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Guidelines and Model Proposals

Guidelines for CUNY Core and College Option Proposals and Syllabi

The most important thing to keep in mind when preparing proposals is that the syllabus and the proposal justifications have to complement each other in meaningful ways. They must not contradict each other, and both must be specific enough so that the case for approving the course is “obvious.”

The Syllabus

The syllabus is the document given to students at the beginning of the course. It provides the student with (a) the rationale for the course, sometimes stated as “goals” or “objectives,” (b) the course requirements (assignments and exams), and (c) information on how grades will be determined. Syllabi normally contain additional administrative information for the course (“administrivia”) such as how to contact the instructor(s), office hours, how to access course materials, etc., but the first three elements are the critical parts for present purposes.

Although the syllabus is designed for student consumption, it also provides proposal reviewers with their only way to understand how the course is actually structured and what material is actually covered.

Naturally, the syllabus must be consistent with the formal catalog information for the course: title, contact hours and credits, prerequisites, and catalog description.

There is no length requirement for the syllabus, and no required structure for the document, provided the three key elements listed above are all clearly presented. That said, CUNY guidelines suggest a five-page maximum, but it is not a strictly enforced limit. A one page syllabus is almost certainly too skimpy to allow meaningful evaluation of the course, and a ten page syllabus is almost certainly too detailed for the time students and reviewers alike are willing to devote to it.

Many syllabi contain a weekly or class-by-class schedule for the course. Such a schedule can be a good way to indicate what proportion of the course is devoted to various topics, and to help students keep track of where they are in the course as the semester progresses. But to support a General Education proposal, it’s more important for the syllabus to give a good idea of what assignments the students will be submitting rather than just a list of due dates.

Although the syllabus submitted in support of a General Education proposal may well be an actual one distributed to students, it doesn’t have to be. For new courses or courses that vary the assignments across sections or semesters, a synthetic or representative syllabus that provides a model for how the course is taught is perfectly acceptable. Occasionally, it can be useful to provide two different syllabi for the course to show what aspects of the course do and don’t vary across offerings. In this case, combine the two syllabi, clearly identified and separated from each other, in a single document for uploading. See the syllabus for English 110 for an example.

Justifications

All Queens College General Education courses must meet two criteria that were established when the “Perspectives” (PLAS) curriculum was adopted in 2006: (a) “Address how, in the discipline (or disciplines) of the course, data and evidence are construed and knowledge is acquired; that is, how questions are asked and answered.” (b) “Position the discipline(s) in the liberal arts curriculum and the larger society.”

Note that both these criteria are discipline oriented, and that they relate to the first of the three key elements of the syllabus listed above. As a liberal arts college, Queens strives to structure the General Education portion of the curriculum as a coherent unity rather than as a set of disparate un-related requirements. Use the justifications for these two criteria to explain to the Queens College reviewers how the course reinforces this integrative approach to general education.

Proposals for “CUNY Core” (Pathways) areas are evaluated on the basis of “learning outcomes.” In practice, this means that the justifications have to be stated in terms of activities that students are actually graded on in the course. A topic may be germaine to a particular learning outcome, but "covering,” “discussing,” or ”reading about” a topic is not sufficient justification for claiming that the learning outcome will actually be met.

Rather, the justifications for learning outcomes must cite the graded activities listed in the syllabus that make it possible to establish that the outcomes are met.

Make sure the time allocated to—and the grading weight for—each activity in the syllabus has face validity for supporting the corresponding justifications in the proposal.

Justifications are normally not long: two to five sentences should be fine. A lot of reviewers are reading a lot of proposals, so you want to make your case clearly and concisely. Eshew both puffery and vagueness!

Advice

Avoid justifying the discipline or particular course topic in the CUNY Core justifications. Concentrate on what students will do in the course instead. The only place you would need to say something about the discipline or course topic is in the two Queens College “perspectives” critera and, possibly, the Queens College “College Option” areas (Language, Literature, Science, and Synthesis).

Do not include more justifications than are required unless you think they really strengthen the case for the course. Go for consistently good justifications rather than a larger number of weaker ones.

Model Proposals

English Composition (CUNY Core) [No model available]

Comments

The Writing Subcommittee guidelines for English Composition (“College Writing 2”) courses are avalable as a separate document: CW2 Guidelines.

Mathematical and Quantitative Reasoning (CUNY Core) [No model available]

Comments

None available
Life and Physical Sciences (CUNY Core) [No model available]

Comments

None available
Proposal #194: World Cultures and Global Issues (CUNY Core)

Comments

  • As originally submitted, this proposal was very long. It has since been revised, but parts of it are still longer than necessary.
  • What the committee liked about the proposal is that it clearly indicates how the student assignments given in the syllabus address the criteria for the WC designation.
Proposal #171: United States Experience in its Diversity (CUNY Core)

Comments

  • The committee found the justifications to be complete, compelling, and well-related to the sample syllabus.
  • A particularly strong feature of this proposal is that it makes it clear that the course can be taught in a variety of styles, according to the instructor’s preferences, yet always satisfies the criteria for the US designation at Queens and across the university.
Proposal #165: Creative Expression (CUNY Core)

Comments

  • This proposal illustrates the case where a course needs two proposals to achieve designation as a CUNY Core course. In addition to proposal #165, there is a related proposal (#187) that revises the course catalog information so that the course satisfies a property outside the scope of the CE learning outcomes, specifically to change its Liberal Arts Designation from Non-Liberal Arts to Regular Liberal Arts.
  • Notice that each justification specifies just what students will do in the course to achieve the objectives. Each justification either explicitly or implicitly refers to the student activities given in the sample syllabus.
Individual and Society (CUNY Core) [No model available]

Comments

None available
Scientific World (CUNY Core) [No model available]

Comments

None available
Language (College Option) [No model available]

Comments

None available
Literature (College Option) [No model available]

Comments

None available
Science (College Option) [No model available]

Comments

None available