Ways Syllabus Guidelines

This guide is to help you successfully submit a course for the Ways breadth requirement program.  It was created to help you understand the Ways requirement, help identify how a course fits a Way, the necessary documentation details, and common mistakes in identifying a course for Ways.

What It Is (Essential Elements)

Ways of Thinking, Ways of Doing (Ways) takes a unique perspective on the idea of “breadth.” Ways focuses on two other important aspects of university education. First, we emphasize both “thinking” and “doing”—that is, teaching students how to view the world differently, how to conceptualize it from various angles, and how to use those new intellectual capacities in new ways. Second, we emphasize synthesis and integration—we do not see the individual Ways as separate, but part of an overall intellectual profile and set of complementary capacities.

What We Need

We need a detailed description to understand how students are experiencing the "thinking" and "doing" of the Way. Based on the Way, students should have a significant experience analyzing, inquiring, reasoning, expressing, or engaging in the Way. These are "action" verbs and should describe how students are achieving these capacities. The Way is a major focus of the course, not a byproduct. The syllabus should reflect aspects of the Way—what are students expected to do with the ideas, concepts, skills presented in class.

What Syllabus Should Include

  • Reading list.
  • The methodology of how students are demonstrating the way of "doing" and "thinking" such as detailed assignments, projects, presentations, and coursework.
  • Grading logic.

Common Misconceptions

While a course may be approved as a Stanford course within a discipline, the Ways are capacity-based and the rationale for satisfying Ways is concept and "practice" based, requiring detailed information demonstrating this experience. Thus, we require a detailed syllabus, so that we can assess its conformance to the Ways breadth requirement(s).

What It Is (Essential Elements)

AII courses provide a significant experience in the use of interpretive or philosophical modes of inquiry to explore and understand cultural objects (e.g., art, literature, theatrical works, etc.) or the means of their apprehension (e.g., the mind, beliefs, etc.) as appropriate. By “significant experience,” we mean one that is more than incidental—an experience sufficient for students to begin to understand both the method and meaning of such inquiry, and the role it plays in human culture.

What We Need

We need to see how students engage in AII, both in the way the course is described but most importantly in terms of the assignments given to students. Provide some details about the interpretive frameworks-- readings, and so on, in the syllabus. It is useful for students to understand how the course gives them the capacities that AII endows.

What Syllabus Should Include

  • Class schedule, including reading assignments.  
  • Brief elaboration of course goals, making clear how they align with the learning outcomes of AII.
  • Brief elaboration of the methodology/style of course (seminar, lecture, etc.).
  • Brief characterization of written assignments which should make clear how the assignments serve the learning goals.
  • Brief characterization of expectations of students (should make clear that meeting these expectations is instrumental to achieving stated learning outcomes).

Common Misconceptions

AII is sometimes confused with CE. AII is the "study of" (aesthetic and interpretive inquiry), or learning through reflection, of the arts. CE is the learning through the "practice of" creative expression (doing) such as dance, art, acting, writing, designing, etc. Also, it is sometimes confused with SI, which sometimes deals with the study of culture as a social phenomenon, whereas AII specifically works with artifacts, objects, media and their particular aesthetic interpretation.

What It Is (Essential Elements)

AQR courses complement FR courses, providing a focused experience in inferential and inductive reasoning. Students actively apply these methods of reasoning through direct manipulation of data, models, software, or other quantitative tools.

What We Need

We need information on what analytic tools the students will use. For instance, how many assignments will involve data analysis and with which software. The active component of the course fulfilling the AQR requirement includes the use of computational or statistical software in several assignments.

What Syllabus Should Include

  • Brief elaboration of course goals, making clear how they align with the learning outcomes of AQR.
  • List all homework assignments (number and content), that use quantitative tools (software). Several assignments need to focus on statistical and numerical computations.

Common Misconceptions

Courses that study decision-making under uncertainty, best practices in quantitative sciences, or explain that correlation is not causation are not appropriate unless the students themselves are analyzing many data sets themselves (using software). Courses that discuss or interpret the results of such analyses but without active involvement in the performance of the analysis itself are not suitable.

What It Is (Essential Elements)

Through a combination of instruction and mentoring, CE courses offer students significant opportunities to study the creative process and at the same time acquire the requisite skills to "practice" creative expression themselves.

What We Need

We need to understand how students are "practicing" or "doing" creative expression. We need detail on the nature of any creative projects the students will undertake: how is the creative component structured, how much of the workload do the creative assignments represent, what specific creative skills are the students expected to acquire, and how is the acquisition of these skills monitored and assessed?

What Syllabus Should Include

  • Brief overall description of the course, including how the learning goals fulfill the CE requirement.
  • The creative skills that students will learn, examples of the type of creative projects to be undertaken, and how progress is monitored.
  • Weekly assignments and readings.
  • Description of assessed work (plus breakdown of grading percentages).

Common Misconceptions

Simply asking students to undertake a creative presentation or project at the course's end does not meet the CE criteria. CE courses require students to engage with a specific creative medium repeatedly and progressively throughout the quarter while providing active mentorship by an individual who is well-versed in that practice. CE can sometimes be confused with AII and vice-versa, although the two can overlap. CE focuses primarily on the kinds of practical creative skills that are acquired through the actual "doing" of creative expression (e.g., dance, art, acting, writing, designing, musical performance, etc.). AII focuses on the critical "study of" creative works and humanistic texts with the aim of learning about and engaging in the critical interpretation of them.

What It Is (Essential Elements)

ED courses must have, as a central focus, a rigorous analysis of diversity as a constituent element across social and cultural domains. ED courses show how diversity is produced, understood, and enacted. Courses for which diversity in this regard is an ancillary theme, or where the student's experience of diversity is anecdotal, are not sufficient.

What We Need

We need detailed information on how diversity is being addressed in the course. How do the course readings explore how diversity is understood, articulated, practiced, and debated? The syllabus should provide a reading list and the methodology of how students are grappling with the Engaging Diversity Way.

What Syllabus Should Include

  • Detailed reading list.
  • Methodology of how students are engaging in diversity.
  • Indication of how assignments approach diversity as an organizing principle.

Common Misconceptions

Diversity should be understood as attached to issues of power and identity--it is a socially, culturally, and often politically differentiating force. It is not simply "latent" difference, or variety.

What It Is (Essential Elements)

ER courses spend a majority of course time understanding ethical theories or frameworks and, in some cases, applying such frameworks to particular policy domains or cases. Whatever the approach, ER courses must present one or more frameworks within which students can analyze ethical questions or dilemmas.

What We Need

Please explain what ethical theory or theories or normative theoretical framework(s) are to be analyzed or applied in the course. Ensure that your assignments provide students with an opportunity to engage one or more ethical framework(s) in a significant way.

What Syllabus Should Include

  • Please provide an overall description of the course and its goals.
  • Explain the required assignments and how they meet the goal of teaching students how to understand or apply ethical frameworks
  • Include all of the required readings. 
  • If there are to be guest lectures, please explain what topics will be covered and how their lectures will develop the ER component. 

Common Misconceptions

Addressing an issue or topic that has a value component or is ethically important is not sufficient to be an ER course. The majority of the course must be devoted to meeting the key essential feature of ER, namely, enabling students to reason about ethical problems and issues. Courses that include ethics as a part, but not the main focus, do not meet the ER requirement. Analysis of cases, or discussion of ethical questions in the absence of explicit presentation of one or more frameworks, is not sufficient for ER.

What It Is (Essential Elements)

FR courses spend a majority of course time on instruction in rigorous logical and deductive reasoning. Active and frequent use of deductive reasoning by students is expected.

What We Need

Many courses in this category will be standard service courses, required for majors in natural sciences and engineering. Acceptable courses must teach students the art of logical and deductive reasoning. FR courses should include significant work, e.g. through problem sets, requiring symbolic manipulation.

What Syllabus Should Include

  • A clear description of the course topics and homework assignments. 
  • State what text and auxiliary material was used.

Common Misconceptions

Courses which survey work related to formal reasoning, but not actually requiring students to work in that direction, are not appropriate. FR courses are not historical overviews of scientific or mathematical topics.

What It Is (Essential Elements)

SI courses focus on probing questions that are of a social nature (i.e. pertaining to social arrangements, human behavior and forms of social, political and economic organization). SI encompasses a broad range of disciplinary and methodological approaches; in each case students must use active and frequent analysis of social practices, social processes and/or their history.

What We Need

We need detailed information on the nature of the work being undertaken, such as weekly assignments, course content, or final projects. The syllabus should accordingly convey evidence for such sustained analysis.

What Syllabus Should Include

  • Detailed weekly assignments, course content, and projects. 
  • Convey evidence for intensive and sustained analysis.

Common Misconceptions

Courses which contain limited exploration of social, political, or historical themes will not reach the threshold of intensive inquiry stipulated by SI. Some courses explore social themes, but focus chiefly on the analysis of aesthetic objects or on detailed interpretation of texts, and may be more appropriate for AII.

What It Is (Essential Elements)

SMA courses focus on the physical world, how we understand it, and how we gain that understanding. They encompass a wide range of studies and scientific approaches and components of the scientific method. The overall goal is to for students to learn how to formulate hypotheses, design experiments to test hypotheses, and understand when evidence can verify or dismiss hypotheses.

What We Need

We need a breakdown of how each component of the course (e.g., lectures, discussions, quizzes, labs, assignments, projects, and exams) contributes to the final grade. Please provide information about the subject matter of the course, especially the areas of natural science that are covered. Also, include an explanation of each of the components of the course that contributes to the final grade, sufficient to understand what fraction of each one examines natural science and what fraction involves active use of the scientific method.

What Syllabus Should Include

  • Overview of course content and topic(s) for each meeting.
  • Articulate which elements of natural science provide the focus for the course. 
  • List of textbooks, readings, and assignments. 
  • Breakdown of how students are evaluated (e.g. problem sets, exams, projects, and papers).
  • Description of each point of evaluation sufficient to determine if it involves active use of the scientific method.

Common Misconceptions

While many SMA courses consider the social context, historical development, and/or ethical implications of science, a focus on the actual use of scientific methods or analyses is essential, as well as engagement of natural science principles.

See Also

You can download a printer-friendly PDF of the Ways Syllabus Guidelines here.