Analytic Quality Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2004-17, Analytic Quality Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 11 January, 2017 , © Lee Harvey 2004–2017.


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core definition

A syllabus specifies the aims, objectives or projected outcomes, content, mode of delivery, chronology and form and weighting of assessment of a course or unit of study and as such makes the lerning process transparent to the student.

explanatory context

The definition is an ideal type syllabus and in practice many syllabi fall short in providing all the information to students.


Shafer (undated) argues that:

Your syllabus is your course. It is the single most important document you offer your students. Your syllabus is where you bring together all your strategizing about how to match student learning needs with your choice of teaching tasks in the context of the type of course you have selected to teach. Your syllabus is also the means by which you communicate all this to your students. A good syllabus is thus prima facie evidence that you have devoted the essential effort needed to create a good course; a bad syllabus is students' first warning that you haven't and that your course is likely to disappoint. What's in a syllabus? Too often, way too little. How often have you seen a syllabus that gives little more than the course title, number, class period, a cryptic list of reading assignments, and exam dates? So what should a syllabus do? It should:

• Offer students a clear and concise statement of what your course is about;

• Tell them how you are going to teach the material to them and why;

• Provide all the logistical information they need to engage you and the course materials easily;

• Explain to them exactly what is required of them, when and why; and

• Lay out for them the key elements of the social contract that you and they are entering into.


A good syllabus serves a variety of purposes that go well beyond the confines of a specific course. A good syllabus is a road map or even a guidebook. It lays out your itinerary for the semester, and is a student's first reference if (s)he gets lost. It is also a map of the general subject and perhaps even of the field you are teaching, and should give students a clear sense of the disciplinary lay of the land. A good syllabus is a resource for students. It should, at the very least, offer suggestions to assist students in pursuing topics that interest them, but it can also serve as a reference, a field outline to which they can refer long after they have finished your course. Perhaps most important, your syllabus is the "constitution" of your course; it is a contract that binds both you and your students. It details what you are going to give them and why. It specifies what is expected of them and how you are going to assess their efforts. And it makes clear what the boundaries of your relationship are and what is--and is not-- acceptable behavior in the classroom society your course/social contract defines.

analytical review

According to Kearsley and Lynch (1996):

The single most important instrument of structure in a course is the SYLLABUS, which outlines the goals and objectives of a course, prerequisites, the grading/evaluation scheme, materials to be used (textbooks, software), topics to be covered, a schedule, and a bibliography. Each of these components defines the nature of the learning experience. Goals and objectives identify the expected outcomes and scope of the course as determined by the instructor or course designer, restricting the domain of knowledge for the learner. Prerequisites limit the student population to those with certain kinds of learning experiences, usually other courses. The grading or evaluation scheme tells students what kind of learning activities are to be valued (e.g., assignments, tests, papers, projects), that is, the currency of learning in this particular course. Topics to be covered specify the content that the instructor feels is important. The schedule provides a timetable for learning, usually with milestones in the form of due dates or tests..

Criollo (undated), referring to TESOL, states:

Broadly, syllabus has been defined as the "description of the contents of a course of instruction and the order in which they are to be taught" (Richards et al. 1992, p. 368). Nunan (1988) agrees with this view, stating that "syllabus is seen as being concerned essentially with the selection and grading of content, while methodology is concerned with the selection of learning tasks and activities". From these definitions, it is apparent that syllabus is the part of a curriculum that deals with the content and sequencing of the courses within the program. Thus, syllabus is subordinated to curriculum. On the other hand, according to Yalden (1984, p. 14), syllabus is considered as an instrument by means of which the teacher can achieve a degree of accomplishment between needs and social or individual actions in the class. In yet a further definition, Widdowson (1984, p. 26) defines syllabus as a general plan of activities that can be applied in a class to facilitate the learning process. In general, it can now be concluded that syllabus is a part of the curriculum that concerns the selection and sequencing of content to be taught in a language program. [References not provided]


Rabbini (2002) states:

Syllabus: A Definition. A syllabus is an expression of opinion on the nature of language and learning; it acts as a guide for both teacher and learner by providing some goals to be attained. Hutchinson and Waters (1987:80) define syllabus as follows: "At its simplest level a syllabus can be described as a statement of what is to be learnt. It reflects of language and linguistic performance." This is a rather traditional interpretation of syllabus focusing as it does on outcomes rather than process. However, a syllabus can also be seen as a "summary of the content to which learners will be exposed" (Yalden.1987: 87). It is seen as an approximation of what will be taught and that it cannot accurately predict what will be learnt. .

Castleton University (undated) states:

Syllabus – Information on the material a course will cover, instructor expectation of students, dates and content of assignments, and information on contacting the instructor. It is usually given to students the first day of class (plural: syllabi).

The Northeast Texas Network Consortium (NTNC, 2002) states:

Syllabus: This is a detailed course description with topics to be covered, required reading, and completion dates.

associated issues

What is the Difference between syllabus and curriculum?

Wiki Answers: Curriculum is a focus of study, consisting of various courses all designed to reach a particular proficiency or qualification. For instance some high schools offer a college-prep curriculum, which is designed to prepare a student for the rigors of college study. Emphasis will be on the humanities (history, English, etc.) and sciences (biology, math, chemistry, physics, etc.). On the other hand, some high schools offer a vocational-prep curriculum, which includes specific skill-building courses (cosmetology, construction trades, electronics, computer science, etc.).

A syllabus is simply an outline and time line of a particular course. It will typically give a brief overview of the course objectives, course expectations, list reading assignments, homework deadlines, and exam dates. It is typically available on the first day of a college course, and a student is expected to know what is in the syllabus throughout the course. The purpose of the syllabus is to allow the student to work their schedule for their own maximum efficiency and effectiveness. It helps to avoid conflicts with other courses, and it prevents someone from accusing a professor of unfairly adding assignments mid-term.

related areas

See also




Castleton University, undated, Glossary Glossary of Higher Education Terms, available at, accessed 22 September 2012 , page not available 11 January 2017.

Criollo, R., undated, (QAA), undated, Teaching TESOL Undergraduates to Organize and Write Literature Reviews, available at, accessed 28 July 2012, not available 22 September 2012.

Hutchinson, T. & Waters, A., 1987, English For Specific Purposes: A Learning Centred Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kearsley, G and Lynch, W., 1996, 'Structural issues in distance education', Journal of Education for Business, 71(4), pp. 191–6.

Northeast Texas Network Consortium (NTNC), 2002, Distance Learning College Glossary., accessed 20 September 2012, still available 11 January 2017.

Nunan, D., 1988, Syllabus Design. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rabbini, R., 2002, ‘An introduction to syllabus design and evaluation’, The Internet TESL Journal, 8(5) 5, available at, accessed 22 September 2012, still available 11 January 2017.

Shafer, M., undated, What's In A Syllabus? available at, accessed 28 July 2012, not available 22 September 2012, page not available 11 January 2017.

Wiki answers, avalable at, accessed 28 July 2012, still available 11 January 2017.

Yalden, J., 1987, Principles of Course Design for Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2017

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