What is the difference between a syllabus and a curriculum?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

On the college level, a syllabus is not only a breakdown of the weekly assignments, readings, papers, text chapters, etc., but also a legal contract between student and college; it includes a statement about accomodating students with special educational needs, a statement describing grading criteria, etc.; it is designed semester by semester or quarter by quarter, individually for each class.  A curriculum (circle of study) is a series of offered courses leading to a specialization--for example, a curriculum in Shakespeare would include a course (with a syllabus) in tragedies, a course in comedies, a course in histories, etc. This is the fundamental difference.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I think that both concepts are related to one another in order to demonstrate a teacher's effectiveness in the classroom.  The curriculum represents the content that needs to be taught.  Within the curriculum exists the essential questions and content that drive the understanding within the content area.  The curriculum is broad, enabling instructors or other determining bodies to assess what it is that students need to know upon successful completion of the school year.  The syllabus is more of the practical steps in order to achieve this end goal.  The syllabus outlines through incrementalism where the progression will lie.  In a syllabus, there are broken down elements where different concepts will be taught in sequence.  The syllabus is to fit into the larger curriculum design, but represents the means by which to achieve the end result.  The syllabus is also the means through which the student understands why they do what they do and how individual parts are able to fit into the larger entity.  In successful understanding of both, students are able to gain greater insight and comprehension of material.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial