Designing university syllabi for 21st century skills Maximizing learning outcomes in higher education

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Michael Ndemanu


This paper discusses the contours of developing a 21st century course syllabus that empowers students in the learning process to become critical thinkers, problem-solvers, innovators, and collaborators. It draws from transformative learning theory to provide detailed information on the characteristics of a syllabus, its universal components, interpreting course code, uses of a syllabus, accessibility, and backward design. It draws from Bloom’s taxonomy to offer a pragmatic guide to syllabus creation with concrete examples on how instructors can employ a backward design approach to syllabus development to effectively create a syllabus of a course they have never taught before. The author concludes by reiterating that the overarching emphasis of teaching with a syllabus is to promote higher-order thinking and deeper learning in higher education because a syllabus that promotes deeper learning and knowledge transfer maximizes learning outcomes.


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