Creating a Quality Syllabus

The course syllabus is an essential document that serves as a contract between the student, the instructor, and the institution.

Creating a Quality Syllabus

Distributing the course syllabus is a time-honored tradition which marks the end of a student holiday and the return to the grind of academia. However, the often overlooked and much maligned course syllabus is an essential document that serves as a contract between the student, the instructor, and the institution. Most colleges and universities require the instructor to distribute a course syllabus during the first course meeting and that the instructor keep a copy of the syllabus on file with the Departmental or College.

In general, the syllabus should describe the nature of the course, grading expectations, and any other circumstances unique to the course. Table 1 presents an outline of information which should appear on the syllabus. Of course, not each section will be applicable to every situation. Instructors who are developing a course syllabus should also check with their Academic Dean regarding information which their institution mandates on a syllabus or any other pertinent policies.

Table 1--Suggested Information to be Included on a Course Syllabus

  • Course Title, Course Number, Term Offered
  • Instructor Name, Credentials, Office Location, Telephone Number,
  • Office Hours
  • Course Description
  • Course Credit, Lecture Hours, Laboratory Hours
  • Prerequsite Courses or Special Conditions
  • Textbooks and Other Required and Suggested Learning Resources
  • Course Objectives
  • Grading Criteria
  • Grading Scale
  • Attendance Policy
  • Institution or Program Specific Policies
  • Classroom Specific Policies
  • Daily Course Meeting Agenda

The syllabus is also a valuable resource outside of the classroom. During the accreditation process it serves as proof that specific competencies are being taught. Several state licensing boards require that applicants submit certain course syllabi along with their application. For this reason students should be encouraged to keep a "clean" copy of their syllabi in their records (programs may also consider supplying graduating students with a "portfolio" of their athletic training related syllabi and other pertinent material). Also, if a student transfers to another institution a syllabus may need to be provided when transfer credit is being evaluated.

Programmatically, complete and accurate syllabi are a "must" to keep on file. These document help to ensure the consistency of course content from year to year. Their existence proves to be invaluable when the course is being taught by a new instructor. For new instructors, a well designed syllabus will ease the process of planning for the course. When a multi-sectioned course is being taught by more than one instructor, each syllabus should ensure that one section is equivalent to the other.

Lastly, developing a quality syllabus is an ongoing process. Instructors should keep an "edit copy" of the syllabus in their course notebook, noting special concerns that arise when teaching the course. Instances of this type include allocating too much or too little time to a topic, particularly good or bad teaching methods, logistical concerns, and so on.

Following is a sample syllabus describing a hypothetical Prevention and Care of Athletic Injuries Course. Click on the appropriate link for more information relevant to the topic.

Prevention and Care of Athletic Injuries


Fall, 2000

Pat Santana, MS, ATC
1313 Classroom Building



Office Hours
M, W, Th 11:00 - 12:00
Or by appointment

Course Description

This course introduces the students to injuries commonly experienced by competitive athletes, discusses conditioning and evaluation methods used to identify and prevent injuries, and the basic management approaches used to treat injuries. This course also provides clinical experience and laboratory learning.

Course Credit: 4 Hr

  • Lectures: M, W, Th: 10:00 until 11:00
  • Laboratory : F: 9:00 until 12:00


  • Successful completion of AP1000, Anatomy/Physiology I
  • Formal admittance into the athletic training major

Required Texts:

Sports Injury Management (Anderson and Hall)

Principles of Athletic Training (Arnheim and Prentice), ed 8

Available at the University Book Store

Course Objectives:

At the completion of this course the student shall be able to:

  • Cite medical terms as established by Standard Nomenclature of Athletic Injuries
  • Locate various anatomical landmarks
  • Describe the anatomical planes of movement
  • Recognize the signs and symptoms of various athletic related injuries and illnesses
  • Identify the factors that predispose an athlete to injury by:
  1. The nature and fit of equipment worn
  2. The various environmental conditions to which the athlete is exposed
  3. The athlete's level of aerobic and anaerobic condition
  4. Muscle and joint flexibility and laxity
  5. Congenital conditions

(And so on...)

Clinical Proficiencies

List the appropriate clinical proficiencies for this course. To save paper and preserve the environment, the clinical proficiencies assigned to this course may be found in the master document (student handbook, clinical proficiency handbook, etc.) All proficiencies must be satisfactorily evaluated with an assigned instructor before the end of the semester.

Grading Scale and Criteria

The student's final grade will be based on the cumulative total number of points from each of the following evaluation techniques:

Evaluation Type


Points Each


Written Examinations




Final Examination








Lab Practical Examination












The student's final letter grade will be awarded based on the following scale:

A: 558 to 600 pts (93%)
A-: 540 to 557 pts (90%)
B+: 522 to 539 pts (87%)
B: 498 to 521 pts (83%)

B-: 480 to 497 pts (80%)
C+: 462 to 479 pts (77%)
C: 438 to 461 pts (73%)
C-: 420 to 437 pts (70%)

D+: 402 to 419 pts (67%)
D: 378 to 401 pts (63%)
D-: 360 to 377 pts (60%)
F: < 360 points.

Written Examinations
During this course two midterm examinations and one final examinations will be administered. The format of these examinations will be multiple choice, matching, and fill in the blank type questions. Each of the two midterm examinations will test the material covered during the prior class meetings. However the final examination will be comprehensive in nature.

Practical Examination
During finals week each student must schedule a 30 minute practical examination. The purpose of this examination is to evaluate the skills practiced during the laboratory classes. The types of skills which will be tested include, but are not limited to, splinting, crutch fitting, bandaging, and wrapping techniques.

Five multiple choice and/or fill in the blank quizzes will be administered during this course. These quizzes will cover only the information presented in class since the prior exam or quiz.

Make Up Work
Students who must miss an examination because of an excused absence must complete the assignment on their first day back from school. The instructor must be notified in advance in the case of a planned absence. In cases such as personal illness or family emergencies the instructor should be notified at the earliest possible moment. Examinations missed due to nonexcused absences shall not be made up.

Class Attendance Policy

Students are expected to attend each classroom and laboratory meeting. Three class meetings OR one laboratory session may be missed without affecting the student's final grade. For each additional absence the student's final grade will be lowered by 1/3 of a letter grade.

Other Course Policies

Non-programmable calculators may be used on examinations and quizzes. Students must wear shorts and t-shirts to all lab meetings.

ADA Policy

The department of (name) conforms to the disability policies of (institution). A student requiring assistance with the technical or physical portions of the course should contact the instructor or the office of student support services.

Course Agenda

Course Meeting




Sports Injury Assessment

SIM: 103 to 130
PAT: 234 to 252


Emergency Management Procedures

SIM: 57; 79 to 96
PAT:204 to 210


Cardiovascular Conditioning

PAT: 32 to 50


Lab: Spine boarding

SIM: 79 to 96
PAT: 204 to 210



Materials to Date

(Note: Agenda would carry out for the rest of the term.)

Course Title

The title of the course syllabus should exactly duplicate the course title presented in your institutions' course description catalog and as it will be recorded on the student's official transcript. In addition, the course title should be an accurate representation of its content. For example, "Prevention and Care of Athletic Injuries" is more descriptive than "Basic Athletic Training." (Back...)

Office Hours

Most institution have mandated the number of office hours which instructors must maintain and is generally based on the number of credit hours each course is worth. Check with your school's academic policy and procedure manual to determine your institution's policy. Students can file an institutional grievance if an instructor repeatedly fails to maintain the posted office hours. (Back...)

Course Description

This section should contain the course description found in your institution's Course Description Catalog. Also, if the instructor chooses to deviate from the intended content of the course (as described in the college catalog), the additions or deletions should be mentioned here. (Back...)

Credit Hours

The amount of credit awarded for the successful completion of a course is based on the number of classroom hours and laboratory hours required of a student per week (e.g., 1 lecture hour is equal to 1 credit hour; 3 laboratory hours is equal to 1 credit hour). Other required student assignments, clinical experiences for example, may increase a course's credit. Note that the syllabus should identify whether the credit awarded is based on quarter hours or semester hours. (Back...)


This section details the prior course experience that a student must have prior to enrolling in this course. These prerequisites are normally determined when the course is proposed to your institution's curriculum committee. Other types of special conditions which might have to be met before a student enrolls in a course include formal admittance into a major or academic rank. The instructor may grant permission to wave the prerequisite requirement in select cases. (Back...)


This section may also contain other supplemental resources such as journal articles, computer software, web sites, or videos. The instructor may also suggest other reading assignments to enhance the students' learning experience. (Back...)

Course Objectives

Well defined course objectives ease the process of writing lesson plans and constructing examinations. To meet this criteria, course objectives should be written in measurable, behavioral terms. A verb should describe a measurable behaviors such as "identify," "locate," "describe," and so on. Note that these terms are much more easily and objectively measured than terms such as "understand," "know," and "learn." A noun should describe the exact nature of the tasks the student is to perform.

Many course objectives can be extracted from professional education documents. In the case of Athletic Training, the NATA Board of Certification's Role Delineation Study documents the skills and knowledge required of entry-level athletic trainers. The NATA Education Council publish the Athletic Training Educational Competencies (ed 3) that places the content of the Role Delineation Study into cognitive, psychomotor, and affective educational objectives and identifies the Clinical Proficiencies. (Back…)

Grading Scale and Criteria

The syllabus must describe the methods and weights of how the students' performance and knowledge will be evaluated. The number of examinations, papers, projects, and so on should be commensurate with the number of course credit hours. The point scale by which the student's final grade is determined should be explicitly stated to the student. Many institutions have predefined their grade scale system (i.e., 93% or above is an A).

The syllabus should also describe the general nature of each course assignment so that the student will understand the instructor's expectations. Detailed assignments such as term papers or project should be more specifically detailed in a separate document if it is impractical to include this information in the syllabus.

The syllabus must also describe the policy for making up missed assignments due to excused and unexcused absences. Institutions generally have written policies regarding make up work for students who have missed assignments. (Back...)

Course Attendance Policy

Should the student be "forced" to attend class? That topic has been the subject of much debate, yet still there is no clear-cut answer. Generally, the attendance policy for professional courses is stricter than for elective courses and an age old rule of thumb is that the student can miss one class for every course credit hour. The best rule is consistency. If the instructor does choose to implement an attendance policy, it should be upheld. (Back...)

ADA Policies

The accreditation Standards & Guidelines state that programs must present technical standards for admission into the program.(Back...)

Other Policies

Various institutions may mandate that teachers explicitly state the course policy regarding the use of calculators, computers, tape recorders, and other instruments. Other policies may include lab attire, eating in the classroom or laboratory, and the use of special safety devices such as lab coats, goggles, and gloves. (Back...)

Course Agenda

This is the section that most often comes to mind when one thinks of a syllabus. This section should detail the topic of discussion for that day's course and identify to the student any reading assignments which must be completed prior to class, the due dates for papers, and dates of examinations. Some instructors may detail this information on a day-to-day basis (which is harder to plan) while other present the information on a week-to-week or unit basis (which tends to be less specific).

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