For every course, the syllabus helps establish the goals, tone, policies, and scope of the class. Starting a new syllabus from scratch can be a challenge. To help, a call was made for members to submit their syllabi for courses they've taught. Nearly 70 syllabi were submitted for a variety of social and personality classes. Below are some outstanding examples selected by an ad hoc review committee. All of the examples of syllabi succeeded in providing essential information, learning objectives, a variety of assessment strategies that aligned with course goals, and support resources in an organized and engaging way. Therefore, the summaries below focus on the specific strengths of each syllabi.
Social Psychology - Julia Omarzu, PhD, Loras College
Dr. Julia Omarzu's syllabus has an engaging and conversational tone, which is highlighted by the key policies' novel format as frequently asked questions (FAQ). Writing course policies and expectations as FAQ provides students with important information without sounding adversarial. Omarzu uses an open-access textbook but also provides her students with an option for purchasing a print version of the text. Additionally, the course objectives and learning outcomes are clearly written with student assessments explicitly linked to their corresponding learning outcomes. Also, Omarzu has provided a variety of types of assessments that align well with the learning outcomes. The assessments, along with their point value and weight, are clearly explained with instructions to find more specific information on the course's website. Overall, Omarzu's syllabus is a great example of how to provide key details of a course while maintain an engaging tone.
Social Psychology (Online) - Kathryn Klement, PhD, Bemidji State University
Dr. Kathryn Klement's online-course syllabus begins with a brief note highlighting her own perspective on psychological theories as well as the importance of having the classroom be a safe space in which differences in opinion should be shared and respected. This statement is immediately followed by a formal and then an informal course description. This introduction sets a friendly and inviting tone that is maintained throughout the syllabus. Additionally, Klement uses a breadth of assessments. The assessments include brief descriptions, instructions on how to turn in the assessments, points possible, and information on where to find additional information, such as rubrics, on the course website. Overall, Klement's syllabus is an example of an excellent online course syllabus that provides details specific to the nuances of an online course without becoming cumbersome due to its excellent organization.
Social Psychology - Jonathan Amburgey, PhD, Westminster College
Dr. Jonathan Amburgey's syllabus provides clearly outlined course objectives that are then explicitly linked to the APA's learning guidelines. Amburgey then elaborates on the learning objectives by explaining his instructional approach. The syllabus provides a clear outline of a wide variety of assessments that align with the course's learning goals. The assessment summaries have key points highlighted in red with instructions to look to the class website for additional details and rubrics. Additionally, Amburgey provides clear expectations for students and for communication (i.e., email exchanges) between the professor and students. Along with providing course and university policies, he also outlines tips for how to do well in the course. Overall, Amburgey's syllabus provides a great example of how to organize a syllabus to highlight to students what they will learn, how they'll show their knowledge, and how to best succeed in the course.
Theories of Personality - Tera Letzring, PhD, Idaho State University
This syllabus is very detailed and thorough, which is useful for an online course. There is an interesting variety of activities that students will complete, and the learning outcomes for those activities, and for the course itself, are clearly stated. This includes how the graded components will touch on each objective.
Psychology of Personality - Paul Conway, PhD, Florida State University
This syllabus offers a clear overview of the course, the assignments, the instructor's policies and expectations. All of these items are well explained and the document itself is easily navigated. The assignments are interesting and engaging.
Personality Theories - Kathryn Klement, PhD, Bemidji State University
This syllabus does an excellent job of explaining the various aspects of the course, the assignments, and the instructor's policies and expectations, while also setting a warm and engaging tone that will be very appealing to students. The assignments are interesting and well-designed.
Research and Statistics
Research Methods (Online) - Kathryn Klement, PhD, Bemidji State University
Dr. Kathryn Klement teaches an online research methods course and her syllabus is a strong representation of how a laboratory class can be taught online. She is upfront about using a feminist perspective in teaching psychology. She is thorough in explaining course policies including: communication, check-ins, submissions and late policies, expectations of students, and feedback. The statements on diversity, accommodations, and mental health counseling are supportive and encouraging. The course has four primary grade components which are quizzes, discussion questions, module assignments (e.g., APA formatting, developing hypotheses, etc.), and a grant proposal. The grant proposal project is especially notably as it involves multiple steps in literature searching and review, methods, budget, planned data analysis, and peer review. Overall, Dr. Klement presents a comprehensive example on how an online research methods can be taught without sacrificing rigor or content.
Statistics & Design - Emily Fischer, PhD, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Dr. Emily Fisher teaches a statistics and design course with a separate laboratory component, including SPSS. The class meets twice a week for lecture and each lecture is followed by a laboratory session. The course integrates basic statistical techniques with a group research project, which replicates a recently published psychology study. The course includes a diverse set of learning assessments including four exams, homework assignments, SPSS assignments, group research paper and group presentations. The course is more suitable for smaller class sizes (< 50), but the topics and calendar could provide a template for content and structure in larger classes. The assessment and grading criteria, and course calendar are strong examples in how to present detailed information in a clear and comprehensive fashion. Overall, the syllabus has clear organization and is a model format template that is very easy to read and understand.
Quantitative Research Methods - Jonathan Amburgey, PhD, Westminster College
Dr. Jonathan Amburgey teaches a quantitative research methods course. The syllabus is very detailed and an adept model in how to explain course procedures and policies. The course objectives and links to APA learning outcomes are particularly strong. Grading components include attendance and participation, quizzes, two research projects, a research proposal with peer review, and a proposal presentation. Psychology students in his department are required to complete an online training and certification in scientific citing standards and avoiding plagiarism, which is innovative stipulation integrated into class requirements. The syllabus is extremely through and comprehensive in explaining all course policies including technology issues, academic honesty, grade contesting, respect, and pronoun usage. The syllabus maintains an inclusive, helpful, and engaging tone while clearly conveying instructor student expectations. Dr. Amburgey's syllabus is an excellent resource for instructors seeking examples of language and explanation of course components.
Research in Social Psychology - John Petrocelli, PhD, Wake Forest University
Dr. John Petrocelli teaches a research methods course specific to social psychology and integrates methods in areas such as attitudes, social cognition, group dynamics, and emotion. The syllabus is cleanly designed with detailed information on grade components including two exams, article summaries with reaction essays, research project paper, and group research project presentation. Assignments are well articulated with clear criteria on how they will be evaluated. One notable assignment is a mock IRB application including CITI (ethics in human subjects) certification. While specifically targeted to social psychology, the syllabus could be adapted for a more general research methods course.
Introduction to Psychology
Introduction to General Psychology - Jennifer Willard, PhD, Kennesaw State University
Dr. Jennifer Willard's syllabus is well designed, thoughtfully organized, and provides important course information at a glance and for a "deep" read. For example, on the first page of her Introduction to General Psychology syllabus, all fourteen components of the syllabus are hyperlinked in a Quick Links section. Dr. Willard's syllabus communicates a welcoming learning experience to the incoming students by adding a photo of herself and photos of her undergraduate teaching assistants in the contact information section. Throughout the syllabus, Dr. Willard uses plain, but professional language to explain the course content in terms a major and non-major can comprehend. A unique feature of the syllabus is Section 10 on Research Participation. This section confirms for students that Psychology is a science, plus addresses common questions students have about being human subjects. Overall, this syllabus skillfully balances the requirements of the institution, the instructor's teaching plans, and the needs of the students.
General Psychology - Brittany Liu, PhD, Kalamazoo College
Dr. Brittany Liu's syllabus flows logically, stimulates interest in the diverse field of Psychology, and provides important course information in a succinct, conversational style. For example, on the first page of her General Psychology syllabus, Dr. Liu opens with a statement of what students can expect from her and then in the same section, she offers what the students in the course should expect of themselves. The detailed schedule at the end of the syllabus is a creative, one stop shop for students to see their duties and deadlines for the entire quarter. A unique feature of the syllabus is the Extra Credit section. This section lists the options for and value of Extra Credit assignments, so that students and the instructor may plan together from the start, rather than rely on case by case requests as the class ends. Overall, Dr. Liu's syllabus is an accessible and well-designed roadmap for the course.
Special thanks to our ad hoc review committee: Steve Rouse, Arlene Stillwell, Heather Scherschel, Curtis Peterson, Nora Murphy, Diane Mackie, Joshua Guyer, Naomi Grant, Miranda Giacomin, Adrienne Carter Sowell, Ngoc Bui, Mike Andreychik, Jérémie Aboiron