Engage students with active learning on the first day of class by using the Syllabus Stations activity. Rather than relying on the instructor to read the syllabus to them, this activity reinforces students taking responsibility for their learning by requiring them to find the answers to common course questions in the syllabus. Syllabus Stations still allows the instructor the opportunity to clarify misunderstandings and point out important elements at the end of the class period.
- Before your first class, make a list of the most important items you usually cover when telling students about the syllabus. Then make each item a question or question set. (For example, a station might ask: What is the late work policy for this class? What about exceptions?) Print off each question (or question set) on a separate piece of paper in a large font size and each one with a different number, starting with number 1.
- On the first day of class when you get to the room, use masking tape to hang the stations on the walls, whiteboard, and windows around the room. After you pass out the syllabus for each student, count the students off into groups (around 3–4 students per group works well). Have each group start at a their group number’s station. (For example, group 5 would start at station 5.)
- TIP: Make sure to have a few more stations than there are groups so that there are always open stations for students to move to (around 3 or 4 extra stations).
- TIP: You can be a station for them to visit as well; that way you get to meet each student throughout the class period and they can ask any specific questions they might have.
- Tell students how much time they have to find the answers to all the stations and that they can move around to any open station. Let the students know that afterwards each group will be responsible for answering a question to the whole class, but they will not know which question until later.
- If a group finishes early, they can return to their seats and get to know their group members.
- When time runs out, all groups return to their seats, and the whole class discussion can begin. Call on each group for a different answer and lead a class discussion about the policies, resolving any confusion or adding details as needed. You can let groups volunteer to answer questions by calling on the fastest group to raise their hands, or you can cold call groups.
Adapted activity “#5: Stations” from Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty by Elizabeth F. Barkley, 2010.