The syllabus is an essential feature of any course. While instructors often approach the syllabus as a contract that lays out expectations for what learners can expect in a course, it actually accomplishes much more. The information that we include, the language we choose to use, and the expectations we set all send implicit signals to our students. In order to develop a course that is truly mindful of equity, it is essential to consider how the course syllabus may impact the way that students of differing backgrounds might interpret what is written.
This syllabus review guide (PDF), developed by the Center for Urban Education, helps you examine all aspects of your syllabus through a racial/ethnic equity lens. The reflection activities will ask you to think about questions such as:
- What is currently in my syllabus and why is it there?
- Who is my syllabus actually designed to serve - the institution or the students?
- To what degree is my syllabus demonstrating that I value equity?
Throughout the guide are examples of how to reconstruct your syllabus to be more welcoming to students of diverse backgrounds. Along the way, you’ll think about the messages that aspects of your course are sending to your students, which will allow you to reflect on how you can enhance equity in all aspects of your teaching practice. When thinking about how you might implement some of these examples in your own courses, it is important to remember that there are other aspects to inclusivity, such as the accessibility of your documents, that you'll want to keep in mind when developing resources for students.