How to Write a Well-Formatted K-12 Professional Development Syllabus

Syllabus header

There was a time, before the internet and global positioning systems (GPS), when an essential item for a road trip was a paper map. You had to know how to use a map, because, unlike GPS, the map didn’t show you where you were and how to get where you were going.

When we think in terms of education, the equivalent of a map is a syllabus. I won’t spend much time on what a syllabus is in this post, because you, dear readers, are teachers and as a result you have either worked with a syllabus in your own class or have most definitely seen one in the classes you took to obtain your teaching degree. We will, however, use the concept of a map as we discuss the writing of a well-formatted syllabus for your k-12 professional development class offered through North Dakota State University (NDSU).

Let’s start off by taking a look at the course syllabus form NDSU uses and then we will break it down line by line. Fair warning: the content in the rest of this blog post is a bit dry, but nonetheless, very useful information.

Syllabus For:

first part of syllabus

This section is like a one-way only road sign, there aren’t too many ways to go. This is the part where most of the information is going to be the same as many other courses, with the exception of the title. 

Check the box next to K-12/Professional Development. It is really the only way for you to offer professional development courses. K-12 professional development courses are never considered degree eligible, though they are graduate-level.

Course Title:

You may already have a title for your course but for NDSU transcript purposes the title may need to be shortened. No more than 30 characters are allowed for course titles posted to NDSU transcripts. If you are struggling to get the title to 30 characters, our k-12 professional development coordinator can give you some guidance.


Typically the department you will use is the EDUC, or education department. However, you may choose another department based on the topics covered and needs of your participants. Some individuals need specific course departments listed on their transcript for license renewal or pay scale increases. If this is the case for your potential participants, choose the department that most closely matches the content of your course.

The department you choose will be one of three groups who review and approve your course.

Course Number:

The course number for k-12 professional development at NDSU will always be 2000 regardless of the department you choose. Enter “2000” in this box.

Instructor Information:

Instructor information of the syllabus

This section is like a highway on a map. You should be able to get through this section at a rapid speed.

If you are not the official instructor for this course but you are filling out this form, be sure to use the information for the person who will be listed as the instructor of record. Most of the required information is pretty obvious: name, address, city, state, zip code, phone, fax, and email.

We also ask for the instructor’s highest degree earned. We use this to ensure that the instructor meets our requirement of a Master’s degree or higher, but this also gets added to the website. Individuals searching for our classes often want to know that the individual teaching the course has the credentials to teach.

Course Information:

This section is all about your course; kind of like a more detailed map of the city you are heading to. Getting through town usually takes a bit longer than driving on a highway. There are a lot more details to pay close attention to, but if you follow the signs, you’ll get there.

Guest Lecturer(s):

Guest part of the Syllabus

Lots of classes use guest lecturers. Guest lecturers are used for various reasons but most often it is because they have a wealth of knowledge about the topic or are co-teaching the course. On the syllabus, we will need each guest lecturers’ name, degree, and the percentage of the class they will be teaching.


text area for Guest Lecturer

Provide complete and accurate information regarding the textbook(s) you plan to use. The ISBN number is the book’s unique number, you can find this number above the barcode on the book or by searching online. Double check to ensure you have the correct edition as ISBN numbers may differ with each edition. You may also choose to list the retailers students are most likely to find these books at, especially if they are hard to find books. Some instructors choose to find a retailer with the most competitive book price to save their students money. Either way, please list the average price of the required book or books.


Description part of the syllabus

This is where you get to tell us all about your course. Provide a short description of your course. See the blog post titled, “Writing Captivating Class Descriptions,” to learn tips and tricks on writing a description that gets students excited to take your course.

National Board For Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS):

NBPTS part of the Syllabus

In this section you will choose the number of the NBPTS standards your course aligns with. In the box you will write the standards your course meets. The NBPTS standards from which to choose are,

  1. Teachers are committed to students and their learning.
  2. Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subject to students.
  3. Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.
  4. Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.
  5. Teachers are members of learning communities.

View the full description of each standard here.

Barb Schumacher, our K-12 professional development coordinator, can assist with this section if you are unsure of what to put here.


Objectives part of the syllabus

Write out clear, measurable, and assessable behaviors students will achieve as a result of taking your course. You are going to want to consider your evaluation plan while writing your objectives as the two are closely tied together. 

Topical Outline:

Topical Outline part of the Syllabus

A topical outline is essentially a schedule of when each topic will be discussed and for what length of time. Your topical outline should equal 15 hours per credit of lectures, discussions, or other work outside of class. The 15 hours cannot include lunch time (unless it is a working lunch), breaks, social activities, or registration times, as those are not generally times when individuals are learning any content.

Here are a few examples of how to structure a topical outline:

If held on a consistent day and time each week:
Day of Week, Month, Dates – Number of Meetings – Meeting Times – Topic

If held as a 1 or 2-day event:
Month, Date   – Meeting Time – Topic
– Meeting Time – Topic
– Meeting Time – Topic
Month, Date   – Meeting Time – Topic
– Meeting Time – Topic
– Meeting Time – Topic

If held on different days and times each week:
Month, Date   – Meeting Time – Topic
Month, Date   – Meeting Time – Topic
Month, Date   – Meeting Time – Topic 

Course Requirements:

course requirements part of the syllabus

Tell us about the assignments, quizzes, tests, or activities you plan to do in your course.

Required Student Resources:

Required Student Resources part of the syllabus

Tell us about the resources students will need to be successful in your course. Which books are required and which are useful but not required. What other items might they need? Lab manuals, calculators, instruments, etc.

Evaluation Plan:

Evaluation Plan part of the Syllabus

Specify performance expected, percentage allocations of assignments toward final grade, or other procedures for grading and grading system (S/U and/or letter grade A, B, C, D or F).

For a satisfactory/unsatisfactory (S/U) grading system, a simple evaluation may be used that addresses each objective of the class. Basically, it is a “did they or did they not” evaluative system.

If letter grades are to be issued, you must include a qualitative assessment rubric. The rubric must contain, for each course objective, the qualitative decisions you will make about the student’s work to determine each particular letter grade.

Required Statements:

Required statements part of syllabus

Students with Disabilities:

At the bottom of the syllabus form is a statement for students with disabilities and how they may seek accommodations by speaking with the instructor of the course. This statement must be on all K-12 professional development syllabi. It will automatically be added to yours.

If a student seeks accommodations for your course and you are unsure how to assist them, please contact our office so we can connect you with disability specialists on campus.

Academic Honesty Statement:

Again, this statement is required to be on all NDSU K-12 professional development syllabi. The statement addresses the Code of Academic Responsibility and Conduct that your students must comply with. It is a necessary statement to ensure the quality of the professional development we offer and it is automatically added to your syllabus.

Now that we have successfully arrived at our destination – a well formatted syllabus – you can either go on to finish the course proposal form or, if all the required documents are turned in, you can sit back and wait for us to get your course approved.

Sending us a well-formatted syllabus saves you time by not having to revise your syllabus, and it saves our staff time by not contacting you multiple times for syllabus corrections. You also save time getting your course approved, which allows us to focus on marketing your course (if applicable) and you to focus on preparing to teach your course.

If you have any questions about formatting a syllabus, please contact Barb Schumacher, K-12 professional development coordinator. She would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Read more about what to think about when designing a K-12 professional development class.

About the Author

Connie Jadrny

Connie Jadrny, is the marketing and public relations coordinator for NDSU Distance and Continuing Education, a program of the Office of Teaching and Learning.

In more than 14 years at NDSU, Jadrny has learned a lot about the professional development needs of k-12 teachers.

In this series of posts, she intends to pass along bits of wisdom from the professional development industry.

Let’s learn together!

KeywordsK-12 Professional Development, Offer a Class, OTL Blog   Doc ID130350
OwnerLinda C.GroupIT Knowledge Base
Created2023-08-15 12:06:32Updated2023-08-31 07:12:22
SitesIT Knowledge Base
Feedback  0   0