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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 (PDF) for core information that is recommended.
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 syallubus 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.
If you do not see the correct courses when you logon to the Intranet, or for more information, email the HKS IT Services Department.
Click here to access an archive of previous HKS course syllabi (login required).
Course materials come in many forms including textbooks, course packets, library reserve lists, course web pages, etc. Many of these must be decided upon well before the start of a semester.
The HKS Course Materials Office (CMO) is a resource for the production and distribution of course materials. The CMO's physical office is located on the ground floor of the Belfer building in office G-6. For details about production and distribution of course materials, visit the CMO website. Click here for a one-page PDF file that outlines relevant due dates for the 2009-2010 academic year.
Harvard takes compliance with the United States copyright laws very seriously; click here for more information about complying with copyright laws and the CMO's processes related to these laws.
The CMO handles copyright permission for materials included in course packets for Kennedy School courses. Please note that the CMO does not process copyright approvals or packets for courses that do not carry a Kennedy School course number. Faculty teaching at other Harvard schools must arrange for copyright permissions and course packet production through those schools directly.
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.
"Uncle Willies" are short homework or even exam questions. Willie is the prototype "intelligent layman with no knowledge of economic or statistical jargon." A great newspaper reader, he is sometimes baffled by what he reads; the student is asked to explain it to him. "Uncle Willie 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 he will understand." These questions have become known as Uncle Willies; they 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.
Faculty who have assigned group work in their courses are well aware of the problems that can develop with group assignments. Several faculty members have suggested ways to deal with various aspects of the problems; here are their contributions.
For faculty considering introducing a team component to their course...By Associate Professor of Public Policy Nancy Katz
Introducing group work into a course inevitably means introducing complexities and problems. What makes group projects so tricky? One important factor is the students' ambivalence about individual - versus group-based rewards. On the one hand, students are here because they have a track record of stellar individual accomplishment. Furthermore, students generally believe that school, in contrast to "the real world," should be a meritocracy. On the other hand, students' ideals and espoused values tend to be egalitarian. Furthermore, students are uneasy about being directly compared with one another.
This ambivalence often gets played out as follows: students are intensely concerned about free-riding, but loathe to talk openly about it. Therefore, free-riding becomes the focus of endless "sidebar" conversations. In other words, the issue festers.
Here are a few suggestions designed to increase the odds that students have positive experiences in HKS project teams:
By Associate Professor of Public Policy Nolan Miller
When assigning collaborative work, it is essential that the assignment be made clear beyond the shadow of a doubt. As many of us have discovered, that’s easier said than done. Associate Professor Nolan Miller has suggested the following approach.
Individual instructors may find it useful to develop a similar system for their own course.
Type I. Work alone and write up alone. Do not consult anyone beside the instructor and course assistants/teaching fellow in the preparation of the assignment. Your assignment should be handwritten by you (if allowed) or typed by you.
Type II. Work with others, write up alone. You may freely consult other students. However, the write-up you submit must be your own. That means that it should either be hand written by you (if acceptable) or type-written on a computer, where you yourself have done the typing. Examples of assignments that are not acceptable include (but are not limited to): photocopies of substantially identical assignments, printouts of substantially identical computer files, copies of assignments submitted in previous years, or solutions sets distributed in previous years. (You may if you wish require that students list other students who have been consulted in preparing their individual solutions)
Types III and IV are the group analogs to types I and II:
Type III. Work in a group, write up in a group, no consultation outside of the group. Submit a single assignment with the names of all group members on it. Each group should produce its own assignment, and the same rules apply to the group assignments as did to the individual write-ups in Type II: each group must produce an original write up, copies or multiple printouts are not allowed. Group members may not consult anyone not in the group except the course staff.
Type IV. Work in a group, write up in a group, consultation outside the group is allowed. Submit a single assignment with the names of all group members on it. You may consult other students, but the group is responsible for producing its own write-up. Copies (either handwritten, photocopies, or multiple computer printouts) of materials prepared by other groups (or in previous years) are not allowed.
It is crucial 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. Instructors should therefore provide students with a clear written description of (a) how they are expected to carry out the work, and (b) the basis on which grades will be assigned to the individual students in the collaborating group. Faculty who have had experience with group work suggest that students be asked to sign a statement promising that (1) each will contribute substantially to the project, and (2) each will accept as his or her individual grade the grade assigned to the project as a whole.
The Kennedy School's Academic Code (PDF) provides good advice on encouraging and assigning collaborative work. This advice applies equally well when students are encouraged to work in study groups. The most common problem in both situations is the perception of freeloading.
See Managing Collaborative Work for suggestions from faculty who have coped with this problem. In addition, IT has developed a useful online peer evaluation tool for addressing the freeloading issue.
See Keeping Tabs on Collaboration; instructors who have used it are recommend it highly.
Faculty who assign group work have always been concerned about free riders on the one hand and stars who go unnoticed on the other. In the past, instructors relied on informal information from students and CAs; it clearly wasn't enough. Instructors would get news of egregious failures of one sort or another -- often months after the fact when it was too late to do anything about it. Finally one instructor turned to ITS to see whether they could come up with a system of peer assessment that is simple, reliable, fair, and secure. This is the tool ITS came up with:
Faculty who have used this system for Spring Exercise say that it really worked. It is available for any HKS course.
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.