When I first began teaching, my syllabi were pretty much what I got as an undergraduate– a list lecture topics beside their dates plus a list of assignments and exams with the percentage each was worth. They slowly got better but it wasn’t until I took a course on course design at Gwenna Moss (thanks to Heather Ross, Ryan Banow) that I really saw the value of a good syllabus. You can find my ANBI 110 syllabus here: http://ocw.usask.ca/AB/ANBI/110/. It’s not perfect but I try to make it better every year.
When I was Associate Dean (Academic) I distributed syllabus templates to college faculty and hoped that this would significantly improve the quality of our course syllabi. Generally it has. I still think there is room for improvement but its getting better. However, there are still some bare bones, crappy ones out there. Not every teacher who ever lived can say “it’s the syllabus”.
Remember, if you don’t give students all the information they need in a syllabus, don’t complain that students just don’t take responsibility for their education. You have a responsibility too.