For the interest of the group, and, in response to Adi and Chris, I’m sharing sections relevant to professionalism on my syllabus for entry-level Gen Ed History courses. My articulations of professional and respectful behavior scatter throughout the syllabus. Here are some examples:
On the syllabus:
“Professionalism: You are fully responsible for completing assignments and fulfilling requirements as the syllabus describes. If you stay in this class for the rest of the semester, you are agreeing to fulfill all of the requirements. You also acknowledge that you fully understand what is expected of you, and that you know the workload, dates of exams, and deadlines of assignments.”
The verbal elaboration on the brief written statement goes something along the lines of:
“Our relationship is professional, and the syllabus is a binding document. As the instructor, I am responsible for providing a good learning environment in every way I can in the classroom, during office hours, or in other forms of contact that pertain to your education. I am happy to help you in academic matters or issues that may have impact on your success in this course. This is a college-level course, so you should take the initiative in obtaining and retaining knowledge. I am primarily a facilitator in your learning. As students you are fully responsible for completing assignments and fulfilling requirements as the syllabus describes. If you stay in this course for the rest of the semester, you are agreeing to fulfill all of the requirements. You also acknowledge that you fully understand what is expected of you, and that you know the workload, dates of the exams, and deadlines of assignments. If you have trouble meeting or adjusting to the expectations of a college-level course, feel free to speak with me and/or your academic advisor. Do ask questions whenever you have one because you will not learn if you do not get questions answered. When each of us fulfills our responsibilities, this course will be a rewarding experience for everybody. This professionalism applies to all sorts of communication including email. So make sure that you are professional in your electronic correspondence.”
On the syllabus, I also include some language regarding means of contacting with me outside of the classroom:
“Contact Outside of the Classroom:
- Address me as Dr. or Prof. Wang in an email. Note that I will not open an email without a subject line and I will not respond if you neglect to include your name in the email.
- Email and Blackboard are the primary means for me to contact you and make announcements outside of the classroom. Check your OHIO email account at least once a day or forward your OHIO emails to your personal email account so that you do not miss important messages. It may take me up to 24 hours during the week and 48 hours on the weekend to respond to an email.
- Office hours: Feel free to drop by my office hours (indicated on the first page of the syllabus) to discuss course materials, your assignments, or other academic issues. If you are unable to meet with me during my office hours, make an appointment at a mutually acceptable time.”
Also on the syllabus, to help students in a Gen Ed course (who may not have much or any experience with a college-level History course) succeed, I offer advice on study strategies:
“Recipe for Success:
- Step 1: Complete all reading assignments before class, including textbook chapters and other reading materials. This course is built around both lecture and discussion. My lectures point out the big questions and issues for consideration every week, and their content does not always overlap textbook chapters. Class discussion will focus on the assigned readings. You will not benefit from either component if you do not come to class prepared.
- Step 2: Think with me in class as I introduce the weekly topics and explain their significance. In addition to broad themes and specific examples, you will learn a good amount of terms that are particular to this historical period, and some of them are not English terms. So you have to pay attention in class, take detailed notes, and reflect on what you have learned along the way.
- Step 3: Engage with class discussion based on your understanding of course materials. Not only is this course designed for you to acquire knowledge about history, but it will also familiarize you with the methods that historians use to understand the significance of historical events. You will learn to analyze the reading materials and articulate them in a coherent manner. You will benefit from this course when you put efforts into understanding the readings and the materials covered in class, form your own ideas about them, and articulate or debate them in a discussion.
- Step 4: Review reading materials and lecture notes regularly. For every class meeting, you should put in at least 2 hours of work outside of the class. To succeed in this course you should have a full understanding of lecture notes, textbook chapters, and other related materials. Studying in small doses on a regular basis will produce far better results than reviewing new materials shortly before an exam.”
This syllabus is 8 pages long, but it also provide pretty much every single piece of information a student needs to know about the course. I also want to make it clear to students that I am happy to and will help them succeed, but they also need to hold their end of the bargain. The language on professionalism is only written out for entry-level survey courses; I usually deliver a verbal version of it to my upper-level students.
Hope this is useful.