I am wondering what would happen if, at the start of the semester, a professor told students it was time to hand out the syllabus, and proceeded to pass out blank sheets of paper. Students would then be asked what they expected/hoped to get out of the course, what topics they expect/hope will be covered, what kinds of activities and assessments of learning they envisage and what steps need to be taken to achieve their desired outcomes.
While for some, this might seem like a tempting alternative to the preparation they are currently (in some cases frantically) putting into getting syllabi ready for the first day of class. But I’m thinking that this activity could be done not as an alternative to a syllabus created by the professor (although I admit that could be interesting!) but as a complementary exercise, to see whether and to what extent students’ learning objectives and perception of steps to achieve them correspond with the professor’s and with each others’ as students.
After this activity, the professor could then distribute his or her own syllabi, and ask students to note any major differences, discrepancies or disconnects between them.
If you find this idea helpful, feel free to use it. If not, please take a blank blog post and create your own idea instead! 🙂