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Mariela Tapia-León, María Luisa Merchán-Gavilanez, Abdón Carrera Rivera, Sergio Luján-Mora. Comparative study of syllabus structure in Latin American universities. Proceedings of the 10th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation (ICERI 2017), p. 2418-2425, Seville (Spain), November 16-18 2017. ISBN: 978-84-697-6957-7. https://doi.org/10.21125/iceri.2017.0699
The syllabus is a document designed by a teacher, usually based on a format or model from an institution. This document sets out student learning outcomes, how they will be achieved and how they will be assessed. It also includes materials or resources for subjects, class schedules, student’s behavior during lectures, professor contact information and more. In addition, teachers can use syllabus to transmit an encourage students to autonomously explore a discipline. Preferably, this document should be public for transparency.
According to Parks and Harris syllabus has three main purposes: to become a contract between the teacher and the student, to be a permanent record and to be used as a learning tool. The syllabus is a kind of contract between the teacher and students as it determines the responsibility between both parties. The syllabus as a record document allows to materialize what is taught in a course or lecture. The syllabus as a learning tool provides information that helps students build their own knowledge inside or outside the classroom by encouraging self-learning.
Given the importance of the syllabus for students, teachers and educational institutions, the present work makes a comparative study of the structure of the syllabuses in Iberoamerican universities. The aim of this study is to investigate to what extent institutional syllabus formats follows its three substantial functions. Furthermore, the study also finds out how syllabus are developed and shared within the educational community.
For this work, a sample of universities was obtained and their syllabus structures were requested. A questionnaire based on the work of Parkes and Harris was applied, other necessary questions were adapted and added for this study. With the questionnaire and through direct observation, a group of experts evaluated the syllabuses. The correspondence of their findings was measured with Cohen's coefficient.
Most universities conceive the syllabus as a record document. Information about the number of credits, prerequisites, objectives, contents, resources, evaluation and methodology are easily found. This is not the case when analyzing the syllabus as a contract between the teacher and the student. Not all universities request that syllabus should explain policies for attendance, behavior, or support for students with disabilities. As for the syllabus as a learning tool, some universities place information about the autonomous work that a student must complete, but little is explained about the specific study strategies that guide the student in that process.
Finally, some universities publish syllabuses on the web, this allows the information to be better structured and placed within the reach of the educational community. However, there are still universities that perform this process in private Word documents and Excel spreadsheet which limits access and some of them also present problems of standardization and presentation.