class where I was able to walk around and read their drafts and give direct feedback. Another benefit of the flipped classroom is that students have an LMS available to communicate with me easily so they would send me their rough drafts and I gave them feedback online. Only two groups out of 19 did not take my advice in their final presentation, but the other students really reorganized and presented their information well in the end.

4. Working in Groups

In previous semesters, more outspoken students who worked in groups were verbal about how unfair it was that lazier students received the same grade as them. Unfortunately, at that time because of how the grading rubric was set up, I could not alter grades in a justifiable manner. I do not know anyone who hasn’t worked in groups before and not experienced it first hand. It sucks. So this semester, I wanted to put an element into the project to safeguard those students who did their work.

Also, I saw students begin work the first day and listening to them, they started to work but none of them did a really important task: assign roles and divide the work. They were simply pushing ahead at full force in a very difficult manner. I watched them thinking how different my priorities were in group work when I did in the United States.

My Solution:

First, to address the issue of group work burden, I gave the class ideas on how to divvy up the work and steps in which to do this effectively. They were:

  1. Establish a group leader who has good leadership qualities (specifically communication, time management, and organization.
  2. Break each part of the assignment (presentation/essay) into its parts.
  3. Assignment parts to members (I also suggested that they had due dates for each of the parts).
  4. Decide on a date to have the project finished before the final deadline and work as a group to edit and make sure the parts were cohesive and fluid.

To protect against bad group members, a separate 5 points of the total 30 points were designated just for group participation which they were told about in advance. You can view it below:

Google Forms is great for creating, distributing, collecting, and analyzing surveys to your students. The new design is also really user friendly.

I looked at each group member’s results, averaged the scores given by the other members well as for them self, and this was how.  I would recommend having them do this the last day of the presentation as their exit ticket for the day to ensure that all students complete this.

**A note: When I looked at the results and comments posted by students in the survey results, the biggest issues were communication, but there were other issues especially with male students refusing to answer their female group members or to do work that was assigned to them by their female group leader. It also happened that many of the male students were older as a result of having returned after military service and as such are in a higher social position. This isn’t the first time older male students had trouble working in groups and doing their fair share. My only guess is the cultural social hierarchy in place. I would love to know if there is a solution for this. 

5. Presentation Skills

Presenting is definitely a skill. I don’t think anyone know this better than new, introverted teachers. After three years, some workshops, and many YouTube videos, I am at home in front of the classroom and have fixed a lot of my old issues with how I present. On the other hand, my students are just starting out and it showed.

Students presentation skills really lacked in the typical regards: reading from slides, facial expressions, nerves, audience engagement (which was part of the requirements), etc. I have also noticed in the past that student Power Points are very linear, dull, or text heavy.

My Solution:

This was my first semester teaching this course, so there were a few big oversights that occurred. This was one of them. The next time this class is taught, I will have students do more in class activities working to present and addressing issues all semester so that when it is the end of the semester and they are presenting, they will have it down.

One thing I did do was address the visual part of the presentation. I set requirements like a maximum of 15 words per slides and 1 idea per slide. This really helped with the visuals but less prepared students relied too heavily on scripts, which I will limit or restrict in the next course.


 

This class was no where near perfect, especially since it was my first time designing a class completely from the bottom up in a new approach, but despite the mistakes it was a lot of fun and I learned a lot. I hope other teachers can benefit and make group work beneficial and enjoyable for their students.

What’s Wrong With Your Face

What’s Wrong With Your Face

This past week as I went about teaching I thought about faces. We as educators rely on our students’ faces to know whether or not they understood a topic, if they are following the class, or if they are even interested in what we are teaching them. I value my students’ expressive faces because it is an important tool for me to gauge what is going on in my class with each student. This can be difficult for a large portion of less enthusiastic students, but when I get them engaged with even a simple hello or a get a smile out of them with a joke, the class can really begin. But this week I noticed something.

This week I noticed something about faces, not theirs this time but about my own.

I ask a lot of questions to my students. Sometimes they are content questions about the topic at hand, other times I ask them to repeat what I have just instructed, or questions directly about readings or videos. After the questions, I noticed all of my students looked intently at my face for a second or two and then would answer…almost always correctly. What were they seeing?

Noon-chi, a Korean Superpower

Korea has an amazing culture. I am always struck by the way that those Koreans I meet can often time read such subtle changes in the atmosphere. This phenomenon they call noon-chi (눈치). Now, I didn’t come to Korea with a bit of noon-chi, but over time I have tried to apply the principle in my life here and it is a skill slow-coming, but coming nonetheless.

Noon-chi In the Classroom

How does one use these mysterious superpowers? By careful observation.

When I noticed my students’ brief pause before answering even simple yes or no questions, I also saw how closely they were looking at my face which prompted me to ask, “What are they seeing on my face?” My first guess was that I must be seeing the answer somewhere.

Testing a Theory

To see if I was somehow hinting to the answers I was looking for, I kept teaching regularly, but I felt how my face reacted depending on the kind of question. What I noticed was that I smiled a lot more with positive answers and restricted my facial features with negative answers.

After that, when I asked students a question, I purposefully gave a “negative” facial expression with a positive question. For example, if I asked my students, “So, it’s okay to ask a native speaker to slow down, right?” I frowned or looked somewhat reserved. Now, we had just read a passage that said it was perfectly all right and actually gave suggestions on how to ask the question, but surprisingly, several students said, “No.”

What Was Happening

My students were reading what the answer would be because I was already telling them.

I might as well not had asked them the question in an effort to check their comprehension. I made their mistake good fun, then went about class. Then I tried this test again in the same hour, and again they fell for it! Several more times I brought their attention to what they were doing as well as what I was doing and finally they caught on to it. No longer could they rely on my  face and had to pay more attention to my questions. And it worked. When they didn’t understand, they were forced to tell me they didn’t know the answer (which still gives them participation points for their honesty).


 

Final thoughts on this: teachers need to be aware of so much in the classroom, especially the small things. And students successes, may not be because they’ve learned the content, but because they have learned us. We as educators need to take a deeper look at what is going on with our students and reflect on what is going on (or what isn’t) with ourselves. 

Designing a Course | The Syllabus

Designing a Course | The Syllabus

I wanted to reflect on my process of creating a course by breaking down the steps involved. These posts probably hold nothing for more experienced teachers, but maybe newer teachers will benefit from them.

The first thing I have started to do was design the syllabus. There are plenty of resources out there but I wanted to compile the ones I found most useful.

Before You Start

Before I could start on designing my course and my syllabus, I had to ask myself a few questions:

  • Who are my students?
  • What are they capable of?
  • What skills will they have when they come to me?
  • What skills will I have to teach them?
  • What do I want them to learn?
  • How will I get them there?
  • How will I assess that they are learning the material?

After answering these questions, I have a general idea of the direction I am heading it. Sitting down to design the syllabus is my next step in creating a course.

What Your Syllabus Must Include

Basic Information

This includes information about:

  • the instructor
    • name
    • ways to contact them (email, fax, phone numbers)
    • office hours
    • office location
  • the course
    • class name and number
    • meeting times and location

Course Description

In this section, teachers should provide a general overview of the course as well as prerequisite skills/courses that students should have. This section should also have a summary of the course, learning outcomes, who this course is designed to benefit most, how it works into the whole department.

I would add materials here as well. This includes the textbook (author, title, edition, etc.) and any supplemental materials.

Course Topics and Schedule

I was provided a syllabus this past semester for my conversations classes and there were issues, the biggest one being the schedule. The schedule had to change because changes were still being made after the beginning of the semester. Many of the students complained and were obviously confused. I don’t blame them.

Laying out clear dates for assignments and when topics will be covered helps the instructor stay organized and it allows you to see the steps you’re taking for the goals you outlined for your class clearly.

Include special dates like holidays, firm dates for exams, and tentative plans for topics.

Course Policies and Values

Now the fun stuff. Here are the rules for the class. What is your (or your university’s) policies for attendance, tardiness, eating in class, cell phones, class participation, expectations of behavior? How do you treat absences in regards to make-up work, missed work, late work? If a student misses, how do you handle excuses (doctors note versus prescription)? How do grades work in your class? Is there extra credit? Academic honesty/plagiarism?

Resources for Students

Most students admit to me they don’t read the syllabus, but I might be a  little optimistic in assuming all students don’t. For those students, I want to include a list of resources that could prove useful. For my academic writing course, this includes websites for

For my academic writing course, this includes websites for citations, additional practice (including topics for writing), or editting software like Grammarly.

Judging a Book by Its Cover

Appearance is important as well as how we receive information. Simple black and white text is not nearly as visually appealing nor is it always welpubsyllabus-largel organized to be read easily. That being said, in my research, some teachers have really updated the traditional Microsoft Word typed syllabus. Word actually has some newspaper templates but there is also different options like inforgraphic styles that could really razz up your syllabus. Here are some examples:

Resources I used: