Course Specific Issues
Use the course outline to resolve any student confusion that may have arisen in previous semesters, such as the examples provided under the "responsive" subheading, above. This approach is particularly effective in resolving issues related to evaluation. When instructors take full advantage of their course outlines to set out explicit criteria for each assignment, the grading process becomes more transparent to students and the number of complaints on course evaluations and grade appeals are drastically reduced.

For example, many students are used to lectures closely paralleling the material in the text, and will feel ambushed when tested on material not covered in the lectures. If one intends to hold students responsible for material not directly covered in class, ensure that this intention is clearly stated in writing in the course outline, indicating the specific list of readings for which students are responsible and the dates by which they should have mastered the material. Similarly, some instructors assign readings and test on them prior to covering the material in class, the intent being that students should engage with the material and attempt to master it prior to "getting the answer" from the instructor. Unfortunately, students unfamiliar with this approach often perceive the pretest as a scheduling error and complain on course evaluations that the instructor kept assessing material before it was taught. Such misconceptions are easily resolved by including a clear statement in the course outline explaining and providing the rationale for this alternate approach.

Some disciplines and instructors continually "raise the bar" for assignments as the course progresses -- what is acceptable as an 'A' paper at the start of the term would be considered only a 'B' or 'C' after a year of instruction. This approach needs to be made clear to students in the course outline, however, or may lead to a rash of grade appeals as students who "did exactly the same as last time" are shocked by their new lower grades. Even where the approach is common within the discipline or department, a clear statement is required in each course outline so that students from other majors taking the course are not taken by surprise.