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First Year Seminar Companion: FYS Guidelines

This guide provides an online version of much of the material contained in Dr. Todd Gernes's "A First-Year Seminar Companion," created in September 2015. Faculty will find information on First-Year Seminar (FYS) guidelines, sample syllabi, learning style

Guidelines

First-Year Seminars
Guidelines and Proposal Form

First-Year Seminars at Stonehill College provide students with an opportunity to explore an engaging topic or question in a small-class format emphasizing writing, discussion, critical thinking, and academic inquiry. For this reason, seminar titles are often in the form of an overarching question.  First-Year Seminars are an opportunity for faculty to create a “passion seminar,” a writing-intensive course in an open format based on their own research or teaching interests. Because effective writing is integral to critical thinking, the seminars all emphasize frequent writing, close examination of texts, rigorous analysis and reasoning, and information literacy. First-Year Seminars may be rooted in individual disciplines or may be interdisciplinary, often incorporating problem-based learning or the rhetoric of inquiry. All First-Year Seminars bear four credits, have no prerequisites, and are open to all first-year students on a space-available basis, regardless of major.
 

Guidelines
The following guidelines apply to all First-Year Seminars (FYSs):

  • FYSs explore engaging topics in a flexible seminar format that puts the emphasis on learning through reading, writing, class discussion, analysis, and synthesis. Instruction is provided in active, critical reading, emphasizing that this skill is a necessary precursor to effective writing. In all cases, writing instruction and content coverage are presented as complementary activities.
  • Each FYS requires 20-30 pages of writing, including substantive revisions but excluding in-class assignments and timed writing.  Major assignments will receive constructive feedback from the instructor and, when appropriate, peers.  Drawing on this feedback, students will have regular opportunities to revise their work during the semester.
  • Instructors may make use of “writing-to-learn” pedagogies, such as journaling, blogging, online discussions, reader-response papers, or creative/expressive approaches to supplement more highly elaborated and formalized writing assignments. Shorter, more frequent writing assignments or more sustained writing projects are both acceptable, depending on instructor preference.  Ideally, a combination of the two will be used to give students a chance to practice writing skills in different assignments and/or on different topics pertinent to the course material throughout the semester.  Similarly, a balance of formal assignments (e.g., essays) and informal “writing to learn” assignments (e.g., journals) can be helpful.
  • Instruction is provided during class time on crafting academic writing, including forming a research question or line of inquiry, developing a substantive thesis, constructing an argument, analyzing evidence to support that argument, managing textual evidence and reported speech (including summary, paraphrase, and direct quotation), and using one or more citation formats (such as MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.).      
  • It is assumed that instructors will utilize the time represented by the fourth credit allocated to FYSs for direct instruction in writing, writing-centered learning in the classroom, or structured, interactive writing activities in online environments, such as eLearn.
     

Key Learning Outcomes
Students in all First-Year Seminars will demonstrate the ability to:

  • read critically, annotate texts, and gather and interpret evidence. (Active reading).
  • thoroughly (systematically and methodically) analyze their own and others' assumptions and evaluate the relevance of contexts when presenting a position. (Examining assumptions.)
  • critically state, describe, and clarify the issue or problem to be considered so that understanding is not seriously impeded by omissions. (Explanation of issues.)
  • understand context, audience, and purpose in response to an assigned writing task or assignment  (Context and purpose for writing.)
  • use appropriate, relevant, and compelling content to explore ideas through writing within the context of the course or discipline in order to shape the work as a whole. (Content development.)
  • formulate and clearly express a specific position (perspective, thesis/hypothesis) that takes into account the complexities of an issue while acknowledging other points of view. (Point of view.)
  • access information using effective, well-designed search strategies and most appropriate information sources; communicate, organize and synthesize information from sources to fully achieve a specific purpose, with clarity and depth. (Accessing and organizing information.)
  • use credible, relevant sources to support ideas that are situated within the discipline and genre of the writing and document sources using standard citation formats.  (Sources and evidence.)
  • draw conclusions that are logically tied to a range of information, including opposing viewpoints; clearly identify related outcomes, consequences, and implications. (Conclusions and related outcomes.)
  • clearly convey meaning to readers in straightforward language that is generally free of grammatical and mechanical errors.  (Control of syntax and mechanics.) 
     

Assessment
Instructors may use a wide variety of formative and summative strategies to assess student writing and thinking, including traditional paper grading, high-stakes and low-stakes assignments, intellectual journals, peer review, reading response papers, sequenced writing assignments, performance tasks (emphasizing problem solving), rubrics, and/or portfolio assessment (emphasizing the writing process and the importance of revision). 

Proposal Form

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