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Table of Contents

Syllabi, Student Learning Outcomes, Rubrics, and Assessment


Requirements for a Course Syllabus

After reviewing ACCJC (WASC) accreditation standards for course syllabi, the Academic Senate has determined that we must have course syllabi for all our active courses available to students and ACCJC visiting teams. 

Current (June 2014) ACCJC Standard regarding Syllabi:

Standard II.A.3. The institution identifies and regularly assesses learning outcomes for courses, programs, certificates and degrees using established institutional procedures. The institution has officially approved and current course outlines that include student learning outcomes. In every class section students receive a course syllabus that includes learning outcomes from the institution’s officially approved course outline.

As a result, the Academic Senate is recommending to all department chairs that faculty submit the syllabi for all courses they teach each semester to the department administrative assistant.

Academic Senate Syllabus Template [UPDATED August 2013]

Course information including SLOs  (Click on the course you are interested in.  Choose from the Alphabet links at the top.)

Degree information including SLOs: (Click on AA, AS, or Certificate and then find the one you are interested in.) 

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Letter Grade Default Alert - Please include this information on your Syllabus

Beginning with Fall 2010:

Courses that have an option of a Letter Grade or Pass (P)/ No Pass (NP) will automatically default to the Letter Grade option. Students who would like Pass/No Pass grading have until 30% of the course to change their grading option. Courses that are graded only with Pass/No Pass as stated in their Course Outline will default to Pass/No Pass. Course syllabi should be revised to reflect this change.

The  Academic Calendar page in the college website will list the "Last Day to Request P/NP Grade for full-term classes".

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What should I include in my syllabus?

Your syllabus is first of all your contract with your students.  If you don't use the Senate's syllabus template above, it should include all the information they need to be successful.  Syllabi outline the course objectives and policies and explain what new skills or knowledge the student will gain. The following is a broad guideline.  Include what makes sense to you for your class. 

Part I:  General Information

  • Include the general name, units, semester, date and location of course
  • Include information on you and your availability to the student:
    • your name and how a student should address you
    • your office location
    • office hours
    • office telephone
    • email address etc. 
  • If a student needs to turn something into you after hours, where should he leave it? 
  • Offer assistance and explain methods of communication outside of office hours.

Part II:  Course Description

  • Provide a description of your course.  This can include what is written in the catalog and/or be more specific to your section. 
  • List any pre-requisites and/or co-requisites
  • Detail the official course student learning outcomes (THESE ARE LISTED IN THE COURSE OUTLINE OF RECORD and also in the Course Information Section of the College Website):  Course information including SLOs

Part III:  What can students expect during class?

  • How will you teach the class? 
  • What activities will be involved?
  • Will the student need access to a computer, email and/or a class website?
  • How important is class attendance and participation?
  • Will you call on students whether or not they volunteer to answer a question?
  • How much homework can students expect?
  • When are students expected to complete readings?
  • Will group work/projects/presentations be assigned?
  • Are there safety issues students should be aware of?
  • If you have issues regarding arriving late or eating in class, state them here.

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Part IV:  Textbooks and Materials

  • Required Texts or materials (include publishers, dates and editions)
  • Recommended Texts or materials

Part V:  Schedules

  • Provide a schedule of topics to be covered in class
  • A schedule of assignments
    • Include assignment criteria, submission guidelines and deadlines
  • List any other course requirements
  • A schedule of exams
    • Midterm and other exam dates
    • Finals dates and locations especially if different from regularly scheduled class times

Part VI: Grading

  • Which activities will be graded?
  • What kind of activities will be evaluated?
  • How will the various assignments be weighted?
  • Will you use points or grades? 
  • Remind them often about the deadline for choosing the Pass/No pass option


Part VII:  Outline your expectations and course policies 

  • Is attendance required or part of a participation component of your grading policy?
  • Is there a penalty for late work?  Will you extend a deadline for any reason?
  • Are there make-up options for missed homework, tests or exams?
  • Will you provide opportunities for extra-credit?
  • What happens if a student is very sick?
  • What are your policies regarding cheating; plagiarism and general student
  • Conduct?  You can direct them to the college policies outlined in the catalog and the schedule.
  • Offer ADA accommodations as needed.

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Part VIII: Expectations go both ways!

  • What do you expect from students?
  • What can students expect from you as the instructor?
    • You could go over common misconceptions about what the student can expect from you as an instructor. 
    • An example of these are outlined quite nicely on the Univeristy of Minnesota's website under: 

Part IX: Other helpful Advice

  • You could give some advice on how to be successful; special methods of studying or preparing for class and exams.
  • Are there special (Lab) rules or procedures?
  • List links to campus resources for tutoring and other academic support.
  • Provide glossaries of specialized vocabulary for the course.
  • Provide references and online resources.
  • Offer additional readings at an easier or more challenging level.
  • Provide samples of past exams at the beginning, so students know what is expected by the end of the class.

Part X: Student Contact Exchange

  • You could include space for students to exchange contact information of classmates from whom they can missed assignments or with whom they could study.

Part XI: For courses with an online component

  • If you will have a course website or an online component of your course –
    • how will students access it and what technology requirements are there. 
    • Is there a lab on campus where students can access your website if they don't have a computer? 
    • If you have a WebCT course - who can provide technical assistance?
    • Will you have online office hours?
  • Student work and participation expectations:
    • Will you publish student work online?
    • Will students be expected to contribute to a class blog?
    • Will students be expected to contribute to threaded discussion lists or bulletin boards?
    • if any of these are true, please be clear as to your expectations regarding the content of their online contributions. 

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Helpful Syllabus Links


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Student Learning Outcomes

As a teacher at College of Marin or in any setting, one’s responsibilities include more than showing up and teaching your class.  As teachers most of us have a desire to improve our delivery, to better facilitate students’ acquisition of skills and to integrate our own courses with those taught by our colleagues so that students leave one class prepared to take on the challenges of the next one.  Teachers are constantly assessing their students’ work and hopefully also assessing their own performance. Self-reflection is key to becoming more effective teachers.  Over the years the needs of our students have changed and new challenges have arisen.  Ongoing dialogue is a vital to finding solutions.

Those of you who studied the art of teaching were trained to write behavioral objectives which described what our students would be able to do.  These objectives have morphed into something a little broader which encompass a higher level of competency and integration of skills – fondly or not so fondly known as STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES or SLOs for short.  (Do I hear groans, gnashing of teeth and hair pulling?)   Those of you who have written or revised course outlines in the last few years have run into SLOs and have dutifully written them into your outlines carefully using BLOOMS’ TAXONOMY

SLOs, however, are more than something written in a course outline and put into a binder or a folder on your desktop. They are part of the contract you make with your students – that tells them what you expect them to be able to do.  These outcomes should be articulated at a broad college-wide or discipline level and then more specifically at the course level.  Course level SLOs should be included in our syllabi.  They should guide our assessments of student progress.  At the course level you already do this assessment every time you test and grade your students.  Why should we explain it or talk about it?  Are we required to do this? No. Should we? Yes, we should - not only because it is a good idea professionally, but because it is required for our accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

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Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) SLO Guidelines

From the WASC Guide to Evaluating Institutions on the Characteristics of Evidence:

The evidence the institution presents should also be about student learning outcomes (mastery of the knowledge, skills, abilities, competencies, attitudes, beliefs, opinions and values at the course, program and degree levels in the context of each college’s mission and population) and should include data on the following:

  • Development and dissemination of student learning outcomes
  • Samples of student work/performance (recitals, projects, capstone courses, etc.),
  • Summary data on measured student learning outcomes
  • Measurement and analysis of student attainment of student learning outcomes used as part of the institution’s self-evaluation and planning processes,
  • Improvement of the teaching/learning process as a result of the above analysis

Sources of evidence needed from faculty include:

  • Syllabi, course outlines
  • Assessments of student work on examinations, assignments, capstone projects
  • Faculty grading rubrics and analysis of student learning outcomes

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College of Marin Academic Senate SLO Wikispace

In an effort to centralize all the evidence we DO have that proves that we have worked on SLOs, a College of Marin SLO Wikispace has been created.  In it you will find pages for every discipline. Any SLO work available from each discipline has been attached or copied into the individual pages. These had been written at various times in the last 3-4 years but not widely or easily made available to the faculty at large. SLOs from course outlines are also being entered into the wiki for ease of reference, discussion and anlysis. 

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College Learning Outcomes

In January of 2009, t he Academic Senate approved a set of 5 broad SLOs for the college as a whole.  These are as follows:

  1. Written, Oral and Visual Communication: Communicate effectively in writing, orally and/or visually using traditional and/or modern information resources and supporting technology.
  2. Scientific and Quantitative Reasoning: Locate, identify, collect, and organize data in order to then analyze, interpret or evaluate it using mathematical skills and/or the scientific method.
  3. Critical Thinking: Differentiate between facts, influences, opinions, and assumptions to reach reasoned and supportable conclusions.
  4. Problem Solving: Recognize and identify the components of a problem or issue, look at it from multiple perspectives and investigate ways to resolve it.
  5. Information Literacy: Formulate strategies to locate, evaluate and apply information from a variety of sources - print and/or electronic.


  1. Student Learning Outcomes and Program Reviews

Student Learning Outcomes (SLO) for GE and Institutional Level

Student Learning Outcomes (SLO) for Student Services

Program Review Website

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A Guide to Writing Student Learning Outcomes

NOTE:  These hints have been culled from a variety of sources across California and the US.  (Cabrillo College, El Camino College, Miracosta College, colleges in the east, community colleges and universities).  Since they are often the same from place to place, it is difficult to know where they originated.

  • In one sentence for each outcome, answer the question: “What should students be able to do with the information I’m teaching after they finish the course? What is the ultimate goal a year from now?”
  • Describe what students will do -- not content, activities or hours.
  • Describe broader, complex, higher order knowledge and skills.
  • Describe observable and assessable behavior.
  • Use action verbs. See Bloom’s Taxonomy.
  • Write it in language that a student will understand.
  • Make statements concise and unambiguous.
  • Remember that you probably already have them in mind and have been using them without realizing it. Begin with where you are.
  • Keep thinking from the students’ point of view and ask, “What can students walk out of my class with?”
  • Be explicit and always ask, “What’s important? What am I doing and why?”
  • Ask students to produce something - papers, projects, portfolios, demonstrations, performances, art works, exams etc. – that applies what they have learned.

Hint: Sometimes it’s easier to start backwards by thinking about the major assessments you use in the course. These would be the products or demonstrations of your outcomes. Make a list of your major assignments for this course. Then try to describe in one sentence what the students are being asked to demonstrate in those assignments.

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Some Dos and Don’ts:

  • Don’t use the words “understand” - go for higher level thinking skills.
  • Don’t use the phrase “students will.” Avoid any pronouns like “them“ or “their.”
  • Do distinguish the difference between an A and B courses of the same number.
  • Keep the number of outcomes short – no more than four or five at most (except if the outcomes of your courses are dictated by the requirements of outside accrediting bodies, like in nursing or dental hygiene).
  • Use the outcomes to describe the major skills or knowledge students will take away from the course and what they will produce to show you that they have mastered those skills.

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Student Learning Outcomes versus Course Objectives

Course objectives describe small, discreet skills or “nuts and bolts” that require basic thinking skills. They are subsets of outcomes. Think of objectives as the building blocks used to produce whatever is used to demonstrate mastery of an outcome. Objectives can be practiced and assessed individually, but are usually only a portion of an overall project or application.

Objectives Outcomes
Objectives describe skills, tools or content that a student will master by the end of course. Outcomes describe over-arching, long-term skill that a student will be able to demonstrate by the end of a course and take with him when he leaves.
Objectives require the use of basic thinking skills such as knowledge, comprehension and application. Outcomes require the use of higher level thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation.
Objectives can be measured discreetly, but do not necessarily result in a product. Outcomes should result in a product that can be measured or assessed.

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Assessing a Student Learning Outcome

Step One: Chose one course SLO from one class that you are teaching in a particular semester.


Step Two: Chose one major graded assignment that you feel measures some aspect of the course SLO. It should be an assignment you always give that you feel is important.

Tests, projects and assignments should be designed to show what students can do, not what has been covered. From the beginning of the term, students should know how they are going to be evaluated and what criteria will be used.


Step Three: Develop a rubric or grading scale that articulates in words how you grade that assignment. If you only use exams, identify groups of specific questions on one of your major exams that you feel address the competency. It will be most helpful if there are several questions.


Step Four: Give the assignment or exam this semester. Grade it using the rubric you developed in Step Three. If you are using an exam with scanners, make a second key to grade the specific questions related to the SLO.  Keep a record of the rubric or the questions and the results.


Step Five: Analyze the results of your assessment.  Share the assignment you gave, the methods or rubrics you used to grade it and the results with your colleagues.  If more than one section of a class gave the same assignment share the results with each other or score the assignments together if you are comfortable doing that.  Based on the results, describe how you would change or improve the teaching of this assignment. Were you satisfied? What do you need as an instructor to improve your teaching and/or the student learning of the assignment?  What does your department need to have to improve the teaching and learning in department courses in general. What do you need from the college?

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Rubrics and Other useful SLO links


In addition to the common rubrics linked above for COM General Education and college wide SLOs, here are some useful links that detail how to create rubrics in different areas.

Research and Planning Group for California Community Colleges - Learning Assessment


General Education Assessment

Authentic Assessment

Examples of SLOs from other Colleges

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Online Faculty Handbook web pages
Technical Contact: Sara McKinnon, Academic Senate President, 415-485-9411 ext. 7924
Content Responsible: Cari Torres , Interim Vice President of Student Learning, 415-485-9505