Pedagogy Corner: Course Design and Syllabus Construction

Course design and syllabus construction are largely based on the priorities, goals, and content as determined by an individual faculty member. As such, they can greatly differ in length, format, and style. Ultimately, how a faculty member designs a course and what they choose to include in the syllabus will vary. Included here are are some resources, including examples of statements, any faculty member can use, and might include on a syllabus.

As a matter of practice akin to what happens in the classroom, this page will be updated and revised as needed. Return often for updates!

Course Design

Syllabus Construction: A best practice that sets an effective course apart from an ineffective one is its ability to establish shared accountability among faculty and students, and to do so by clearly communicating expectations as it relates to academic integrity, grading, collaborative work, course workload, and learning objectives. The syllabus offers an opportunity to do just that. Rather than providing students with  general principles as they embark upon a course, it is always better to provide clear statements of expectation.

Syllabi Statements (e.g. Academic Integrity, Student Workload, Academic Accommodations, etc.).

    • Plagiarism and Academic Integrity. As an institution fundamentally concerned with the free exchange of ideas, Williams College has always depended on the academic integrity of each of its members. A student who enrolls at Williams thereby agrees to respect and acknowledge the research and ideas of others in his or her work and to abide by those regulations governing work stipulated by the instructor. Any student who breaks these regulations, misrepresents his or her own work, or collaborates in the misrepresentation of another’s work has committed a serious violation of this agreement. See the description of Williams’ honor code and system at: https://sites.williams.edu/honor-system/.
    • The Williams Honor Code applies to all graded work in this class. What you can and cannot use on each assignment has been explained above.. If you have any questions or concerns about how the Honor Code applies to any of the course assessments, I am happy to clarify. (Brianna Heggeseth/Statistics)
    • Honor Code. The emphasis in this class is on your learning. To that end, you are encouraged to collaborate with fellow students on problem sets and in preparing for class and the laboratory experiments. However, submitted written work should be your own. Any assistance received from fellow students or other sources (such as the literature, textbooks, the world-wide-web) should be acknowledged in writing. Cite literature and web references following the standards of the American Chemical Society (see course library page), and note your collaborators on the top right corner of assignments you hand in. The Williams College Honor Code, as outlined in the “Academic Honesty and Honor Code” in the Student Handbook, applies to all exams and all written work (see also http://sites.williams.edu/honor-system/). Copying materials from any source (such as those written by students who have already completed Chem 335 in a prior year) would be a violation of the Honor Code. If you are uncertain how the Honor Code applies to your work in this course, please ask me. (Christopher Goh/Chemistry)
    • Academic integrity is an essential part of collegiality and the exchange of ideas. This means that you should engage with and respect the research and ideas of others, you should properly document others’ ideas, and you should avoid the possibility of even unintentional plagiarism. Detailed information about the respective guidelines for each assignment will be explained and/or provided. You should become well acquainted with the Williams College Policy for Academic Honesty and the Honor Code as published in the Student Handbook. In keeping with the College’s policy, plagiarism, cheating, submitting another person’s work as your own, and all other behaviors characterized as academic dishonesty will be referred to the Honor Committee. Please also refer to The Eph Survival Guide at http://web.williams.edu/wp-etc/acad-resources/survival_guide/. (Rhon Manigault-Bryant/Africana Studies)
    • Honor code. Other portions of this syllabus explain when you are allowed to collaborate, and what sources you may use in your work. As a general rule, when you do consult other sources, you should acknowledge them in writing. The Williams College Honor Code applies to all work in this course. Academic integrity is your responsibility. Misunderstanding the policies is not an excuse; nor is being uninformed about them. If you want clarification on the academic integrity policies in this course, you are welcome to ask me at any time.
    • Academic Integrity and Collaboration. Students can exchange broad ideas or general approaches toward problem sets with other students, but may not engage in any joint writing or step-by-step problem solving. One way to be sure you are not violating the honor code is to refrain from writing/typing/crafting your response to the assignment with others. Rather, save the writing until you are on your own and working independently. (Marlene Sandstorm/Dean of the College)

    • Class Climate. Williams College values diversity and inclusion; I am committed to a climate of mutual respect, free of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, and other identities, in and out of the classroom. This class strives to be a learning environment that is usable, equitable, inclusive, and welcoming. If you anticipate or experience any barriers to learning, please come to me or a college administrator with your concerns. (Brianna Heggeseth/Statistics)
    • Learning environment and inclusivity. The Williams community embraces diversity of age, background, beliefs, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, and other visible and nonvisible categories. I welcome all students in this course and expect that all students contribute to a respectful, welcoming and inclusive environment. I will not tolerate discrimination, bias, or an unwelcoming environment. Please come to me or a college administrator if you feel unwelcome. (Chad Topaz/Mathematics)
    • Rules of Engagement. The class environment is a space where we are constantly asked to listen to others and to share our ideas—actions that are a reflection of who we are. Skillful communication and attentive listening can create a space that fosters intimacy, vulnerability, and risk-taking. As a result, the first and most fundamental principle for participating in this class is RESPECT. Inevitably, the course content, materials, and perspectives we engage may seem controversial or become potentially uncomfortable because we intentionally analyze “sensitive” issues regarding race, class, gender, religion and/or sexuality. These matters therefore require a concerted effort from participants to maintain a sense of maturity and integrity, but also respect for others at all times. I promise to do my best to model constructive communication and active listening, and to treat everyone in the class with respect. I expect that everyone in class will make their best effort to do the same. Remember, giving someone the benefit of the doubt is as much an act of grace as it is a sign of maturity. (Rhon Manigault-Bryant/Africana Studies)
    • Classroom Conversations. In so many ways, the work we accomplish hinges on our respect of each other and ourselves. We will hit on difficult, complicated, and high-stakes conversations. I want to see, and encourage you to show, your passion for the questions we raise and the debates that will likely occur. I also expect to see these happen in a generous environment. Be generous with your classmates and yourself, with what you know and what you don’t know. Be generous with me. At the same time, generosity includes accountability. We are responsible for our work in this course, for the words we say and how we say them. We can, and I speak from experience, have difficult conversations with humor and kindness, and these are the conversations we should strive for in this class. (C. Larracey/U. of Delaware (English))

    • Accommodation. It is my intent that students’ learning needs are addressed in and out of the classroom. Students who may need disability-related classroom accommodations should contact G.L. Wallace, Director of Accessible Education ([email protected]; 597-4672) to ensure that accommodations can be provided in a timely manner.
    • Accommodation. I am committed to supporting the learning of all students in my class. If you have already registered with G. L. Wallace and have a letter of accommodations, please meet with me early in the course to discuss, plan, and implement your accommodations in the course. If you have or think you have a disability (learning, sensory, physical, chronic health, mental health or attentional), please contact G. L. Wallace, the Director of Accessible Education, in Paresky Room 202 or call (413) 597-4672. If you are experiencing mental or physical health challenges that are significantly affecting your academic work or well-being, please contact me and speak with a dean at (413) 597-4171. (Brianna Heggeseth/Statistics)
    • Accommodation. I am committed to supporting the learning of all students in my class. At times, personal issues, stress, health problems or life circumstances may impact your ability to perform academically. Please contact the Dean’s Office 597-4171 for support, and ask to have them get in touch with your instructors. If you need disability-related classroom accommodations, contact G.L. Wallace, Director of Accessible Education ([email protected]; 597-4672) early in the semester to ensure that accommodations can be provided in a timely manner. Once you have a letter of accommodations, stop by my office so we can work out the details of your accommodations.
    • Accessibility and Accommodation. If you have any disability that requires accommodations for taking this course, please contact G.L. Wallace, Director of Accessible Education Resources (413.597.4672) within the first three weeks of the semester. Students experiencing mental or physical health challenges that are significantly affecting their academic work are encouraged to contact the Dean’s Office (413.597.4171). (Rhon Manigault-Bryant/Africana Studies)
    • Accessibility. Students with disabilities of any kind who may need accommodations for this course are encouraged to contact Dr. GL Wallace (Director of Accessible Education) at 597-4672. Also, students experiencing mental or physical health challenges that are significantly affecting their academic work or well-being are encouraged to contact me and to speak with a dean. The deans can be reached at 597-4171. (Marlene Sandstrom/Dean of the College)
    • Accessibility. All students deserve fair and equitable access to the learning opportunities in this course. If you need disability-related classroom accommodations, contact G.L. Wallace, Director of Accessible Education ([email protected], 597-4672) early in the semester to ensure that accommodations can be provided in a timely manner. Once you have a letter of accommodations, stop by my office so we can work out the details of your accommodations. Furthermore, I realize that at times, personal issues, stress, health problems or life circumstances may impact your ability to perform academically. Please contact the Dean’s office at 597-4171 for support, and ask to have them get in touch with your instructors. More generally, if you have some special circumstance (whether apparent, non-apparent, learning, emotional, physical, etc.) and you require an accommodation in order to succeed, please feel free to contact me so we can find the right resources. 

    • Title IX. Williams College is committed to providing a safe learning environment for all students that is free of all forms of discrimination and sexual harassment, including sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. If you (or someone you know) has experienced or experiences any of these incidents, know that you are not alone. Williams has staff members trained to support you in navigating campus life, accessing health and counseling services, providing academic and housing accommodations, helping with legal protective orders, and more.Please be aware all Williams faculty members are “responsible employees,” which means that if you tell me about a situation involving sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, or stalking, I must share that information with the Title IX Coordinator. Although I have to make that notification, you will control how your case will be handled, including whether or not you wish to pursue a formal complaint. Our goal is to make sure you are aware of the range of options available to you and have access to the resources you need.If you wish to speak to someone confidentially, you can contact any of the following on-campus resources: Health Center staff clinical staff, 413-597-2206; Psych Services clinical staff, 413-597-2353; Chaplains, 413-597-2483; Meg Bossong, Director of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, 413-597-4977; SASS advocates (Carolina Echenique, Donna Denelli-Hess, Jennifer Chuks, and Mike Evans), 413-597-3000 (Adapted from Vassar College’s statement on Title IX)
    • Title IX. Williams College is committed to providing a safe learning environment for all students that is free of discrimination, sexual harassment (including comments that create an unwelcoming or hostile environment), sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. Further details are explained in the college’s Title IX regulations. If you (or someone you know) experiences a Title IX violation, know that Williams has staff trained to support you. Williams faculty members are “responsible employees,'' which means that if you tell me about a Title IX violation, I must share that information with the Title IX Coordinator. Still, you will control how your case is handled, including whether or not you wish to pursue a formal complaint. Our goal is to make sure you are aware of the range of options available to you and have access to the resources you need including, if you wish, confidential sources on campus who are not subject to the mandatory reporting requirement (listed at bottom of previous link).

    • Names and pronouns. You deserve to be addressed in the manner that you prefer. If you want to make sure I address you with a particular name and/or pronoun, please let me know!
    • Pronouns. I will gladly honor your request to address you by an another name or gender pronoun. Please advise me of this preference early in the semester so that I may make appropriate changes to my records. Feel free to correct me on your gender pronoun. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Creating an Inclusive Classroom

  • a short guide to cultural appropriation
  • About Trigger Warnings: Williams College does not have a formal policy about the inclusion of a “trigger warning” statement in course syllabi. That said, it is widely encouraged that if you recognize that your course includes content may prove difficult or especially challenging for students, inform them about the challenging or difficult content in advance and offer strategies and resources for support.

Class Presentation Styles

Strategies from Williams Faculty & Students