Guidelines & Best Practices for Teaching First-Year Seminars

First-year seminars have an epistemological focus that engages students in seeing the questions implicit in texts, acquiring metacognitive awareness, and using writing as a form of thinking and invention (i.e. how to have ideas).

  • focus on analytical writing—an understanding of what things may plausibly mean (as a necessary precursor to argument)
  • assign at least 15 pages of written work, which must be broken up into at least three assignments, including some form of revision
  • discussion format as primary pedagogy
  • focus on discussion and analysis of shared readings rather than emphasis on individual research projects
  • develop students’ capacity to engage the voices of experts beyond agreeing and disagreeing
  • objectify developmental goals for students: reinforce how college writing differs from high school—that it is more nuanced, that it qualifies its claims, that it seeks to blend clarity with complexity, etc.
  • a mix of informal and formal writing assignments
  • regular meetings between the professor and the writing assistant
  • at least three meetings between the writing assistant and each student
  • written and oral feedback on student writing

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