Center for Teaching and Learning

Brandeis University Syllabus Template

The syllabus can be understood in different ways by different people:

  • It is a “contract” that describes all important course information
  • It is an invitation to learning
  • It is both

Regardless of how you view the document, it is important to create a syllabus that is learning-focused rather than content-focused (Palmer, Wheeler, & Aneece, 2016). Content-focused syllabi describe the rules (what students will and will not do and how they will be rewarded or punished) and list requirements in an abstract way with an emphasis on due dates. Learning-focused syllabi emphasize what students will learn, highlight big ideas or questions that will be explored, explain how the engagement will take place, and describe how student learning will be demonstrated to the instructor and students themselves. Often the difference between the two is the tone of the writing. Compare the following examples:

Content-focused syllabus Learning-focused syllabus
Students are required to write a 4-5 page, double-spaced paper addressing [specific topic or question]... Students are required to write a 4-5 page, double-spaced paper addressing [specific topic or question]...
Students are expected to have completed all reading assignments prior to coming to class. Consistent, active class participation contributes 10% to a students’ overall grade in the course. In order to include the perspectives of all learners in our class, it is my hope and expectation that you will have completed the reading assignments prior to our class meetings, so that you can fully and actively participate in discussion. Your consistent and active contributions to class discussion will earn 10% of your overall course grade.

While there is no one perfect syllabus, we hope that these guidelines will help faculty apply best practices for creating effective syllabi. We are very much interested in receiving feedback on the guidelines and the Syllabus Template. You can send us an email at to share your feedback or to ask a question. We are here to help!

The Committee on Teaching, Learning, and Assessment advises that all Brandeis University syllabi must be accessible (in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and revised ADA regulations) and must provide Important Brandeis Policies and Resources.

The Center for Teaching and Learning offers syllabus reviews and help with constructing course materials, assignments, and activities. Contact for support.




These additional resources for syllabus design may be useful.

Q&A About the Brandeis University Syllabus Template