Warm versus cold syllabus language

Published: 3 May 2023| Version 2 | DOI: 10.17632/d35ysvzh5m.2
Angela Sheely-Moore


Scholars have asserted the importance of syllabi language and tone for college students according to particular learning outcomes (Bain, 2004; Richmond et al., 2016; Sulik & Keys, 2014). Researchers in this quantitative study explored the impact of syllabus tone on master-level counseling students (N = 124). Findings indicate statistically significant differences between students’ reactions to syllabi language, with greater student retention of the content within the warm syllabus condition and more favorable perceptions of the instructor and their grading practices. Implications for graduate-level instructors were identified as a result of this study. Use "syllabustudy" to access the data set.


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Upon receiving Institutional Review Board, instructors of each program’s counseling assessment course were contacted by the authors in efforts to recruit participants. This course was chosen specifically based on the timing of this course in the sequencing of required educational requirements for counseling programs. Specifically, since Counseling Assessment is an advanced course, students would have already been exposed to graduate-level syllabi. An adapted version of the Teacher Behaviors Checklist (TBC; Keeley et al., 2006) was utilized to measure instructor qualities and characteristics, along with a author created demographic information form. Participants were randomly assigned a warm or cold syllabus to review before completing the adapted TBC.


Montclair State University


Counseling, Adult Education