Students Prefer “Learning-Focused Syllabus” to “Content-Focused Syllabus”
What is this Research About?
Most syllabi used in Canadian universities are “content-focused,” mainly consisting of the class schedule, grading scheme, and policies. “Learning-focused syllabi” include additional information about the goals and learning outcomes of the course, assessment of learning, and ways for students to be successful. This study compared student perceptions of a content-focused and a learning-focused syllabus for a history course.
What did the Researchers Do?
The researchers randomly assigned participants to rate a content-focused or a learning-focused syllabus for a history course.
What did the Researchers Find?
The researchers found that students preferred many aspects of the learning-focused syllabus and indicated that they would be more likely to return to the learning-focused syllabus throughout the semester. Specifically, students rated the learning-focused syllabus as more interesting and thorough than the content-focused syllabus. Some participants described the learning-focused syllabus as difficult to follow (possibly because they were not used to the style). Students expected the course described in the learning-focused syllabus to be more engaging, more rigorous, and include more active learning strategies. Students rated the instructor in the learning-focused syllabus as more caring, encouraging, and approachable. These results suggest that creating a learning-focused syllabus is a low-stakes way for instructors to motivate students to succeed in their course. For a sample learning-focused syllabus, view the Wheeler et al (2019)
article - Appendix C.