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For information or questions about designing your teaching plan, please contact Carolyn Wood, Assistant Academic Dean and Director of SLATE.
For information about proposing a new Harvard Kennedy School course and getting it approved, click here.
For an overview of things to consider as you develop your syllabus, click here (PDF). Additionally, click here for a one-page summary of questions frequently asked by students about courses each year.
Students have commented that syllabi are easier to read if certain standard information appears in the same place at the top of each syllabus. Click here for a sample syllabus template (Word document).
Click here to be directed to calendars showing the class meeting days for courses according to their format type (M/W, T/Th, etc.). This information can be helpful when planning out a courses syllabi.
Syllabi should be posted to HKS Class Pages prior to the start of each semester and a deadline is usually communicated to faculty by the Academic Dean's office. Posting a syllabus on the a course's Class Page automatically makes the syllabus appear as a link within the course detail page of the HKS Course Catalogue. The syllabus appearing in the HKS Course Catalogue enables students from outside the Kennedy School who may be considering cross registering into the course to view the syllabus. Click here (login required) for instructions on creating a class page. Click here (login required) for instructions on uploading a syllabus for a particular course.
Click here to access the syllabus archive.
If you do not see the correct courses when you logon to the Intranet, or for more information, e-mail the HKS IT Services Department.
Course materials come in many forms including textbooks, readings posted on course web pages, library reserve lists, etc. Many of these must be decided upon well before the start of a semester.
The Online Course Materials (OCM) office is a resource for posting course materials on Course Pages, and other forms of distribution. The OCM’s physical office is located on the ground floor of the Belfer building in office G-7. For details about course materials and for other forms of content distribution, visit the OCM website.
HKS courses vary widely in both the type of assignment (problem sets, memos, papers) and the type of course (quantitative/nonquantitative, lecture/case based, etc.). Bear in mind the overall workload for students – all students at the HKS are taking at least four courses per semester, and many are taking five. All courses will have either a final exam, a final paper, or a take-home exam. In addition many of the quantitative courses also have midterm exams. Nonquantitative courses frequently have short papers or memos during the term.
With quantitative courses, there is typically notably less reading; instead students are expected to work on problems. Courses such as API-101, 105, 109, 210 etc. generally assign anywhere from five to ten problem sets per semester. A few courses assign shorter problem sets, but more of them, with a set due more often. Thus the time it takes to complete a problem set can vary. Those courses with 5 to 10 sets a semester might require 6 to 8 hours per problem set for the average student. The courses that assign problem sets every week would naturally require less time for each. Moreover, the time an individual student requires will vary depending on previous exposure to the material.
Translating case preparation into hours required is difficult because how long it takes to prepare a case again depends so heavily on a student's previous training. In case based courses students may be required to read and prepare the case as well as to read other materials in support of the case. Usually, however, in courses taught by the case method, the actual reading load is less but the preparation for active participation in class discussion and the thinking-hard-about-the-issues load much heavier.
The amount of reading assigned depends in large part on the subject matter. In general, 100 to a maximum of 150 pages a week is normal, but keep in mind that 100 pages of (say) political philosophy may be more dense and difficult than 100 pages of more narrative material. If each course assigned 150 pages of reading a week students would be faced with up to 750 pages per week. We know from students that this is more than they can reasonably accomplish. Students appreciate an emphasis on the most important readings rather than the quantity of readings. Some faculty recommend about 35-40 pages of reading preparation for each class meeting, with 40 pages being the maximum.
In all varieties of courses, students appreciate a distinction between "required" and "optional" readings. Optional readings should be put in a separate course packet so that students have the choice about whether or not to purchase them. Textbooks should also be identified as "required" or "optional." Ordinarily any reading on the "required" list should be discussed in class. Students are unhappy if they have been asked to purchase and read materials that are never touched upon.
One faculty member's rule of thumb. Don't assign more than 12 hours of work outside of class. Competing for students' attention by assigning more and more work is usually counterproductive.
Problems are an excellent teaching device for quantitative courses. Frequently students who think they understand concepts discover in applying them to a problem that they actually have to dig a little deeper to fully grasp the concept. Moreover, students typically start out disliking the problem sets and end up demanding more practice problems when they discover it's the best way to learn the material. Several faculty have suggested the following tips regarding the use of problem sets.
Problems are most effective as teaching devices (as contrasted with testing devices) when they're sequential. Part A gets the students started and should be within the capacity of most of the class so they don't get discouraged. Subsequent sections lead the student through the analytic process step by step. If possible, the last part should challenge the strongest students.
It is useful to have the problem cast as a real world issue rather than an abstraction. Students grasp the facts provided more quickly and remember the lessons longer. Wastes dumped in the Woonsocket River, MCAT scores in Massachusetts cities and towns, magazine subscriptions purchased by the Millville Public Library, discriminatory pricing by Getaway Airlines... all the concepts used in such problems are easier to think about in concrete terms.
Some of the faculty believe that shorter and more frequent assignments help the students stay on top of the material, not a minor consideration in a course where each class builds on the previous one. The rationale: Students are likely to wait to tackle an assignment until the night before it's due, and then find they can't finish it. Remedy: Maximize the number of nights before by breaking the assignment into smaller pieces.
Good answer sheets are absolutely essential if you want the CAs to assist in checking the homework, and a great opportunity for further teaching. For example, a concept on which the problem set focuses may have an interesting wrinkle or piece of history that you don't have time to bring up in class, but you can provide a paragraph on it in the answer sheet.
Study groups are a good vehicle, if properly used, for working through problem sets. Students should be urged to tackle the problem set before meeting with the study group. When they meet, they hash it out and agree on the approach and the solution.. Then before handing it in each should do it alone to ensure mastery. (If a study group in your course is having free rider problems, see Group Work section of the site )
Many instructors believe they must count homework performance in the final grade in order to make sure the students give careful attention to it. For the instructor, the trouble with this approach is that it implies new problems (and new answer sheets) every year. Otherwise a few opportunistic souls will get their hands on last year's answer sheets and make good use of them, which is bad for their own learning and also for their more conscientious peers' sense of fair play.
There are a number of ways to handle this. Some instructors count only whether or not the homework problem sets have been turned in. Students’ grades are penalized if they do not submit some reasonable percentage of the problems. Other instructors do not count homework performance in the final grade unless the student is on the borderline of failing the course. These instructors report that this has not led to neglect of homework. What makes it work is the students' belief that they can't pass the exams if they don't really understand how to work the problems.
Consider creating short homework or even exam questions that ask students to explain a concept in a language appropriate to a policymaker who is intelligent but not well versed in statistics. E.g., “This policy maker has read that the income elasticity of demand for energy in a developing country may be quite different from that in an industrialized country. Explain (in one short paragraph) in terms that she will understand." Such questions are particularly relevant for the kinds of work that many of our students will eventually be doing.
Is your primary objective to test students’ knowledge of the course material? To challenge them to write a decision memo to a particular individual? Or an original research paper? A professional consulting report? A publishable op-ed piece on a timely topic related to the course? Obviously, each of these choices involves different criteria for evaluation. The Kennedy School Communications Program offers handouts with guidelines for each of these assignments.
Make sure the syllabus indicates the number and general type of all written assignments. It’s fine to distribute more detailed assignment descriptions in the course of the semester, but students want to see that overview of expectations before they choose their courses.
Allow adequate lead time, write a clear description of the assignment that answers most student questions about what is expected. This means being clear about the criteria for excellence in each case, the length, the formatting, the context if applicable, the date and place due, the penalties for late papers, etc.
It might be a good idea to let students choose which type of written work they would most like to tackle — e.g., a memo or an op-ed or a short research paper. In this case, you would need to suggest criteria for each format.
Try to offer feedback for each of the relevant criteria. For example, an op-ed needs to be concise, clear, and engaging. A research paper should prove an hypothesis with quantitative or qualitative data, resolve some policy question, or add to knowledge in the field. A decision memo needs to be carefully formatted, demonstrate a clear analytic framework, and support its key recommendations with relevant data. In addition to marginal comments and questions, a summary statement should try to touch upon the most important criteria.
Clarify in advance the role of CAs or TFs in advising students in the writing process and in reading the assignments. CAs should not be grading papers, but they might be able to provide useful comments and help in establishing a grade range.
Recognize that some international students will not write in perfect English. Be clear about whether you expect them to get help perfecting their grammar—or are you willing to try to grade on the basis of the ideas beneath the less-than-perfect English? (Notify the relevant Program Directors if you find students whose English is too weak to allow them to express their ideas in a way you can understand.)
Students at the Kennedy School are often encouraged to work in groups. It is essential that the standards and parameters of the collaborative work be made clear before the work commences, and that students understand the criteria by which their individual work in the project will be assessed. To prevent disciplinary cases arising from confusion about what is and is not acceptable, instructors should direct students to the Kennedy School's Academic Code (PDF) and should include in every group assignment a clear indication of acceptable levels of collaboration.
The Office of the Registrar's website offers helpful information on administering exams at the Kennedy School.
The following tip sheet and appendices describe ways in which faculty can effectively use course assistants (CAs) and teaching fellows (TFs) to support student learning in their courses. The hope is that the tips in these documents are helpful in and of themselves, and that they also serve as a way to spur further thinking on how to use CAs and TFs productively.
To access the HKS CA/TF manual, click here and then click on "The CA/TF Handbook" link under the "Other Student Teaching Resources" section.