Guidelines for Faculty

First-Year Seminars constitute the gateway to the K-Plan and to college life for entering students, while also serving as the foundation of the Shared Passages Program. These seminars insure that every first-year student has one course in the fall term that can act as “home base,” where all students are equally new to college, classes are small enough to encourage engagement, interaction with a faculty member is the norm, and attention is paid to individual learners’ needs.

First-Year Seminars are designed to orient students to collegiate learning practices, with particular emphasis on critical thinking, writing, and speaking. In keeping with Kalamazoo College’s emphasis on intercultural education and social justice, they aim to engage students in the study of significant social and historical differences. They integrate collaborative and group work, research strategies, and effective discussions, all promoting active, engaged learning. They work to accustom students to modes of academic behavior likely to promote success in college, including class participation, productive approaches to assignments, visits to faculty members’ offices, and awareness of support structures for K students.

First-Year Seminars are linked to academic advising, the First-Year Experience program, Upjohn Library, and the Writing Center. They create connections with the components of the K-Plan: depth and breadth in the liberal arts, learning through experience, international and intercultural engagement, and independent scholarship.

Programmatic Components

  • First-Year Seminars are not strictly discipline-based courses. They take an idea, event, theme, or question as their organizing principle and work at the edges, where areas of knowledge intersect with each other and with the “real world” of eighteen-year-olds.
  • Seminars are limited to sixteen new students and are not open to those beyond the first year or to visiting international students.
  • Seminars are primarily discussion-based, using other pedagogies as appropriate, including collaborative and group work.
  • To improve writing, students complete frequent, short assignments, with ample feedback and opportunities for revision, emphasizing a variety of types of writing.
  • All seminars require students to cross significant boundaries of difference: e.g., culture, race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, class, sexuality, historical period, etc.
  • All seminars require students to cross significant boundaries of difference: e.g., culture, race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, class, sexuality, historical period, etc.
  • All seminars include a research component, completed in collaboration with Upjohn Library reference librarians.
  • Seminar faculty meet regularly to share successes, address problems, explore pedagogies, continue to develop seminar components, and integrate new resources.

Course Design and Learning Goals

I. Writing Proficiency
  • The seminars’ overall goal is to help students find and develop a voice through writing, speaking, analytical reading, and discussion.
  • Seminars are intended to help each student’s writing improve and to provide all students with the knowledge, tools, and practices that will serve them in college-level writing.
  • Seminars are structured around frequent, short assignments, with ample feedback and opportunities for revision.
  • Seminars include a variety of types of writing: for example, response papers, essays, structured reflection, journals, art reviews, reading summaries, research reports, annotated bibliographies, etc.
  • Seminars include at least one individual writing conference of thirty minutes, focused on a work in progress.
  • Seminar instructors are strongly encouraged to integrate peer review and to incorporate Writing Center Consultants into the class.
  • Instructors should keep the Writing Competencies developed by Seminar faculty in mind in creating the course and its assignments.
II. Intercultural Engagement
  • Every seminar is required to help students develop the tools to comprehend difference and to understand themselves and their locations in the context of cultural diversity
  • Cultural diversity can be broadly understood and could include, for instance, religion, nationality, class, race, gender, political persuasions, national identity, etc.
  • Culture can be broadly defined and could include, for instance, cultures of illness, particular disciplinary approaches, or institutional systems.

III. Oral Communication Proficiency
  • Instructors should create structures to promote lively class discussion and equal participation, so that all voices can be heard.
  • Instructors are encouraged to build into their seminars a component that deliberately emphasizes the development of a public “voice”—e.g., individual or group presentations. This component can easily be fused with a writing or research assignment.
  • Further possibilities: discussion leadership, debates, role plays, performances, research reports.
IV. Information Literacy
  • Every seminar is required to participate in “Beyond Google: College Research Strategies,” a series of assignments and library work intended to help students learn basic research strategies and apply them to a focused project that is integral to the course.
  • Possibilities include: mini-research papers, annotated bibliographies, group or individual research summaries.
V. First Year Forums
  • All entering students are required to attend at least five First-Year Forums during the fall term. Attendance influences their grade in the seminar. The content of these forums can also provide fruitful class discussions, writing assignments, and projects.