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Scenes from Faculty Senate

Application For Course Approval

for General Education Program

Course Number: BGS 390
Course Title: Social Sciences Seminar
Check the general education core area for this course: Social Sciences
Department(s) in which course will be taught: Bachelor of General Studies
Faculty member(s) responsible for course: Coordinator of the BGS Program,
Dr. Anne Hubbard
Office: Shepard 252
Office Phone: 277-5305

Will non-tenure track faculty teach this course? Yes
If yes, approximately what percentage of sections will be taught by non tenure-track faculty? Currently, only one section of the course is offered at a time. It has been taught by part-time faculty for the past decade or more.

The integrated skills** that this course will focus on are:

  • _X_ Examine human differences
  • _X_ Read complex texts
  • ___ Speak effectively
  • ___ Use of artistic activity
  • ___ Use of qualitative data
  • ___ Use of quantitative data
  • _X_ Use of information technology
  • _X_ Write effectively

*Note: At least three integrated skills are required.

Course description (as would be found in catalog):
390 Social Science Seminar (I or II, 6) Exploration of the social sciences for BGS students who have completed the Pro-Seminar, started their major, and have the consent of their advisor. (Seminar) Required of BGS students. Staff (S)


Part I

(1) Please indicate the primary learning objective(s) of the course.

By the end of the course, students are expected to demonstrate, in their classroom and in their on-line comments and questions, their papers, and their examination answers:

  • Familiarity with those social scientific concepts presented in class;
  • Understanding of basic social scientific methods, particularly ethnography and content analysis;
  • Ability to evaluate internet web sites in terms of social scientific validity, accuracy, and objectivity;
  • Ability to use subject film and video documentaries to critical interpretation;
  • Ability to write well-organized, carefully considered essays in which students demonstrate skills in social scientific analysis, interpretation, and evaluation.

(2) How does the course meet the goals established for the general education program?

(a) the ability to think critically:

The course requires students to think critically in a variety of ways. For example, students are asked to examine and evaluate web sites in terms of their reliability and soundness of social scientific approach. Students are also required to judge the merits of arguments presented by proponents and opponents of various social measures, such as welfare reform or raising the minimum wage; and to form--and support--their own positions on these issues.

(b) the ability to use the methods and materials characteristic of social science:

The course has approached this goal in a number of ways over the years. We have asked our students to use the ethnographic methods of the anthropologist to study social interactions in urban settings; we have required students to study census tables to determine the ethnic, racial, and occupational characteristics of Providence at various points in time; we have assigned students to classify the types of people featured on Time magazine covers over the past thirty years and to note frequency patterns by race, gender, ethnicity, class, and occupation.

(c) the instilling of a commitment to intellectual curiosity and lifelong learning:

We have attempted to achieve this goal by asking open-ended questions in class discussions and on examinations. We have focused upon course topics which have relevance to students' everyday lives: the role of the media in today's society; the impact of popular culture upon our attitudes and values; the ways in which Rhode Island today has been shaped by the economic, social, and political events and trends of the past; and the ways in which our work experience is impacted by broad changes in the economy and society.

(d) an openness to new ideas with the social skills necessary for both teamwork and leadership; the ability to think independently and be self-directed; to make informed choices and take initiative

We have required students to participate in group projects each semester. Groups have researched topics and presented their findings in oral presentations, having divided responsibilities and tasks and then merged their work into a group product. We have provided students will considerable latitude in determining how to carry out group and individual projects.

(3) How is the course suitable for the general education area [under which] you have requested it be classified? Please refer to the criteria for the relevant division as described in Appendix A as well as to your course materials appended to this form.

(a) This course is intended to advance the understanding of human behavior and/or human development.

The organizing themes of this course&endash;Work in American Culture, The American City, Theories of Popular Culture, News and American Society&endash;have been chosen for their relevance to the study of human behavior. We have studied the ways in which people's behavior is shaped by their environment; we have examined the impact of various types of workplaces have impacted the actions and interactions of employees; we have analyzed the process of assimilation in the lives of newcomers to a society, focusing upon the experiences of immigrants in the past and present; etc.

(b) This course applies social scientific theoretical perspectives and/or social science concepts to contemporary societal issues in order to expand the knowledge base in the social sciences.

The course has drawn upon theoretical perspectives from several social science disciplines. We have looked at various models from communications theory regarding the influence of media on audiences in examining comprehension of news stories in newspapers and on network news. We have explored theoretical models from urban studies relating to the growth of cities in analyzing developments occurring in Providence over time. We have applied recent economic theories relating to globalization to the changing working experiences of Americans. Assimilation theory has been employed to look at the processes immigrants have undergone in adapting themselves to mainstream American habits and values. Specific social scientific concepts have been employed in explanations of various social problems and social phenomena. The concept of "subculture" has been used in understanding the experiences of homeless people. Terms such as "deviance amplification" and "deviant career" have been used to understand the development of street gangs using "labeling theory." Several distinct concepts have assisted in examining the work of journalists, such as "news sources," "news values" and "ideology."

(c) This course provides assignments or opportunities which involve the interpretation of data and/or the evaluation of evidence.

See 2 (b) above.

(4) Explain how this course provide[s] opportunities for practice in each of the integrated skills you have listed on the coversheet.

Examine human differences: With each overall course topic that has been chosen as a unifying theme, the instructors have emphasized the ways in which social trends impact people differently, based upon such factors as gender, race, ethnicity, age, and class. Women and African Americans, for example, have had a very different work experience in the United States than have white men. Immigrants to the city have encountered a vastly different set of circumstances than have native-born Americans. The lives of working-class urban dwellers have been significantly different from those of middle-class city people.

Read complex texts: Over the years the instructors have required students to read a variety of social scientific studies. Instructors have assigned a mixture of "formal" social scientific texts published in scholarly, peer-reviewed journals and more "popular" accounts of social scientific phenomena, such as Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, a best-selling book about her experiences as a minimum-wage worker. For both types of readings, students have been asked to read the texts carefully, to be able both to summarize the authors' main points and conclusions and to assess the social scientific validity of their positions.

Use of information technology: For several years, the course syllabi have been posted on WebCT. Students are expected to access the Internet, to participate in online discussions, to evaluate web sites, and (sometimes) to post projects online.

Write effectively: Two to three written projects are required each semester. The instructors expect papers to be analytical AND clearly written. The instructors have used a variety of strategies to help students improve their writing skills: peer writing consultants; writing substantial comments on papers before returning them; suggesting that students who are having difficulty with an assignment meet with the instructors and then revise their papers before they are graded.

(5) Will your course sometimes be taught to groups of students larger than 60? NO

(6) If other instructors teach the course, what will be done to ensure that the proposed content and skills will be maintained across sections and instructors?

The Coordinator of the Bachelor of General Studies regularly reviews the course syllabi and meets with instructors. Currently only one section of this course is taught at a time. Over the past twelve years or so, the same instructors have co-taught the course; at present, there is no problem with regard to maintaining consistency in content and skills across sections and instructors.


Part II

Please provide documentation of the means by which your course attempts to reach the goals of the general education program courses described above. Please attach a syllabus (mandatory) and all relevant course materials that will demonstrate how your course does this. In addition, please feel free to include any explanations necessary showing how the course materials are linked to both the goals of the general education program and specifically to the integrating skills.

See attached sheets.

Attached Material:

1. Syllabus for BGS 390, Spring 2003

2. Some Sample Assignments:

a. Ability to Think Critically: Analyzing Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America (2001); Analyzing Labor Sites on the Web

b. Use of Information Technology: Analyzing Labor Sites on the Web; Analyzing Websites

c. Ability to Write Effectively: Mini-Paper: Jacob Riis and the Immigrants of the Lower east Side

d. Ability to Engage in Social Science Research and to Think Critically: Project II: Researching Urban Transportation

e. Ability to Use Methods and Materials of Social Science: Project I: Providence in the Twenties; Project III: Researching an Urban Problem