UTA Course Policies & Resources
Syllabus Mechanics and Required Content
Each course must have a syllabus and use the syllabus template, accessible by searching the UT Arlington website with the following phrase: Syllabus Template for Academic Year 20xx-xx (insert academic year, e.g. 2018-19, 2019-20). The Office of the Provost has provided a copy of the 2020-2021 Course Syllabus Template.
It is effective to introduce your syllabus with an interesting introduction to the subject matter of the courses, interesting activities, or other aspects of the course that will draw students to the course, piquing their interest or excitement in the subject matter. Access to syllabi from current and past semesters is available online at Syllabi Lookup. Below are examples of some great and interesting introductions for a syllabus.
1. Instructor Biography
One professor, for example, presents her students with an “instructor biography” after she provides the basic course information. In it she describes her teaching and research background, together with her own academic goals and basic personal information (family and hobbies). This bio not only informs students of the instructor’s qualifications, but also puts a human face on the person who will teach the course, especially good for students who are intimated by faculty members’ rank.
2. Goals of the Course
Another professor provides an introduction to her course, stating the goals of the course within context in a way that is relevant to students: Linking the historical nature of some of the content to the world of today.
Along with being a contract between instructors and students, a syllabus is a way to help your students orient to a course by providing them, for example, with a sense of the atmosphere of the course, an understanding of the focus of the course, brief background information on a problem the course addresses, and your passion about the subject matter. It often provides resources to which they can refer during the semester, and the schedule therein contains guiding timeline information for them.
In addition to all the required elements of a syllabus, some of which express your objectives and goals for students, your syllabus should also be a reflection of your own understanding, enthusiasm, and passion for the subject matter. Even if you are teaching a course outside of your research area, or in an area of lesser interest to you, your syllabus should reflect your understanding of the importance of the subject matter.
In the syllabus, immediately before or after the course schedule, you are encouraged to include the following verbiage (or something similar):
“As the instructor for this course, I reserve the right to adjust this schedule in any way that serves the educational needs of the students enrolled in this course. –First M. Last.”
It often happens that during in the semester, often around spring break in the spring semester or mid-semester in the fall, you will see that your syllabus needs to be tweaked. Perhaps you have received feedback from students about a matter or requested formative assessment of the course by your students; seen in formative assessments (non-graded quizzes, randomly accessed in large classes, for example) you have had students do, that students are not “getting” a key idea or problem solution; or having considered the experience, background, and needs of your students, you have noted that the syllabus should be tweaked. At that point, you may wish to revise your timeline, adding or subtracting tasks but not altering key aspects of the syllabus (i.e., adding or deleting an exam that counts for 10% of the grade).
Four times per semester, you will be asked to submit student grades via your MyMav grade roster: four weeks into the semester, at mid-term, and at the end of the semester (official grades). The first grades are intended to catch any students who are already falling behind, in order to proactively intervene. These grades can be an excellent “wake-up call” for students as well. Your assessment need not be elaborate, but rather anything to ascertain whether students understand key concepts introduced thus far.
At mid-semester you can again assess whether your students are falling behind. Interventions for at-risk students can help at these points, whether it be supplemental instruction, seeing you in your office face-to-face or virtually, seeking help from a librarian, or by seeing a counselor in the University Center.
Class Meeting Times
Faculty are required to adhere to the University’s official class meeting times. One-credit-hour classes meet for 50 minutes, and three-credit-hour Tuesday/Thursday classes meet for one hour and 20 minutes twice a week. It is important not to stay beyond the allotted class time, since some of your students will need the 10-minute break between classes to get to other classes and address personal needs.
Textbooks should be ordered in a timely manner. Usually a staff member in your department will be designated to order textbooks for you. Books from overseas require much longer lead time, so allow for that eventuality. Your own textbooks require special permission for use in your own courses. When choosing textbooks be aware of the retail price that students will have to pay. If there are comparable materials available at a lower price either in hard copy or online, consider those as well.