What your students need to know
There is no universal, prescribed set of College policies pertaining to student attendance and grading of student performance. However, it is vital that each faculty member spell out clearly his/her particular requirements for a given course as part of a syllabus provided to students at the beginning of the term (students will expect a syllabus on the first day of class). In general, students need to know what is expected of them, when their work is due and how their performance will be evaluated.
It’s an excellent idea to ask your department chair for sample syllabi in your discipline and to ask specifically about student workload norms (typical number of exams/quizzes; pages of reading per week; written pages; attendance, etc.) in your department. The Teaching Commons website has a range of helpful links and resources to support you in designing courses and in writing excellent syllabi.
One of the most important tasks your syllabus needs to accomplish is to make your expectations clear. General Rule of Thumb: If you have a course policy, state it clearly on the syllabus. At the very least your syllabus should include information about your expectations in the following areas:
- Attendance: is it required? What penalties, if any, are incurred by absences?
- Deadlines: what are the deadlines for submission of papers, lab reports, take home exams, etc.? What is the grading policy regarding late work or failure to submit required assignments?
- Make up tests: are these given? Under what conditions?
- Lab attendance: is it required? How is lab work graded?
- The percentages awarded the various elements of the course: participation, attendance, labs, tests, papers, homework, etc.
- Final Examinations: Students often seek to change a scheduled final exam for a number of reasons. College policy states that final exams must be given in the period scheduled by the registrar (see Registrar web page for exam schedule). It is a disservice to students and colleagues to schedule a final exam during the tenth week of the quarter because student energies are drained from other courses in order to prepare for such an exam. However, College policy states that when a student has three scheduled exams within a 24‐hour period, that student may re‐schedule one of the exams. No instructor is required to honor any other requests to change the scheduled time of a final examination.
The syllabus should also include:
- Faculty member’s name, contact information, and office hours (usually a minimum of 3 per course)
- Course number and title
- Texts to be used
- Course Goals and Key Learning Objectives
- An estimate for the weekly time commitment for the course outside of class.
- Weekly schedule, including due dates of major assignments and tests
- Requirements and method for calculating grades
- Rubric for what constitutes participation
- Policy on attendance/tardiness
- Policy on late work and make‐ups
- Statements on academic integrity. (Feel free to use language from Student Development website or something like:
“This course operates under the College Honor System. That means: we treat each other with respect, we nurture independent thought, we take responsibility for personal behavior, and we accept environmental responsibility. Academic honesty is a critical part of our value system at K. When you borrow an idea, either express it in your own words, thus thinking it through and making it your own, and acknowledge the borrowing in a note, or, in certain situations, use the exact words of the source in quotation marks and acknowledge with a note. Ideas raised in class are public domain and need not be acknowledged. If you are ever in doubt about this, you must ask.”
In addition, it is advised that you provide information about what, in addition to the college policies, constitutes academic misconduct in your class. For example, do you have specific expectations related to group work – what constitutes collaboration and what constitutes plagiarism or collusion? Are there online resources (translators, calculators, and so on) that you wish to speak to so that students are clear about your expectations? If students engage in peer editing, what do you consider to be above and beyond editing? Listing consequences for plagiarism on your syllabus is also a good idea—even if you just decide on a range of consequences. Consequences at the college for a first offense are usually determined by the professor (in conjunction with student development) and can range from a verbal warning to failing the class.
- Statement on disabilities. Please include a statement on your syllabus similar to this:
“If you are a student with a disability who seeks accommodation or other assistance in this course, please let me know as soon as possible. Kalamazoo College is committed to making every effort to providing reasonable accommodations. If you want to discuss your overall needs for accommodation at the College, please direct questions to the Associate Dean of Students Office, (269) 337-7209. For more information, please see https://www.kzoo.edu/student-life/students-with-disabilities/.”
Note: you will receive documentation regarding student disabilities from the Dean of Students Office during the first week of classes. If a student claims a disability but has no college documentation, encourage her/him to schedule an appointment with the Associate Dean of Students so that such documentation can be provided to her/his professors from that office.
- If academic resources are available for your discipline, please include information about these on your syllabus (for example, the Writing Center, supplemental instruction in Biology and Chemistry, etc.). For more information about these, see following section regarding K’s Academic Resource Center.