SIP 7.15 Skills-based Syllabi

Thirsty for a Strong Instructional Practice?

Regardless of the topic or level of the course—intro-level general studies or upper-division requirement for the major—we have all heard our students ask, “Why do I have to take this class?” While this is a genuinely annoying question, the “translation” might inspire a bit of empathy: when students ask “why,” they are generally wondering what skills this class is giving them that will be applicable to their post-graduation plans of work or further study. How can we better connect in-class work with our students’ post-graduation goals and dreams?

Take a SIP of This: Skills-based Syllabi

A skills-based syllabus is conceptually focused on the behavioral changes that you wish to produce in your students. These changes are intended to produce measurable learning outcomes that prepare students for professional or post-graduate educational experiences. In addition, highlighting the skills that a student learns in your class will allow them to understand the concept of learning outcomes and how they relate to skill transferability—that the skills they master in a history class, for example, may actually be applicable when they study math for their business degree.

Try these tips for re-organizing your syllabi in order to highlight the skills students will gain from your class:

  • Identify three to five skills that you want your students to learn. These may coincide with the student learning outcomes of your course, and that’s ok. But keep in mind that an “outcome” can be less engaging to students and may not seem as immediately applicable to their career or further study as a “skill.” Skills may include the obvious, such as “public speaking,” or they may be more esoteric depending on the course, such as “teaching,” “leadership,” “staff development,” or “community organizing.”
  • Create a simple graphic organizer, such as a table or chart, and create one space for each skill. Then, go through your syllabus and put each content topic and activity listed into one of the skills spots. You may even choose to color code the table and then use that color throughout the rest of your syllabus or course materials to indicate connection to a particular skill.
  • Integrate the skills you are fostering into the activities and work products of the course in a meaningful fashion. For example, engage students in a post-assessment that asks about both the activity/test/project/etc. and about the activity itself. Some questions you might ask: “How did this activity encourage the development of leadership skills?” and “How were your leadership skills enhanced by doing this activity? Give examples.” This type of assessment will validate students’ development of skills and will allow them to learn how to talk about how their work in class has prepared them for professional work at a job interview, for example.
  • Encourage your students to keep track of their skills development in an e-portfolio system such as Portfolium — coming soon to MSU Denver for incoming first-time-to-college students (later to be scaled to all MSU Denver students). Students can then share their e-portfolio with potential employers and, regardless of their prior work experience, speak meaningfully about the skills they can bring to the new position.
  • Also encourage your students to develop a LinkedIn page (or similar). This will help them to build their professional presence on the web and can also contribute to the development of their resumé or curriculum vitae when the time is right.

Still Thirsty? Take another SIP of Skills-based Syllabi

For related information on how to create a learner centered syllabus, check out SIP 2.15 at The Well.

Frischmann, R. M. (2013). A Skills-Based Approach to Developing a Career

For info on Portfolium, please contact Elizabeth Parmelee, director of Undergraduate Studies, at [email protected].

Encourage your students to visit MSU Denver Career Services on campus early and often!! The talented staff there can help students to further develop presentation of their skill sets and foster career readiness. In addition, Career Services offers a LinkedIn workshop for students in the fall, and they perform continuous reviews of LinkedIn profiles and resumés by appointment!

Visit The Well at for more great ideas and resources for Strong Instructional Practices in your higher education classroom!

Permanent link to this article:


Skip to comment form

  1. Being a good website with more knowledge, so that we can get knowledge from many websites is really good.

  2. excellent post as always i like it thank you for sharing

  3. Great post i am really impressed with your post thank you for information

  4. I like this thanks

  5. Such a great article. Thanks for sharing.

  6. helo dear… visit here…..
    Thanks You….

  7. Keep up the excellent piece of work, I read few blog posts on this internet site and I
    think that your website is real interesting and
    has got circles of good information.

  8. This is a wonderful article, and you did good work on this post. Given so much information on it.

  9. thanks for sharing, sir..

  10. Thank you much for this fantastic insights. It’s nice to read this again and feel good that you’re doing the right things!

  11. this is really helpful for me thanks a lot for sharing this with us

  12. Thanks a lot for this article . I interested with this

  13. Such a great article. Thanks for sharing.

  14. nice sharing, good article

  15. thx for share and good job

  16. thanks for sharing, nice article

  17. thanks for sharing, i like this..

  18. This a very helpful article Thanks for sharing.

    • nouhd on February 2, 2019 at 1:29 am
    • Reply

    Thank you for sharing.

  19. This a very helpful article Thanks for sharing.

  20. you’re actually a good webmaster. The site loading
    pace is incredible. It sort of feels that you are doing any distinctive trick.
    Also, The contents are masterwork. you have done a fantastic task in this topic!

  21. thank you for article

  22. the information is very useful. thank you

  23. Useful Information. for speak to public capability

    1. Yes This is true

  24. thank,hmmm, good submission for new point of view..

  25. nice knowledge here, great post. thanks for sharing

  26. This a very helpful article Thanks for sharing.

  27. hmmm, good submission for new point of view..

  28. thanks for information, thanks for sharing, keep post and go a head

  29. nice post and very give me knowledge

  30. when will the 6.16 version come out?

  31. what skills do you get?

    • Mod on December 19, 2018 at 4:50 am
    • Reply

    This is a very nice article,
    Thanks for sharing

  32. is the best tips for re-organizing

  33. This is a very helpful article .

  34. articles that are very beautiful and good to read so please make a good article like this again, thanks

  35. thanks sir for your information very nice

  36. thanks for share post

  37. great to learn all that stuff

  38. Good articel , good job … i very happy

  39. nice topic and nice information dude.. thanks..

    • David on August 2, 2018 at 11:01 am
    • Reply

    thanks for share article

    1. I like this thanks

  40. when will the 6.16 version come out?

    1. Hello, we publish SIPs weekly throughout the academic year (15 per semester). The next SIP should be posted in the last week of August 2018. Thanks for reading!

      1. thanks for sharing, useful

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.