Syllabi & Coursepacks

g_kat26, "Syllabus Planning." April 27, 2009 via Flickr.

g_kat26, “Syllabus Planning.” April 27, 2009 via Flickr.

Online Coursepacks

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 – Gothic (here) and Renaissance to Contemporary (here).

They’re formatted as a Google Docs 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 Bboard. 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 Bboard, but won’t be able to add or delete.

Paper Syllabi

You may be required to teach to 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).

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 art survey course (via Smarthistory)

— Thematic weekly outline for “Prehistory to Present” one-semester art survey course (via Smarthistory)


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.

4 responses to “Syllabi & Coursepacks”

  1. Reposted from the AHTR Facebook discussion prompted by this syllabi page:

    Michelle Millar Fisher: Also found this:

    Saturday at 12:48pm

    Ryan Hill: When I use to teach art history, I always felt the same way as you about the textbooks. It was great to read your article and see how things have changed for the better.

    Saturday at 2:34pm

    Michelle Millar Fisher Thank you Ryan! I think there is significant mvmt away from one survey textbook now toward a multi-voice model. If you see any new models out there, let me know! I’d love to post on the site

    Saturday at 3:37pm via mobile

    Randall Edwards: no syllabus at all

    Saturday at 5:50pm via mobile

    Michelle Millar Fisher: Randall – v interesting idea and the logical next step. Want to expand in a blog post and take it from abstract provocation to concrete suggestion? Eg. How to negotiate class content with the class as the semester progresses? Having the students build their own either individually or as a group. Or any examples of this being done that I could post? I’m interested!

    Saturday at 6:16pm via mobile

    Michelle Millar Fisher: I’m currently googling “anti-syllabus” and about to read the google doc that comes with this post

    Saturday at 6:22pm via mobile

    Michelle Millar Fisher: And with your permission will copy and paste these comments to the site under the syllabi in the comments section so they can be archived and added to

    Saturday at 6:25pm via mobile

    Michelle Millar Fisher: Found this too:

    I like the idea of having some set readings and having some decided upon by the students.

    The UnTeacher: Hacking the Syllabus and the Everyday | THATCamp Piedmont 2012

    Saturday at 6:39pm via mobile

    Michelle Millar Fisher: And this! Syllabus on Prezi…..

    Saturday at 6:45pm via mobile

    Michelle Millar Fisher: And finally, this, which reminds me that a syllabus is a prime space for collaboration, and through collaboration can become something other than a syllabus as you are suggesting Randall – a discursive, negotiated space

    Is this what students want though? Are parameters comforting?

  2. virginiaspivey says:

    So timely……I’ve been redesigning my contemporary art class along these lines. Thinking about it for several months, but now about to put it in action and admittedly entering panic mode. RE: parameters–I developed some starter activities and general resources that I felt would focus the crowdsourcing components (ie: short introductory (and provocative) readings about research/issues in contemporary art history; a session devoted to concept mapping to narrow the topic areas for study, a hands-on session with a research librarian, followed by a research session during class)

    I’m especially interested in 1) how others have had students present/share this information (I’m planning on using a wordpress blog with links to google docs/student e-portfolios) just b/c I didn’t want to learn new technology this semester; 2) how do they evaluate student contributions (I’m using annotated bibliographies and asking students to maintain a research/reflection blog). I’m still finalizing lots of details, so if others have experiences/advice to share, I’d love to hear it…..soon!

    • The readings/concept mapping sound amazing Virginia. Would you consider posting to AHTR at the end of the semester to sum up what you thought of your process and your & student experience? Evaluating student experience is an interesting question – I’m drawn back to the model you offered actually – the one on your audio guide assignment where students can self-asses, asses their peers who they worked with, and then a teacher assessment too – like a 360 review. But this is no way an area I have great practice in so I will look forward to nay other comments too.

  3. I should also say – this might be a great area to have an AHTR in-person workshop/peer institute on where we could create something on-site, like a THATCamp……

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