Freshman Seminars
Definition and Elaboration of Criteria


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The chief concern of the EPC is that these seminars foster independent learning. Therefore, we suggest the following guidelines. In defining these, we have tried to respect the variety of ways in which the faculty teaching these courses might encourage student participation. Consequently, while we normally see reading, writing, and discussion at the heart of the seminar experience, we do not wish to exclude seminars that might substitute alternate activities central to the discipline for some of the intensive reading and writing as we define them below.

EPC. anticipates that Freshman Seminars will normally be taught for 4 credits. However, they may be taught as 3 or 4 credit courses provided the following criteria are met:

a. Discussion. At least of total weekly class time should be devoted to student participation. Such participation might take a variety of forms, both spontaneous and prepared: Discussion, group work, individual or panel presentations, debates, etc. This guideline allows for about 1 hours of lecture in a standard 3-hour course; it fosters students' responsibility for what goes on in class without interfering with highly successful models for seminars already in place (e.g. the Honors model of 2 weekly discussion periods with a lecture in between).

b. Writing. A writing-intensive course should require at least 5,000 words, or 20 pages, of writing. All of this need not be formal writing, but students should receive timely feedback from instructors on their performances in written work. We also recognize that special seminars--in Art, for example, or in other courses that might be proposed to satisfy GER 6-- might substitute another form of expression (painting or theatrical performance, for example) for part of the writing requirement. Whether a proposed substitution is defensible will be judged on a case-by-case basis. We stipulate, however, that the substitute activities must be central to the discipline offering the course or at least to one of those disciplines in the case of multi-discipline courses. For example, painting may legitimately substitute for writing in Art Freshman Seminars but substituting painting would be illegitimate in courses offered by disciplines where painting is not central.

c. Reading. We do not want to suggest any guidelines for amounts of reading, recognizing that courses in which a small number of texts are read closely and repeatedly (e.g., a literature course in poetry or in critical approaches) are as valuable and intense as courses (like Honors) requiring 100+ pages per week. We also recognize that film and art history courses, for example, require intensive reading of non-print forms. E.C. will judge on a case-by-case basis whether substituting the reading of these non-print forms for traditional reading satisfies part of the reading requirement. However, the substitution is acceptable only if it is central to the discipline offering the course, or at least to one of those disciplines in the case of multi-discipline courses.