Syllabus Tone: It Matters!

A syllabus provides students with information about a course and its requirements, but it also conveys messages about the instructor’s personality and hints as to how the course will be conducted. It used to be that the instructor handed out the syllabus on the first day. Along with the syllabus, student impressions were formed by the instructor’s physical presence and conduct of that first class session. Now syllabi may be posted on course websites. Students meet the instructor after having reviewed the syllabus or, in the case of online courses, there may never be a face-to-face encounter. These circumstances make paying attention to the tone of the syllabus even more important. First impressions matter. They can influence how students respond throughout the course.

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