Guidelines to Develop Perspectives Courses
The Perspectives Advisory Committee at VSU has attempted to translate these goals into specific guidelines for prospective course developers. Course developers should bear the following points in mind:
1. Perspectives courses are to be collaborative. They are thus to be planned and developed by a faculty team with members from two or more departments, or two or more distinct academic disciplines within multidisciplinary departments. Collaboration between individuals in different colleges is especially encouraged. Ideally, the development team should all plan on teaching the courses they develop, by offering multiple sections during the same semester so that the collaborative process can extend to instruction as well (though the course need not be taught every semester, or even every year). Collaboration does not necessarily imply true team teaching (where two or more faculty members are present in the same classroom during most of the class sessions), although this type of teaching is by no means excluded and can be employed when teaching assignments permit it. However, instructors of separate sections should be prepared to consult with each other regularly, and to trade sections on sections on occasion so that the students are exposed to more than one point of view.
2. All Perspectives courses carry two semester hours of credit. Workload and contact hours should reflect this format. Specific perspectives courses cannot be required within other sections of the curriculum, e.g., as prerequisites for departmental courses or as required Area F electives.
3. Perspectives courses are to be interdisciplinary, rather than multidisciplinary, as much as possible. In the latter format, the student is exposed to two or more independent disciplinary "perspectives" on a problem or area of study. In the former, the emphasis is on interaction between the areas and the development of an ability by the student to synthesize varying points of view. From this, it follows that Perspectives courses should not be the same type of courses as departmental electives; the interdisciplinary aspect, that crosses departmental boundaries, should always be explicit.
4. Perspectives courses should attempt to connect issues that affect individuals within our own region of the country (a regional perspective) with those affecting individuals in other parts of the world (a global perspective).
5. Unconventional formats for Perspectives courses are encouraged (weekend retreats, internet-based courses, etc.) as long as the collaborative and interdisciplinary aspects are maintained.
6. Finally, Perspectives courses should be enjoyable to develop, teach, and take! Faculty should use them as an opportunity to share their expertise with a collaborator and to learn from that collaborator. Students should see this process taking place and be involved in the exploratory nature of the courses.
Each Perspectives course will be assigned to one of the following Perspectives Areas. Students are required to take two PERS courses. The two courses must be in two different Perspectives Areas. They may take more if they wish (as restricted electives).
1. Perspectives on Ethics and Values (PERS 2100s)
2. Perspectives on Tradition and Change (PERS 2200s)
3. Perspectives on Human Expression (PERS 2300s)
4. Perspectives on the Environment and Physical World (PERS 2400s)
5. Perspectives on Race and Gender (PERS 2500s)
6. Perspectives on Cross-Cultural Understanding and Expression (PERS 2600s)
7. Perspectives on the World of Work (PERS 2700s)
Process of Developing a Perspectives Course
1. New Perspectives courses must follow the same approval process as any other new core courses. Generally, this means approval by the department, the Dean, the Executive Committee of the college, and the University Academic Committee. However, because developers from different departments, and sometimes from different colleges, are involved in most Perspectives courses, approval is required from all departments, and from the Deans and Executive Committees of each college, represented in the development team. This can lengthen the time necessary to obtain a course approved.
2. Timetable: the deadline for new catalog copy is generally in February, following February Academic Committee meeting. Developers are advised to have their courses approved at the Executive Committee level by early January so that the Academic Committee can consider them at its January meeting; then, if changes are requested, they can be made and the course resubmitted for the February meeting. Agenda items for the Academic Committee must normally be submitted two weeks before the meeting. Courses can, however, be proposed at any time and offered at any time after the Academic Committee has approved them, even though they are not in the catalog.
3. The course development team should produce a general outline of the proposed course and give considerable thought to expected course outcomes and assessment methods. These items should be included on the New Perspectives Course Request form. The template form, along with a Request for a New Course form, should be completed and forwarded to the Office of Academic Affairs, West Hall Suite 1004 before the course proposal is sent to the Dean for approval. The Perspectives Advisory Committee will examine the template and supporting materials, offer suggestions for improvement if necessary, and will sign-off on the course proposal before returning it to the course developers. Changes might be requested, for instance, if the course appears to overlap significantly with the content of another PERS course or with a departmental elective; if the course does not appear to have a well-defined interdisciplinary component; or if course outcomes and assessment procedures are not specified in a way that would be approved by the Academic Committee. The committee's role is an advisory one and the Dean can approve or disapprove the course regardless of the Committee's recommendation. However, this step has been included to assure that the Perspectives courses retain the interdisciplinary structure noted in the development considerations above. Once the course is approved by the Dean(s) and the Executive Committee(s), the template and supporting materials will go on to the Academic Committee along with the course proposal form.
4. Developers should bear in mind that the Perspectives courses are not "owned" by any faculty member, department, or college. Any faculty member with appropriate background, and approval of his or her department head, can teach an existing PERS course (though faculty new to the course should consult extensively with the course's developers before doing so). The course template (which will be available on the Interdisciplinary Studies Office web site once the course is approved) serves as an additional guideline for faculty members who might wish to teach the course at a later time.
Responsibilities of Perspectives Course Developers
1. The individuals who design a PERS course are presumably those who know the most about the course and what it requires. These individuals should teach the course collaboratively, as noted above, from time to time. If an individual is involved with the development of more than one PERS course, those courses should all be taught occasionally, perhaps on a rotation basis.
2. Occasionally, scheduling conflicts may prevent a developer from teaching a PERS course at a time when a co-developer from another department is available to teach any accompanying section. In this case, the developers should recommend a replacement instructor to the department head. The replacement should be someone that the developers feel has the appropriate background to teach the course.
3. Similarly, if a faculty member who is new to the Perspectives program wants to teach a section of a PERS course, that individual should contact the developers with whom he or she will be co-teaching. The developers should determine if this individual has the appropriate background to teach the course and make the appropriate recommendation to that faculty member's department head. The developers of the course should then make appropriate adjustments to the course content and delivery to take advantage of the new faculty member's areas of expertise.
4. Developers should assist their department heads, and the Interdisciplinary Studies office, in coordinating their teaching availability. Ideally, Perspectives courses should always be offered at least two sections at a time, so that the instructors can work together; therefore, the co-instructors should help their department heads schedule their departmental courses in a way that makes this collaboration possible.
Guidelines for Perspectives Syllabi
The Perspectives (PERS) courses at VSU are unique in that they are taught by a variety of faculty from many different VSU departments. This variety helps create diverse and intriguing classes, but it can also create challenges. As faculty, we need to make sure that our students understand the purpose behind these courses and to assure that these courses have a general consistency in their presentation and requirements. With these aims in mind, the General Education Council (GEC) and the Perspectives Advisory Committee, which includes faculty representation from each college, have developed the following guidelines to assist faculty in the construction of PERS syllabi.
Fundamentally, Perspectives courses have been designed with an interdisciplinary focus as well as a regional and global perspective. The syllabus should clearly note the disciplines covered in the course.
The syllabus should also note the regional and global perspectives of the course. The following language can be incorporated into the syllabus to describe the nature of Perspectives classes:
As part of the core curriculum at VSU, Perspectives courses foster interdisciplinary learning and global awareness. Perspectives courses explore topics that cross disciplinary boundaries with an emphasis on the interaction of two or more disciplines and the development of an ability by the student to synthesize varying points of view. Perspectives courses attempt to connect issues that affect individuals within our region (a regional perspective) with those affecting individuals in other parts of the world (a global perspective).
- Reading Load: Each Perspectives course should have at least one assigned textbook or a packet of course readings.
- Assignments: There should be multiple assignments in a Perspectives course with at least one major graded assignment before the midterm. The review of syllabi by the GEC noted that most Perspectives courses had 4-6 graded assignments. At least one of the course assignments should involve written work by the students.
- Student Learning Outcomes and General Education Outcomes: Student learning outcomes should be articulated in each Perspectives syllabus. Those learning outcomes should be linked to the VSU Area B General Education Outcome which states: Students will demonstrate knowledge of global and regional perspectives in areas such as the arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences.
- Content Guide for All VSU Course Syllabi