Thank you for signing up to teach a First-Year Seminar - this program is a critical degree requirement for all CAS students, and is a great way for you to meet our new students and introduce them to academic life at CAS, and to what excites you about your field of study! If you are teaching a First-Year Seminar for the first time, you will find on this page information that will help you design your course.
Designing your Syllabus
Before any new First-Year Seminar is taught, we require a draft syllabus be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. All new First-Year Seminar syllabi are reviewed by a Working Group of faculty and administrators, chaired by the CAS Faculty Director of Honors. This Working Group assesses syllabi for adherance to the program goals and purpose and suitability for First-Year students, and can provide useful feedback and suggestions to new instructors. Before you draft your syllabus, please read our syllabus guidelines. You may also find this syllabus template useful, as it contains various required university statements and policies which must be incuded on your syllabus.
What are the goals of a First-Year Seminar?
Regardless of topic, all First-Year Seminars have the following shared goals:
- Cultivate analytical and critical thinking;
- Advance multimodal communication and presentation skills;
- Use short-form and long-form writing to explore ideas;
- Introduce modes of inquiry and research in the disciplines represented in the College;
- Incorporate issues of ethics and diversity;
- Develop intellectual curiosity through academic mentoring and engagement with the liberal arts
Please see here for some suggested objectives and assignments which will allow your seminar to meet these goals. Essentially, First-Year Seminars introduce incoming students to the basic liberal arts skills they need to succeed at university. Feel free to incorporate those academic skills that you feel students need to learn. It is also perhaps useful to review what the First-Year Seminar is not:
- It is not a dedicated writing course, even though you will inevitably work with students on their writing, particularly on introducing them to the various forms and modes of academic writing (e.g. how an abstract differs from a review). Note that in addition to the First-Year Seminar, all students take at least one mandatory writing class through the Expository Writing Program in their first year, which specifically works with them on written expression.
- It is not a survey class. Even though the First-Year Seminar is a great way to introduce students to certain ideas and perspectives in your discipline, it is not an introductory survey class to that discipline, and should rather present First-Year students with content with which they can engage, critique, and discuss without extensive scaffolding.
The Importance of Mentoring
New students often find themselves mainly enrolled in large-format lecture courses; your seminar may be the first time they actually get to know their professor. We encourage all First-Year Seminar instructors to develop an environment of openness and collaboration through discussion and debate. Seminars should be places of active engagement, where all students feel comfortable speaking up. The use of office hours to get to know individual students can be a great way to mentor students as they make the transition from high school to college.