Syllabus Day

By Melissa Adamo

Syllabus day. That magical time when professors read the syllabus at students until their eyes glaze over. No wonder they never remember anything from the syllabus or feel motivated to look back at it ever again.

Over the past couple of years, I have tried to make syllabus day more interactive. I’ve told students to highlight specific policies that they knew they’d personally need to remember (for example, late policies for those who struggle with punctuality). I told them to take notes, reframe parts in their own words, jot down questions as I go through it with them. I wanted to show them that the syllabus was a text like any other we would read in our class and to have them start practicing active reading skills on day one. Although this lesson was more helpful in engaging students compared to when I simply read through the syllabus quickly (boring even myself), I could tell I was still losing their attention.

This year I tried something different.

Inspired by Lisa Blankenship’s professional development last semester, when we worked in groups to examine language on a syllabus that might excluded some students, I asked my students to critique my syllabus in a similar fashion. Continue reading