The Many Purposes of Course Syllabi: Which are Essential and Useful?

Susan Breakenridge Fink


Syllabi are part of a higher education institution’s structure just like the people (students and faculty), buildings, and books. However, syllabi also play a variety of valuable functions such as a communication mechanism, a planning tool for instructors, a course plan for students, a teaching tool or resource, an artifact for teacher evaluation, and evidence for accreditation. The function a syllabus serves depends on who is using it. While there are some similarities in use, overall students, faculty, administrators, and accreditation personnel all use the document for different purposes.

The purpose of the study was to explore how instructors at a mid-sized Midwest four-year undergraduate private university view the purpose/function of syllabi on a scale for ‘essential’ and ‘useful’. It was found that the syllabi purposes that instructors viewed as essential and useful were: a Communication Mechanism, a Planning Tool for Instructors, a Course Plan for Students, and a Contract.

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ISSN 2163-3177

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