How do I design my syllabus?

Anthropology 1105 Comparative Studies in Cultures and Transformation is a Flexible Core course that fulfils a requirement for World Cultures and Global Issues.

The official course description for the course is:

ANTH 1105 Comparative Studies in Cultures and Transformation

3 hours; 3 credits

Multidisciplinary exploration of the cultures and history of at least two societies. Thematic emphasis. Themes drawn from issues such as colonization, gender, urbanization, social movements, race and ethnic relations, north/south/east-west dyads, religion, nationalism, geography, encounter, diasporic communities, core-periphery, modernity and modernization, globalization, and transnationalism. A minimum of two world areas chosen from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, the Middle East and the Pacific Islands. Comparison of selected cultural clusters and social themes. (Not open to students who have completed Core Curriculum 3208.) 2017-2018: Satisfies Pathways College Option requirement. Starting Fall 2018 Satisfies Pathways Flexible Core World Cultures and Global Issues requirement.

The official statements on the Flexible Common Core, and for the World Cultures and Global Issues, are as follows:

The Flexible Common Core features six liberal arts and sciences courses, with at least one course from each of the following five areas and no more than two courses in any discipline or interdisciplinary field.

All Flexible Core courses must meet the following three learning outcomes.

A student will:

  • Gather, interpret, and assess information from a variety of sources and points of view.
  • Evaluate evidence and arguments critically or analytically.
  • Produce well-reasoned written or oral arguments using evidence to support conclusions.

World Cultures and Global Issues

A course in this area must meet at least three of the following additional learning outcomes. A student will:

  • Identify and apply the fundamental concepts and methods of a discipline or interdisciplinary field exploring world cultures or global issues, including, but not limited to, anthropology, communications, cultural studies, economics, ethnic studies, foreign languages (building upon previous language acquisition), geography, history, political science, sociology, and world literature.
  • Analyze culture, globalization, or global cultural diversity, and describe an event or process from more than one point of view.
  • Analyze the historical development of one or more non-U.S. societies.
  • Analyze the significance of one or more major movements that have shaped the world’s societies.
  • Analyze and discuss the role that race, ethnicity, class, gender, language, sexual orientation, belief, or other forms of social differentiation play in world cultures or societies.
  • Speak, read, and write a language other than English, and use that language to respond to cultures other than one’s own.

The Roberta S. Matthews Center for Teaching and Learning is a great resources for teaching support. They offer a number of events each semester designed to promote effective teaching and learning. Some events from Fall 2019 included: Teaching Plagiarism as a Writing Problem, How Can Faculty Support the Writing Practice of Multilingual Students?, and Student-Led Oral Histories: Teaching With the Brooklyn College Listening Project.

The University of Washington offers this helpful resource page on designing a course and syllabus that you may find helpful:

(The following is adapted from:

Course design

Effective course design begins with understanding who your students are, deciding what you want them to learn; determining how you will measure student learning; and planning activities, assignments and materials that support student learning. For all interactions with students plan ahead by ask yourself:

  1. Who are the students?
  2. What do I want students to be able to do?
  3. How will I measure students’ abilities?

By asking yourself these questions at the onset of your course design process you will be able to focus more concretely on learning outcomes, which has proven to increase student learning substantially as opposed to merely shoehorning large quantities of content into a quarters worth of class meetings.

1. Who are the students?

As a Flexible Core Requirement, students in your course may come from any major or discipline throughout the college. Accounting majors may be sitting next to history majors, English majors, or Chemistry majors. This can both be an asset and challenge in considering course design. This also means that, despite the course being an ‘introductory’ 1000-level course, students may be anywhere in the career from Freshman to Senior and therefore may vary immensely in terms of ability, maturity, engagement, and familiarity with college life. However, as you may also have junior classmen who have not yet decided on a major, the class presents a unique and important opportunity to introduce students to the discipline of anthropology (and therefore you have the potential to recruit more Anthro majors!). You can check your student roosters before the course starts, however with the amount of shifting that happens in the first few weeks, you may not be able to know who your students are until two weeks into the semester. This means that it could be helpful to leave space to adapt the course to meet the specific needs of your specific students.

2.  What do I want students to be able to do?

Once you have considered who the students in your course are, ask yourself what they should be able to do at the end of the course. Consider the requirements specified by the university as articulated in the course description and requirements for the Flexible Core. For example, you may choose three (at least) learning outcomes listed above for the World Cultures and Global Issues, and then design your syllabus accordingly. For example, if you take the learning outcome, “Analyze culture, globalization, or global cultural diversity, and describe an event or process from more than one point of view,” you might consider choosing two ethnographies that focus on labor within conditions of globalized neoliberalism. You might consider a dialectical approach that includes a focus on the historical structural relations between countries of the Global North and Global South to contextualize the global inequalities in the contemporary moment.

Here are a few more resources to help design your course:

Tools that can help you design course objectives:

3.  How will I measure students’ abilities?

Designing your course around activities that are most likely to lead students towards the goals you have defined will help them acquire and retain skills longer. Some goals can be achieved through listening to lecture or reading assigned texts. Others may require more active experimentation, practice or discussion. For example, writing, discussions, field work, service learning, problem solving or small group collaboration. No matter what combination of activities you choose always keep in mind how the core activity, as opposed to subject content, will progress students’ abilities. What will provide you with reliable evidence during the course that your students are learning and at the end of the course that they have obtained/mastered the abilities you envisioned at the beginning of the course?  This is the part where you choose assignments, activities and other methods of assessment. For example, will you have weekly quizzes? objective tests? original research papers? presentations? performances? group or individual projects? Assessment is an important aspect of student learning. Make sure to think carefully when pairing assessments with learning objectives.