Although afraid I would scare them off, my thinking about how much to give students up front was -- and continues to be -- pretty simple: as much as I can. Why?
My students are pretty busy. They work at least 20 hours a week (with most of them fully employed), and many of them have families. Most of my students take 6 credits per term on top of everything else they are doing.
My courses are fairly challenging. They are project-oriented, with the projects reflecting the true complexity of the workplace and profession for which the students are preparing. This means that the projects typically have multiple deliverables, and require collaboration with others.
The combination of busy people and challenging courses can lead to low performance, dissatisfaction, lower efficacy and confidence. Talk about enhancing adults' motivation to learn! So, my strategy is to give students all of the information they need up front so they can quickly determine if they can fit my course into their lives, and be successful while staying healthy. So, as part of my syllabus package(please also see my other posts on jazzing up the syllabus and using scavenger hunts to ensure students read the syllabus), I give my students:
- Syllabus, establishing relevance of the course and course activities in terms of professional preparation, format and structure of the course, grading expectations and criteria, policies, required materials and texts, contact information
- Calendar with all due dates
- Class meeting agendas detailing what is expected each week in terms of reading, discussion, activities, and project work
- Full project descriptions with corresponding assessment tools for all graded projects
- Strategies for success in the course
And anyway, if printed on both sides, it really is only an 11-page syllabus...