The review process
All proposals are reviewed by the fourteen college seminar committees. Selected applicants are invited to interview with the College Seminar selection board, which is composed of representatives from the residential colleges.
Once a course is sponsored by a residential college, it goes through an extensive review process conducted by the following committees:
- Committee on Teaching in the Residential Colleges (CTRC): a standing Yale College committee responsible for overseeing the Seminar Program and reviewing all sponsored seminars.
- Course of Study Committee: a standing Yale College committee that reviews all courses offered for credit in Yale College.
- Yale College faculty: those seminars sponsored and approved by the previous two committees are presented for approval at a meeting of the faculty.
The review process takes nearly the entire term to complete, concluding in early May (for fall courses) or early December (for spring courses). Final approval is only given by the College Seminar Program Director once proposals have passed all the above stages. Approved instructors are appointed Lecturers in Yale College (or, in the case of graduate students, Part-Time Acting Instructors).
Criteria for selection
Each college has its own priorities, interests, and procedures in selecting its seminars. However, final choices are often based on the following criteria:
- Coherence and clarity. The syllabus should be coherent and demonstrate focused, serious academic intention. The title of the seminar should be short and clearly descriptive of the seminar’s content. “Purple Rose of Cairo,” for example, is not a satisfactory title for a seminar studying Egyptian flora. Titles containing colons should be avoided.
- Suitability of course design. The course content must be appropriate for the discussion-based format of a seminar. Like all Yale College courses, the seminar must fit into a liberal arts curriculum rather than serve pre-professional goals.
- Originality. The seminar should approach the subject matter in a unique way. The seminar may not duplicate a course regularly offered in the Yale College curriculum (courses already being offered can be found in the Yale College Programs of Study). Exceptions:
- Seminars that resemble, but do not precisely duplicate, a regular course offering that for some reason is not being taught in the same academic year as the seminar
- Creative writing courses, since the demand for existing courses at Yale consistently exceeds the supply of available seats
- Equivalence of Workload. The amount of work should be comparable to that of a course in the regular Yale College curriculum.
- The course should constitute between one-fifth and one-fourth of a student’s workload for the semester.
- For courses in the humanities and social sciences, the amount of reading per week is usually 125-150 pages, depending on the genre (e.g., more for novels, less for scholarly journals).
- For courses in the creative arts, the natural sciences, and technical fields, the reading and writing assignments follow conventions of those disciplines (e.g., project-based work instead of lengthy writing assignments).
- The norm for written work is generally 20-25 pages over the course of the term, typically distributed among 2-3 assignments. (Creative writing courses often require substantially more.)
- Grading. The instructor must have a well-defined method of evaluating student performance.
- At least one piece of graded work should be completed before midterm.
- There should be a substantial final paper, project, or exam.
- The percentage of each required element should be clearly indicated on the syllabus. Classroom participation may represent no more than 20% of a final grade.
- Judicious Use of Student Presentations and Oral Reports. While oral reports and student presentations are valuable tools of learning, student evaluations of past seminars suggest that there are certain perils inherent in their use:
- Instructors may, in effect, let student reports do their teaching for them.
- If a student fails to show up for a presentation, a sudden change is required for the entire class meeting.
- Certain students may lack sufficient preparedness or mastery of the material to present the material effectively to their peers.
- Without sufficient guidance in choosing and delimiting their topics, students may ramble on at length and present little substantive material.
Thus, instructors are advised to use student presentations carefully and take steps to avoid the above pitfalls. If student presentations are critical to course objectives, they should be limited to one class session (for a seminar of 18 students, this limits each presentation to a maximum of 5 minutes).
- Evidence of teaching potential. The instructor should demonstrate competence, creativity, intelligence, and pedagogical skill. If an instructor has taught a College Seminar previously, student evaluations of that course will be reviewed. If the evaluations suggest problems with the course’s design or the instructor’s skill in teaching, the instructor should be prepared to address these problems in the course proposal and the interview.
Compensation is determined according to the following guidelines:
- The stipend for instructors from outside Yale is consistent with the standard part-time lecturer rate in Yale College.
- In accordance with the financial aid guidelines of the University, Graduate and Professional School students receive the standard stipend for that appointment.
- Full-time faculty and staff of the University do not receive compensation in addition to their usual salary.
- Co-instructors each receive three-quarters of the appropriate stipend.
Instructors are appointed Guest Fellows in the residential college that sponsors their seminar, unless they are already a Fellow of another college. This appointment entitles instructors use of the Yale libraries and the ability to purchase discounted meals at their sponsoring colleges.
The College Seminar Program may assist with some of the course expenses.