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Discussion and Elaboration of COLL 350

Discussion

Based on course proposals submitted through Curriculog, EPC assigns the COLL 350 attribute to new and adapted courses. The goals and intentions for COLL 350 courses are described in language approved by the faculty in December 2019. The discussion below covers the key points that are queried in course proposals.

Note: The Center for the Liberal Arts has taken the lead in developing faculty-based discussion groups, workshops, and one-on-one consulting to help build faculty knowledge and confidence in developing COLL 350 courses. Faculty members are encouraged to tap these resources as they design, adapt, and propose courses.

The COLL 350 requirement enhances student’s knowledge and facilitates their critical analysis of the workings of power, privilege, and inequity in U.S. society and globally, past and present. This aim is more ambitious than simply facilitating students’ comfort and capacity in multi-or cross-cultural settings.

The intentions of COLL 350 may be satisfied by a variety of course topics and across all the academic disciplines taught at W&M. Assignments in these courses deepen students' understanding of the course content, while also teaching essential skills.

Social categories. Courses must address race and at least one additional social category (see full description for listing of categories). EPC recognizes the imprecise nature of social categories, and welcomes the variety of definitions and interpretations from across the academic disciplines. Course proposals should describe:

  • The social categories addressed (2 or more, one of which must be race).
  • Processes/theories used to deepen students’ understanding of justice, equity, and the value-laden processes of social inclusion and exclusion through institutional, cultural, and normative practices that are both historical and ongoing.
  • How the social categories addressed in the course interact with one another.

Social norms, institutional practices, and patterns of belonging and marginalization. The application of social norms and institutional practices can result in varying effects on social categories, depending on their degree of belonging or marginalization. The following are examples of topics that would be appropriate to consider:

  • How norms, practices, and biases shape the dynamics of power and inequality in relation to the social categories being considered.
  • The difference between descriptive notions of equality and normative notions of equity (i.e., various ways of understanding equity, fairness, or impartiality) as appropriate to your field.
  • That there are different ideals of justice that support different policies to protect rights and equalize opportunities, resources, and outcomes.
  • An exploration of justice as an understanding of the variety of demands of justice and the responsibilities of all members of a society to create and support just institutions that make it possible for everyone to lead healthy, fulfilling and productive lives.

Reasoned and respectful dialogue. The ability to discuss and engage complex, sensitive subjects is an essential life skill. In COLL 350 courses, faculty members should be prepared to model and manage dialogue that engages the course material in meaningful intellectual ways while respecting the personal boundaries and experiences of the students. It is appropriate to determine and then communicate to students:

  • Ground rules and expectations for class discussions.
  • Specifications for the primary modes of discussion, and where and how discussion will take place (e.g., in class, online, outside the class environment).
  • Mechanisms for resolving conflicts and addressing any student complaints or discomfort with the course material or course dynamics.
  • Ways students can provide feedback throughout the course, allowing for possible adjustments.

Critical analysis. Close and careful examination, thoughtful evaluation, and comparison of different approaches and conclusions form the basis of critical analysis. Course proposals should indicate how students will undertake critical analysis in relation to the COLL 350–related content.

Critical reflection. Opportunities for critical reflection help students to better understand and internalize new knowledge. Example activities that require student reflection include:

  • Reflective essays or other forms of communication
  • Journals
  • Portfolios
  • Discussion groups
  • Other activities

Course proposals should indicate how students will undertake critical reflection in relation to the COLL 350–related content.

Connections to contemporary life in the United States. These connections are intended to situate COLL 350 issues within the students’ present-day and lived experiences. Where the course topic and course material are focused primarily on the contemporary United States, the connection is implicit. Other types of courses may draw the connections through:

  • Assigned readings that augment the course’s core content
  • Assignments requiring students to identify and explain connections
  • Dialogue among students
  • Other activities designed to help students draw connections

For all of these approaches, the syllabus should clearly signal the intention to connect the course material or activity to contemporary life in the United States.

Elaboration
  • Courses with the COLL 350 attribute may be offered within departments/programs or across them via cross-listing or team teaching. The courses may be of any size, format, or credit hour as long as they are able to deliver the stated goals of COLL 350. (All students must take one or more courses with the COLL 350 attribute, totaling at least 3 credits.)
  • As with all COLL courses, the faculty member teaching a COLL 350 course will have at least one semester of teaching experience at William & Mary.
  • EPC will delegate the initial review of course proposals to an EPC appointed subcommittee.

The COLL 350 states as a goal: “to deepen students’ understanding of justice, equity, and the value-laden processes of social inclusion and exclusion through institutional, cultural, and normative practices that are both historical and ongoing.”

To achieve this goal, students will need to discern and appreciate different ideals of justice, and how they can be implemented to protect rights and liberties, and equalize opportunities, resources, and outcomes. They will also need to understand how demands for freedom, equality and opportunity can be distorted, leading to practices of institutional marginalization and exclusion. Students will learn to critically evaluate the fairness of different laws, policies, and practices.

  • One option for achieving this goal would be for students to discern and appreciate the difference between equality and equity and how emphasis on the former has actually led to practices of institutional marginalization and exclusion. Students could explore how equality focuses on equal opportunity and/or resources, while equity entails ensuring that individuals are given everything they need to achieve similar positive, successful outcomes. They could learn to critically evaluate the role of privilege and position and its impact on equity.
  • Discussions of ideals of justice should promote a deeper understanding of its complex requirements, and of alternative ways to respond to existing injustices. It should also encourage reflection on the responsibilities of all members of society to create and support just institutions that help individuals – regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, physical/mental states, and any other differences – to lead healthy, fulfilling, and productive lives.
  • COLL 350 courses can address broad, overarching issues of equity and justice or focus on more specific fields including environmental, health, economic, social, or educational equity and justice. Regardless of focus, COLL 350 courses should address the institutional, cultural, and normative practices that impede or promote equity and justice.