Learner-Centered Syllabus Checklist (Printable Text)

Overall Syllabus

  • Tone: Use a positive, supportive, rewarding, and inclusive tone in your syllabus. Examples: “Late work is eligible for 60% of the original points;” “You have what it takes to succeed in this course without engaging in academic misconduct. Do not jeopardize the hard work you’ve put into this course.” Consider switching from “this course will…” to “we will…” See Tulane’s Accessible Syllabus site (https://www.accessiblesyllabus.com/).
  • Inclusive language: Review the ISU Inclusive Language policy, “All university publications and communication, whether oral or written, shall use inclusive language and illustrations. Inclusive language refers to language that makes every attempt to include comprehensively all groups in the community. Whenever possible, selection of academic materials will also reflect efforts to uphold this university policy.” (https://www.policy.iastate.edu/policy/language).
  • Accessible course design: Ensure that all your students can participate, engage, and enjoy the many opportunities and experiences your course can offer. Limit the number of barriers a student might encounter by thoughtfully structuring course plans, communication (verbal and text), and choosing educational materials (https://bit.ly/course-accessibility).
    • Tip: Add a table of contents to help organize the syllabus for you and your students

Course and Instructor Information


  • Iowa State University, College, Department
  • Course name (Full course title, course abbreviation with number/section – XXXXX-1010-01)
  • Semester/term, academic year
  • Number of credit hours
  • Meeting days/times: See ISU Schedule of Classes (https://classes.iastate.edu/).
  • Location with delivery mode (https://bit.ly/isu-delivery): In-person (room number/building), hybrid, online (synchronously or asynchronous), etc.
  • Lab/discussions/recitations/studios, etc., with days/times and locations (if applicable), include equipment training information, safety instructions, etc.
  • Include high-impact practice information such as field experiences or honors research

Instructor Information

  • Contact information: Full name(s), campus office location(s), email netid@iastate.edu, and office telephone number for each instructor, co-teacher(s), and grad assistant(s).
  • The best way for students to connect with you: Email? Student office hours? Or Canvas Inbox? (Instruct students on how to enable Canvas notifications so they will receive them).
  • Provide a response timeframe: Generally, how quickly will you respond to students?
  • Example: If I do not respond within 48 hours – please reach out again. My inbox may get quite full, but I want to hear from you. I will appreciate the gentle reminder.
  • Tip: It’s okay not to always be available. You do not need to operate a 24-hour help desk. Take the time you need to set boundaries in preserving your creativity and autonomy.
  • Student office hours: Promote your outside-of-class hours for those seeking help or wanting to discuss your discipline, questions, concerns, or share any feedback. Maximize the number of students in an office or via web conferencing software (scheduled or drop-in); see CELT’s student office hours (https://bit.ly/student-hours).
  • Example: Student office hours: Tuesdays & Thursdays from 1-2:30 p.m. in my office or via Webex. If these times conflict, please let me know, and we will try to find another time to meet. If you have questions or comments, I encourage you to use this time early and often.

Course Plan

Course prerequisites and foundational knowledge

  • List the course, skills, permissions, etc. (if applicable).
  • Example: It is a requirement that you completed <<PREREQUISTE>> before enrolling in this course. If you are underprepared for this course’s underlying concepts, visit me to discuss resources that may help build foundational knowledge from << PREREQUISITE>>.
  • Determine prior knowledge. Assess via a quiz, questionnaire, or assignment the class as a whole and individual student’s prerequisite and baseline knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
  • Demonstrate the basic skill techniques as you teach new concepts with “how-to” details in all student examples and assignment answers. The “how-to” may be more than some students require, but when the subject is still new, outlining the details enables them to comprehend the method and validates their thinking.

Teaching and Learning Approach: Share your teaching approach and what they can expect from the learning environment, the course, and you. If you are teaching online, this component is especially effective for creating and building your presence in the course.

  • Example: We will use asynchronous discussions to practice critical thinking and interpersonal netiquette communication skills during class.

Use active learning such as think-pair-share, turn and talk, and more (https://bit.ly/celt-tool-act) to build community and connect to content. They will learn more, be more engaged, develop a peer network, and be more successful in your course.

  • Example: Intentionally pause for 90 seconds twice while teaching for 50 minutes. During those 90-seconds, request that your students review their notes, then ask a neighbor if they discovered anything unclear in those notes. Researchers found that students will recall more content if brief engagement activities are introduced into the lecture (Prince, 2004).

Course-level objectives: Use CELT’s tips on writing course goals (https://bit.ly/coursegoals).

  • List 4-5 broad-based intended course-level learning objectives to reflect what students will know and demonstrate by completing the learning activities. Consider including life skill development such as team collaboration, critical thinking, etc. Use a grid with each objective connected to the assessments to achieve them, for example:
Course Objectives Activities or assessments to achieve the course objectives

You will trace the development of xxxxxx throughout the xxxxx.

Textbook readings & weekly quizzes

You will use clear communication techniques (written/verbal) to foster inquiry, collaboration, and engagement in this discipline.

In-class group work, papers, & the final project

Outcomes: Include university-wide, college, and program-level outcomes.

Course Materials

  • Diversify course materials: Help students see themselves reflected in scholars upheld in the discipline. Includes readings, activities, and assignments that are culturally relevant and inclusive. Illustrate course concepts from various social or cultural domains; for assistance, consult with your ISU Librarian (https://bit.ly/isu-librarian).
  • Specify required course materials: Textbooks, lab/studio supplies, field equipment, ISU computer requirement (http://bit.ly/isu-tech-req), etc.
    • Tip: To save students time and money, please clarify the difference between required and recommended course materials and your expectations of what they need to succeed.
  • ISU Course Reserves & Guides: See ISU’s Library Instructor page (http://bit.ly/isulibinstruct).
  • Immediate Access Program: This ISU University Book Store course materials affordability initiative provides students with digital course materials at a lower price than the standard print versions. Interested in the program? Review the Immediate Access Program site (https://www.isubookstore.com/immediate-access) or email immediateaccess@iastate.edu.

Course Policies

Academic and classroom conduct: Clearly state your expectations for class attendance, absences, academic dishonesty, classroom disruption, and course ownership. Review the Student Code of Conduct regarding Academic and Research Misconduct.

  • Tip: Give students options if possible (e.g., attendance policy that allows missed day(s) without penalty, flexible or self-paced deadlines, options for topics or modalities, such as written versus oral presentation).
  • Tip: Use CELT’s achieving academic integrity page (https://bit.ly/celt-integrity).
  • Tip: Share expected conduct for a conducive learning environment; see the Effectively managing disruptive classroom behavior toolkit (PDF) (https://bit.ly/isudispdf).


  • Offer multiple lower-stakes opportunities: Create opportunities and reinforce the process (with how-to details) for students to practice, receive feedback, and practice again. With multiple lower-stakes assessments spread out over the semester, it is less problematic for a student to miss one rather than the possible negative outcomes of only high-stakes exams.
  • Be transparent: Create assignments and teach with a transparency framework (https://bit.ly/celt-transparent):
    • Purpose: Why do they have to do the assignment? (e.g., content, skills, and relevancy)
    • Tasks: What are they supposed to do, and how do they do it?
    • Criteria: How are they being evaluated? (e.g., criteria for success, grading rubric)


  • Give timely and specific feedback: Frequent feedback provides students with a way to monitor their learning (e.g., graded and non-graded quizzes, tests, projects, Top Hat, reflection papers, etc.). They can adjust their learning strategies or seek additional support.
  • Deliver assignment feedback with tact and empathy: Provide straightforward comments based on the assignment criteria. Encourage perseverance, focusing on developing efficacy and self-awareness. Consider a process and time for students to debrief, revise and redo.
    • Tip: Use annotation, voice, or video tools in Canvas SpeedGrader to give details based on a grading rubric; see CELT’s interactive feedback (https://bit.ly/celt-feedback).


Provide clarity: List all course requirements contributing to a student’s grade:

  • Briefly describe each graded item (e.g., quizzes, exercises, projects, papers, etc.).
  • Describe where students will submit assignments/projects (e.g., Canvas, in-person, etc.).
  • Specify when, how, and where exams will be administered and how you (or proctors) will verify students for exam purposes (e.g., ISU Card).
  • State when assignments are regularly due and when students can expect your feedback. These dependable routines and expectations can help students plan and prioritize.
  • Do you assess participation? Explain why participation is useful and what counts; for ideas, consult the develop your participation skill guide (https://bit.ly/celt-participate).
  • Clarify make-up options, extra credit, exams, and incomplete marks for students; see ISU Catalog’s Grading System (http://bit.ly/isu-grading).

Provide explicit grading requirements: Ensure grading criteria and evaluation methods are explicit and connected directly to learning objectives.

  • Consider removing penalties, not grading all assigned work, and giving additional options for students to achieve points.
  • Share tools such as grading rubrics, assignment descriptions, and criteria to help your diverse community of learners.
  • Include components of the final grade, weights assigned to each course element, and whether grading is on a curve or scale, determine the distribution from a fixed mean, or assign a predetermined fixed percentage of the letter grade (A, B, C, etc.).
  • Use a pie chart to visually display each course element’s weights (percentages).

Provide up-to-date grades: This step allows students to calculate their overall course grades.

Group Work and Peer Interactions

  • Community agreement: Support your students’ inclusive interactions with their peers and instill the ISU Principles of Community (https://www.diversity.iastate.edu/connect/principles) and Netiquette at ISU (https://bit.ly/isu-netiquette) as community agreements. Refer to the agreements throughout the course; revise them when applicable.
  • Group projects and expectations: Detail group work and course relevancy. Task students with well-defined activities to discuss strengths, personal learning goals, anticipated contributions, and formative feedback; see group work page (https://bit.ly/celt-group-work).
    • Example: Students enjoy being engaged to practice using their new knowledge and skills, helping them to connect how your course applies to what they’ll do after graduation. Share explicitly with students “WHY” you assign group work. What will students learn/gain from experience? Foster the “HOW” students can communicate, listen, and create meaningful interactions with each other in collaborative activities during structured class time.
  • Reflect on peer interactions: Give students regular opportunities to reflect upon ways their peers enhance their learning at the end of a class with the questions, such as: “What did you learn from someone else today? How did your peers support your learning today?”

Examples of Inclusive Statements

  • In addition to the recommended Accessibility Statement, consider including a statement to support neurodivergent students:
    • Example: This course affirms Iowa State University’s commitment to supporting a diversity of learners in an inclusive, accessible, and reasonable manner. Neurodiversity includes students who have been diagnosed with or display symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or related disorders that may affect your learning. Your instructor is dedicated to accommodating you in a proactive manner that helps you in this class. Please see the Shared Responsibility Statement (https://bit.ly/sas-responsibility) and contact Student Accessibility Services by email at accessibility@iastate.edu or by phone at 515-294-7220.

Adapted from Michael Bugeja, Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

  • Foster ISU Principles of Community: ISU’s Principles of Community: Respect, Purpose, Cooperation, Richness of Diversity, Freedom from discrimination, and the Honest and respectful expression of ideas (https://www.diversity.iastate.edu/connect/principles).
  • Basic needs. To learn effectively, you must have basic security: a roof over your head along with a reliable place to sleep and enough food to eat; see the ISU Student Wellness Food Security site (https://bit.ly/foodsecurity-isu). If you’re having trouble with any of those things, please talk with me, your academic advisor, or the Dean of Students Office, email studentassistance@iastate.edu, or phone 515-294-1020. Together we can work to meet those needs.
  • Student health and wellness: Iowa State University is committed to proactively facilitating all students’ well-being. We welcome and encourage students to contact the following on-campus services for their physical, intellectual, occupational, spiritual, environmental, financial, social, and/or emotional needs:
  • Responsible Employee: Iowa State University is committed to creating an educational, work, living, and campus environment that is free from all forms of sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and unlawful discrimination and harassment on the basis of protected class. As a responsible employee, I am responsible for reporting all incidents of prohibited sexual harassment, including sexual assault, stalking, dating and domestic violence, to the University’s Title IX coordinator. Students can choose to discuss their experiences confidentially with the following resources: ACCESS (Assault Care Center Extending Shelter & Support) at 515-292-0500; ISU Student Counseling Services at 515-294-5056; & Thielen Student Health Center at 515-294-5801.
  • Green Dot: A Green Dot (http://bit.ly/isu-greendot) promotes everyone’s safety and communicates utter intolerance for power-based personal violence in our ISU community.
  • Name, gender identity, and gender expression: Class rosters are provided to the instructor with the student’s legal name. I will gladly honor your request to address you by a preferred name or personal pronoun. Please advise me of this at any point in the semester so that I may make appropriate changes to my records.
  • Content warning: When appropriate, inform students about your course’s sensitive or potentially disturbing information/activities. Michael Bugeja, Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences, developed the following:
    • Example: We will be discussing many topics, germane to the course that may cause discomfort. We will provide advance notice about these topics in the “content of lectures” section and in email reminders. Nevertheless, if ever you find the topic causes discomfort, please feel free to leave the room for a time and then return to the classroom. Everyone has this option and, according to our attendance policy, can leave and return at will. After class, just let me know that you left because of the subject matter, and I will fill you in on important concepts in my office.

Course Schedule with Weekly Overview

  • Promote student-centered deadlines: Set deadlines for assignments at a time of day that connects to and promotes student learning. For example, instead of a Friday at midnight deadline, set and state in class: This assignment is due by 5:00 p.m. on Thursday to check your understanding of the topic before we move on to the next unit on Tuesday.
  • Provide a calendar (e.g., week by week): Outline substantive topics, reading requirements, assignment due dates, dates/times of any exams scheduled outside of class time, etc., in the visual planning grid (below). If necessary, revise it and ensure students receive the update.
    • Demonstrate the significance of student ratings and include the survey dates in your course calendar; see CELT’s strategies for better course ratings (https://bit.ly/better-eval).
    • Use the Interfaith Calendar website (http://www.interfaith-calendar.org/) to consider potential conflicts when scheduling projects, presentations, and exams.
    • Example visual planning grid: Project the syllabus page to show or review the class plan, preview future topics, and remind students of upcoming assessments to solicit questions.
Week # Date with time and location (if varies) Topic & agenda summary

Readings & recommended course material

List Assignments

Wk. 5

Sept. 22 (in-person)

Making it work: Nerve-muscle synapse

•Required: Ch. 3 in book

•Recommended: Course reserves #4

•Quiz #1 due after class

•During class: Lecture, Top Hat questions, & group work

  • Include a subject-to-change disclaimer. Example: In extenuating circumstances, our schedule, policies, or procedures in this course are subject to change. We will make every effort not to alter assignment due dates or scheduled exams. Any modifications will be communicated in writing, verbally in class, and published in the Canvas course.

Tips for Success and Mindfulness

  • Academic support: Help students achieve the highest level of academic success of which they are capable by promoting and embedding resources throughout your course:
  • Care: Encourage your students to practice self-care. Where barriers to such self-care exist, seek to put in place practices and resources to remove such barriers:
    • Share services available to students (https://bit.ly/celt-student).
    • Empower students to develop strategies for overcoming obstacles to their academic success with self-care tools available 24/7 from TAO (https://bit.ly/tao-selfhelp).
    • Check-in with individual students and ask how their semester is going. If they defer to either a default/vague response (i.e., “I’m fine” or “I’m good”), gently request a little more detail. Focus on observable behaviors, share what you notice, and relate that you care. Use V-A-R (Validate-Appreciate-Refer) to actively listen, express concern/care, and refer and share resources (https://bit.ly/support-cyclones).
    • Acknowledge a significant event (locally or globally). Students are generally very grateful when instructors say (or do) something to recognize the emotions students may be experiencing; see CELT’s Affirm emotions resource (https://bit.ly/affirm-emotions).
    • Start class or break between topics with a mindful moment (https://bit.ly/celt-mindful).
    • Tip: Prioritize your well-being. Model the essentialness of self-care, sufficient sleep, and exercise to reduce your emotional reactivity and improve class, workplace, and campus climate. Use resources from ISU WellBeing (https://wellbeing.iastate.edu/).
  • Share success strategies: Make clear your obligations to successfully teach the course and your expectations of students in your course. State these in your syllabus and discuss them throughout the semester with your students. If you feel comfortable, share a story about when you needed help while in school (or doing research). Doing so is a powerful way to show students that seeking help is a sign of strength and holistically connects them to you.

Required & Recommended ISU Syllabus Statements from Faculty Senate

Note: The required and recommended statements are included in the Syllabus Statements feature in the Canvas course navigation (https://bit.ly/syllabus-canvas).


  • Free Expression: Iowa State University supports and upholds the First Amendment protection of freedom of speech (https://bit.ly/isu-freedomspeech) and the principle of academic freedom (https://bit.ly/regents-academicfreedom) in order to foster a learning environment where open inquiry and the vigorous debate of a diversity of ideas are encouraged. Students will not be penalized for the content or viewpoints of their speech as long as student expression in a class context is germane to the subject matter of the class and conveyed in an appropriate manner.
  • Public Health: If you are not feeling well, you should stay home and focus on your health. Should you miss class due to illness, it is your responsibility to work with your instructor to arrange for accommodations and to make up coursework, as consistent with the instructor’s attendance policy. You may choose to wear a face mask and/or receive the COVID-19 vaccine and boosters, as well as other vaccines such as influenza, but those options are not required. Thielen Student Health Center will continue to provide COVID-19 vaccinations free-of-charge to students. The university will continue to offer free masks and COVID-19 test kits during the fall 2022 semester. Other wellbeing resources for students are available at: https://www.cyclonehealth.iastate.edu/wellbeing-resources/.  Public health information for the campus community continues to be available on Iowa State’s public health website (https://health.iastate.edu/public-health/). All public health questions should be directed to publichealthteam@iastate.edu.

Recommended Statements

  • Academic Dishonesty: The class will follow Iowa State University’s policy on academic misconduct (5.1 in the Student Code of Conduct, https://www.policy.iastate.edu/policy/SDR). Students are responsible for adhering to university policy and the expectations in the course syllabus and on coursework and exams, and for following directions given by faculty, instructors, and Testing Center regulations related to coursework, assessments, and exams. Anyone suspected of academic misconduct will be reported to the Office of Student Conduct in the Dean of Students Office (https://bit.ly/armfacstaff). Information about academic integrity and the value of completing academic work honestly can be found in the Iowa State University Academic Integrity Tutorial (https://bit.ly/isu-ai-tutorial).
  • Accessibility Statement: Iowa State University is committed to advancing equity, access, and inclusion for students with disabilities. Promoting these values entails providing reasonable accommodations where barriers exist to students’ full participation in higher education. Students in need of accommodations or who experience accessibility-related barriers to learning should work with Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to identify resources and support available to them. Staff at SAS collaborate with students and campus partners to coordinate accommodations and to further the academic excellence of students with disabilities. Information about SAS is available online at
  • Discrimination and Harassment: Iowa State University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, age, ethnicity, religion, national origin, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, sex, marital status, disability, or status as a U.S. Veteran. Inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies may be directed to Office of Equal Opportunity, 3410 Beardshear Hall, 515 Morrill Road, Ames, Iowa 50011, Tel. 515-294-7612, Hotline 515-294-1222, email eooffice@iastate.edu
  • Religious Accommodations: Iowa State University welcomes diversity of religious beliefs and practices, recognizing the contributions differing experiences and viewpoints can bring to the community. There may be times when an academic requirement conflicts with religious observances and practices. If that happens, students may request reasonable accommodation for religious practices. In all cases, you must put your request in writing. The instructor will review the situation in an effort to provide a reasonable accommodation when possible to do so without fundamentally altering a course. For students, you should first discuss the conflict and your requested accommodation with your professor at the earliest possible time. You or your instructor may also seek assistance from the Dean of Students Office, website (https://www.dso.iastate.edu/) or via phone 515-294-1020 or the Office of Equal Opportunity, website (https://www.eoc.iastate.edu) or via phone 515-294-7612.
  • Statement on Prep Week: This class follows the Iowa State University Prep Week policy as noted the ISU Policy Library; as well as section 10.6.4 of the Faculty Handbook. Visit the ISU Policy Library website (https://www.policy.iastate.edu/) for policy wording.
  • Contact Information for Academic Issues: If you are experiencing, or have experienced, a problem with any of the above issues, email academicissues@iastate.edu.

Locate references and resources on the CELT Creating an Inclusive & Learner-Centered Syllabus page (https://bit.ly/celtsyllabus).

Revised 8/11/22 3:04 PM

Creative Commons: Mindful and Learner-Centered Syllabus Toolbox (Printable Text) by Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT), Iowa State University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.