Basic Syllabi / Assignments / Rubrics
The AHTR blog hosted a discussion on online syllabi and–very much inspired by Smarthistory’s online syllabus offerings–created a template for an online syllabus for Prehistory to Gothic (here) and Renaissance to Modern (here). By online syllabi, we mean syllabi that thrive on hyperlinked resources that are used by students online, as opposed to a syllabus predominately predicated on paper or hard-copy resources.
These online syllabi are formatted as a Google Doc Excel spreadsheet for easy editing. You can copy and paste this template to your own Google Doc in order to create a stand-alone syllabus that reflects your survey focus.
Your link to the spreadsheet you create can be emailed to students at the beginning of the semester and/or posted to Blackboard. If the access is set to “anyone with this link can view,” then students can see the syllabus on Google Docs by accessing the link through Blackboard but won’t be able to add or delete.
You may be required to teach from a particular textbook or to teach chronologically rather than thematically. Below are resources for several different types of syllabi that can be “mixed and matched” to suit your needs and teaching specialisms. If you’re a Renaissance specialist, expand that part of the course. If you’re a non-Western specialist in African Art, flip the weekly chronology and begin with non-Western (and contract certain Western topics). Again, we recommend great resources like SmartHistory’s Art History Survey syllabi templates and discussion questions.
Build the Syllabus: 1-2-3
1) If you’re building your very first syllabus, you might find the syllabus checklist useful.
2) Here’s a template for the “outline and rules” section of your syllabus that can be used as the introduction to any course – it includes basics such as a course description, grading policies, classroom etiquette etc.
3) Then, add on the relevant week-by-week outline from the choices below:
— Chronological weekly outline for Prehistory to Gothic art survey course
— Chronological weekly outline for Renaissance to Modern art survey course
— Chronological weekly outline for one-semester Modern art survey course (via Smarthistory)
4) You may also want to take a look at “standards” like the AP College Board Art History syllabus that contains, amongst other helpful info, brief weekly descriptions and a good, broad course bibliography.
This short and smart post by Louise Lamphere Beryl, PhD Candidate in Anthropology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, discusses one way to approach syllabus design—”Backward Design,” as touted by educators Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe.
Written Assignment Suggestions
1) The Museum Response Paper template can be used as an assignment once or twice during the semester as a way to a) have your students undertake a concise written exercise that b) asks them to look closely at one object (or two, if you’d like them to compare and contrast) and c) also asks them to engage with the museum or gallery space to make them aware of the cultural context in which they encounter objects in institutions. This template can be “set up” in class using the museum visit videos and Museum Observation Prompts handout.
2) The “How To Write A Thesis” template is a useful handout for a class exercise post-museum visit, once students have picked their object and can think about what a thesis is and how to construct their own. As part of this in-class exercise, it might be useful to look at examples of previous students’ thesis statements on the Writing Examples PPT, which includes anonymous examples of past museum response paper excerpts, so students understand what a thesis statement, formal analysis paragraph, museum environment analysis, and concluding paragraph might look like (you can, of course, point out the merits and/or pitfalls of each example per your own teaching preferences).
4) This Formal Analysis Assignment provides some great ideas on how to guide students through formal analysis reminding them that the exercise is about looking and analysis and not research and analysis. Students are often reluctant to trust their own eyes and their own opinions. For formal analysis papers, they often automatically go to an outside source in order to further bolster the assertions they make in their papers. Kimberly Overdevest at the Grand Rapids Community College in Grand Rapids, Michigan has had great success with these prompts.
To research or not to research?
Asking your students to undertake a research paper as part of the art history survey can be a tricky beast as the range of student experience with elements such as library research and bibliographic citations can be large and crippling. For most mixed-ability or required-credit survey classes, focusing on short papers with limited research allows you and the students to focus on finessing writing skills first. Always consider reaching out to the Writing Center on your campus—a staff member can usually make an in-class visit to tell your students about the range of services on offer which should include workshops and one-to-one appointments.
Grading student papers can be done the old fashioned way (your students hand you a paper copy) or through anti-plagiarism software such as SafeAssign (part of the Blackboard suite) or Turnitin.com (your school may have a license—find out who the Turnitin campus coordinator is for more details). There are ethical considerations to using anti-plagiarism software.
Presentations—either singly or in groups—can be a good way to have your students think about a class theme from a new angle. See the handout “How to give a great oral presentation,” which also contains a sample grading rubric so students understand instructor expectations as they prepare.
AAC&U VALUE Rubric Development Project
This resource offers adaptable rubrics created as part of the American Association of College and University’s Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative.
The “Syllabus Templates and Resources” page was last updated 4.18.2015.