Sample Syllabi Development Process

Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 10.42.51 AMThe purpose of the IRIS Sample Syllabi Collection is to assist new and experienced college and university faculty by providing some possible models for commonly offered courses about all students, particularly those with disabilities. This effort was undertaken in response to requests from participants at IRIS training events, particularly IRIS Faculty Seminars. For many years, IRIS Trainers and Technical Assistance Providers have generously shared their course syllabi with Seminar participants. The response was so positive that we decided to strategically collect and make available syllabi for a variety of courses commonly found in credential sequences. In the months and years ahead, we will add new syllabi to the collection.

PURPOSE – In particular, these sample syllabi are intended to serve as examples of where IRIS resources and other materials about evidence-based practices and research-oriented knowledge can be integrated into coursework. Eventually, the syllabi collection will contain multiple examples of courses typically included in a variety of curricula for special education credentials, as well as syllabi for courses that comprise content about children with disabilities found in general education teacher preparation programs, as well as other supporting disciplines’ preparation sequences.

COURSE SELECTION – We undertook a multi-step process to select courses and produce this initial collection of sample syllabi.

1. Consumer Input – Focus groups, made up of new and experienced faculty who had attended IRIS training events and doctoral students, engaged in personnel preparation and enrolled in doctoral seminars across the United States. Participants were asked which components and what content they would like to see included in sample syllabi. Questions posed to the focus groups were both structured and open-ended.

2. Input Process Results – Experienced faculty expressed interest in course schedules/weeks-at–a-glance that indicated IRIS Modules and effective practices to include in specific class sessions. New faculty and doctoral students wanted to see all syllabi components, such as course descriptions, required and recommended readings, course objectives, course assignments, and course policies.

3. Syllabi Work Group – IRIS Trainers, who had previously shared their syllabi at Seminars and other training events, and “heavy users” of IRIS resources came together to form a work group. They discussed the initiative first in phone conferences and later continued their conversations online via Basecamp™ software.

4. Standardization – Several members of the Syllabi Work Group are faculty at nationally accredited institutions, and thus recommended inclusion of components of syllabi used in program evaluation. The group unanimously agreed that the syllabi made available as samples should use a standard organizational structure. Several drafts of a template were constructed before a final version was agreed upon. This final template includes 15 components.

5. Coursework Variations – The Work Group chose to reformat the syllabi they’d developed for use in core courses they themselves teach. They also decided to offer IRIS consumers samples of these courses that are used in different credential sequences and offered through delivery formats:

  • Introduction to special education (traditional or hybrid delivery, online or distance delivery, K–6 credential programs, selected courses for early childhood credential programs, and commonly offered courses for K-12 teacher preparation sequences)
  • General methods about students with disabilities
  • Classroom and behavior management
  • Working with families
  • Practicum/field experience

Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 10.43.19 AM6. Reviews – First, an IRIS project assistant analyzed each syllabus to ensure that it included every component listed on the template. Each syllabus was edited to ensure standard formatting, and proofread for errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Next, the syllabi were sent to experts in teacher education for review. One expert determined that, “The sample syllabi provide up-to-date/current expectations, assessments, and resources for candidates.” This expert also recommended that the syllabi clearly specify the credit hours of the courses in question and indicate whether those courses were intended for undergraduate or graduate students. If any courses were for both undergraduates and graduates, the instructors should stipulate distinctions in grading or assignment expectations or provide justification in the event expectations are the same for both groups of students. Those revisions and clarifications have been made. Please note that the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division for Early Childhood’s set of recommended practices will be cross-referenced in the appropriate courses once they are finalized.


The creation of this collection would not have been possible without the invaluable assistance of the people listed below.

Deborah Deutsch Smith, Director, IRIS@CGU
Sara Werner, Project Assistant, IRIS@CGU
Cammy Purper, Project Assistant, IRIS@CGU
Taryn Vanderpyl, Project Assistant, IRIS@CGU

Work Group Contributors and Reviewers
Vivian Correa, University of North Carolina-Charlotte
Laurie Dinnebeil, University of Toledo
Nancy Hunt, California State University, Los Angeles
Michelle Marchant, Brigham Young University
Katherine Mitchem, California University-Pennsylvania
Cindy O’Dell, Salish Kootenai College
Darcie Peterson, Utah State University
Kimberly Snow, Utah State University
Melba Spooner, University of North Carolina-Charlotte

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