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On Course Proposals

We talked a little bit in class about formal course proposals, and (as we said) some of you might want to have your final projects take that form (NOT required–just a suggestion).  Wherever you teach, there will be a specific template and set of required elements for a course proposal, but in class most of you said that you’d never seen any such thing, and would be curious to know what it might be like.

So, a few examples.

First is a very old example, and maybe I should be embarrassed even to post it–but it is something I mentioned in class, so I thought you might want to see it.  As I said, one of the best classes I ever took at the Graduate Center was with the late Professor Martin Stevens.  His brilliant idea (I don’t know of any other graduate class that did it) was to make the production of a course proposal the final project for his graduate seminar.  So this example is really more fleshed-out than a “real” course proposal would be, because it had to serve as a seminar paper, not just a brief to go to a curriculum committee.  But it does exemplify the kind of thinking and preparation that (ideally) will go into a new course.  Professor Steven’s main criticism was that I did not successfully justify why this should be specifically a Chaucer course–or how it would fit into any curriculum.  I think he had a good point.  It’s a common problem in course proposals, especially for young teachers, that people propose what they want to teach, not necessarily what anyone else wants to learn–or at least that they don’t explain well enough why anyone else would want to learn it.  So I’ll cop to that.

Again, as I said, this is much longer than a course proposal would really be–but the basic sections (Background, Aims and Approach; Practical Issues, Pedagogy and Methodology; Course Schedule; and Annotated Bibliography) are probably, by whatever names, going to need to be included in any course proposal.  When this was written (1992) nobody talked much about learning objectives, at least in higher ed, but those always need to be there these days.  Some other things left out of here that are often included are explanations of the use of technology (much less of an issue in 1992!) and a more explicit list of assessments and assignments.  But for what it’s worth, here it is (scanned from an old paper, so it’s a 21-MB pdf):

The Canterbury (Folk)Tales

So that was completely hypothetical–I never really taught this course–or even proposed it to any real curriculum committee or college department–it was just a class exercise.

In a quick google,  I found online City College’s template for course proposals.  I’ve never taught at CCNY myself, but this looks pretty standard, so I’ll include it as an example–another hypothetical, but more current.

CCNY Course Proposal Form

And then we can go to the real world–here’s an example of the Course Proposal form for the CUNY School of Professional Studies, completely filled out for a course I proposed and am now teaching (actually, this is a slightly early version–there have been some small changes since the course actually started to run–but it will work as an example).

Alternate Worlds Proposal

Maybe some of you have examples you’d be willing to post, too? Or at least blank templates or forms?  Writing a course proposal is a fairly specialized skill, and it doesn’t get taught much in graduate school–so lots of times junior faculty have to sort of stumble through it–maybe with the help of a senior mentor in the department, or maybe just with the criticism (not always supportive or constructive) of the committee that will be ruling on the proposal.


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2 Responses

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  1. Joseph Ugoretz says

    A grant proposal might make sense for some projects, but in some ways it’s an entirely different thing–mainly because in a grant proposal you’re looking for money. So budget has to be a big part of the proposal, and timeline and deliverables have budgetary implications, too. So unless what you’re looking for is specifcally money, a grant application isn’t really a sensible approach.

    In almost every case, a grant application is going to require institutional support–including sharing costs, so the institution has to commit to paying–very few funders will pick up the bill by themselves–they want to see that there is an institutional commitment, too. So it might be better to start there–with the report that you would write to the institution, which would usually go through a grants and development office there, to be approved by either a provost or dean or a faculty committee. The projects at this stage might be pre-grant-proposal.

    But if that’s a path you’re interested in exploring, the guidelines and templates are readily available online. All the NEH grants, for example, are here . One good example to look at might be the Digging Into Data RFP, which lays out the application process for that particular grant program–which is a pretty standard one and possibly applicable to some of the projects you might be interested in

    More info about the CUNY R and D group is here –the purpose of that group is mainly to investigate specific tools–often when we are approached by vendors. For your prezi investigation, the faculty and staff research application might fit (it’s on that page), but it’s not really necessary–basically what you want to do is lay out the design of your research and what you will report. No funding really involved.

    The basic template is kind of the same, so whatever you decide to do for the final project, you need to think about how you would present any kind of proposal. Then when you’ve got the more generic proposal ready, you can more easily adapt it for other audiences or other templates.

    The basics would be something rather similar to the course proposal–with some added elements for non-academic audiences. Here’s a generic outline–to be adapted or enhanced depending on what makes sense for your specific project:
    Executive Summary (particularly for non-academic audiences
    Budget (include the shared or in-kind contributions of the institution)
    Deliverables and Assessment
    References/supporting materials

    Sometimes you won’t need all of these, sometimes there will be a few extras, but if all of this is there, you’ve got a good starting place.

  2. Amanda Licastro says

    Thank you for these examples, but would it be possible to also write our final as a grant proposal? Does anyone have examples/instructions/guidelines on how to write a grant proposal? Perhaps it can be in the form of a proposal for funding (to NEH for example) or a proposal to the research and development team (such as the one here on the Commons)? Thoughts?

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