First Year Seminar: Course Goals

Every First-Year Seminar course should address the following three specific goals in the manner most appropriate to each individual course; instructors should make these goals clear to their students by including them in course syllabi and by discussing them in class.

All First-Year Seminars are designed to:

  1. Encourage critical thinking
    For example, foster independence of thought; help individuals embrace ambiguity and complexity and challenge their assumptions; develop the ability to justify one’s beliefs

  2. Help students embrace a multiplicity of perspectives and communities
    For example, expose students to interdisciplinary connections; demonstrate a variety of learning experiences and strategies; encourage an understanding and appreciation of diversity; foster an understanding of the significance of environmental issues

  3. Foster an engaged intellectual community
    For example, develop written, spoken and non-verbal communication skills; embrace active learning; offer collaborative opportunities; help students identify how knowledge has relevance beyond the classroom; encourage participatory citizenship in and beyond the classroom, including service learning

The following guidelines, which must be followed by all First-Year Seminar instructors, outline some ways that these goals can be accomplished:

  • Students in each First-Year Seminar are expected to turn in some form of course-related work to be evaluated by the instructor. The frequency and type of work is up to the instructor, but it is required that student work be evaluated early and regularly.
  • Instructors must assign at least one project that requires group work in order to promote cooperation and engaged citizenship among students in the course.
  • Some form of research must be included in each course. Instructors are encouraged to schedule a library research session conducted by a librarian. The research does not have to result in a research paper; the exact nature of the assignment shall be determined by the instructor.
  • Each course must include some writing assignment(s). The exact nature of the assignment(s) is/are up to the instructor.
  • Students must be encouraged to practice good speaking skills throughout the course.
  • Students should be given opportunities to participate in non-verbal modes of expression whenever possible and appropriate to the course.
  • Instructors are encouraged to include work that introduces students to the use of educational technology. Support and training is available for faculty who wish to explore the uses of such technology.
  • Instructors are encouraged to explore issues of diversity when possible.
  • Instructors should try to design at least one assignment that encourages risk-taking and the challenging of assumptions on the part of students and teacher, an activity that breaks out of the familiar in some form.
  • The First-Year Seminar faculty as a whole will examine ways to involve the freshmen as a group, with the aim of creating a sense of community among the First-Year Seminar sections.