Proposal Abstract

For three decades, the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) literature has affirmed that a syllabus is a contract. When discussing the purpose of a syllabus or how it can be used as evidence of scholarship, SoTL authors repeatedly start with the premise that a syllabus is a contract; and they cite as evidence other authors who have earlier written the same thing – but always without legal support. Yet when students have sued their professors or institutions for breach of contract, related to course syllabi, courts have dismissed those cases on the grounds that a syllabus is not a contract. While there might be no harm in thinking one’s syllabus is a contract, there is a legal risk in asserting that it is. In this session, the presenter will synthesize the syllabus-as-contract juxtaposition, including summarizing the research, and will clarify what the risk is for declaring syllabi to be contracts. Also, best practices from contract drafting will be applied to syllabi creation, intended to enhance teaching and learning and minimize the risks of student grievances connected to syllabi. Attendees will learn how to strengthen their syllabi, including how to make them more collaborative.

Location

Room 1220

Publication Type and Release Option

Presentation (Open Access)

 
Mar 26th, 9:00 AM Mar 26th, 9:45 AM

Is Your Syllabus a Contract? A Comparison of the SoTL Literature and "The Law"

Room 1220

For three decades, the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) literature has affirmed that a syllabus is a contract. When discussing the purpose of a syllabus or how it can be used as evidence of scholarship, SoTL authors repeatedly start with the premise that a syllabus is a contract; and they cite as evidence other authors who have earlier written the same thing – but always without legal support. Yet when students have sued their professors or institutions for breach of contract, related to course syllabi, courts have dismissed those cases on the grounds that a syllabus is not a contract. While there might be no harm in thinking one’s syllabus is a contract, there is a legal risk in asserting that it is. In this session, the presenter will synthesize the syllabus-as-contract juxtaposition, including summarizing the research, and will clarify what the risk is for declaring syllabi to be contracts. Also, best practices from contract drafting will be applied to syllabi creation, intended to enhance teaching and learning and minimize the risks of student grievances connected to syllabi. Attendees will learn how to strengthen their syllabi, including how to make them more collaborative.