Is asking for the syllabus before class frowned upon? I usually ask because I'm trying to figure out what we're going to do and whether I have interest in the subject.
It is perfectly acceptable and in fact you don't even need to justify your reasons when asking for it. I would also consider the following additional steps you can take in assessing a course:
- Check if you have access to the course website and its resources, or any old material that may be on the professor's own page.
- Check for which textbooks and/or books will be used for the course. If the course strictly adheres to a textbook you may want to read it to get an insight into how the subject will be taught, and whether you are comfortable using that resource.
- If the module/course is part of a program (e.g. BSc, MSc), sometimes information about the course will be provided in webpages on the degree course it is part of, and those would be worth checking out.
i) the syllabus should be available before a student selects a course - and indicate requirements and successful completion will satisfy requirement for a course at the next level ii) the syllabus should include a list of recommended text books iii) ideally, a lecture schedule will suggest pre-reading material. It is recommended that the student does pre-read they can then focus in the lecture on parts less well understood iv) past exam / course work should be available. Again read and map "tests" to the lecture schedule. Ideally "test" will describe how grades are awarded. A very generic approach is Pass : a text book answer, Merit : identifies weakness in the text book answer, Distinction : offers a "worthy" solution to those weaknesses.