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Ways Guidelines

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Submissions should consist of a statement or syllabus that outlines and illustrates how the course fits a Way in spirit and in practice.  The Way should be a major focus of the course, not a byproduct.

General Guidelines for all Ways Categories

In general, it is helpful for the syllabus or supporting documentation to:

  1. outline the major course elements (e.g., reading list, descriptions or representative examples of detailed assignments, projects, etc., grading criteria)
  2. show evidence of active "thinking" and "doing" experience
  3. describe how the goals/experiences of the course connect with one or more learning outcomes for the Way.

    Specific information that should be provided for reviewers includes:

    • representative examples of Ways-relevant homework assignments
    • highlighting specific readings that are connected to Ways objectives
    • Ways-relevant details regarding course projects

    If this information is not obvious from the course syllabus, please submit additional documentation to address these points, with enough detail for reviewers to understand why your course meets certification requirements for each Way requested. Also note that the amount of work students will be required to do for a Way should be a substantial portion of all work they will be required to do for the course.

View Examples of Ways-Certified Course Syllabi

Download the Ways Guidelines (PDF)

About each Way and what you’ll need to provide

Aesthetic and Interpretive Inquiry (AII)

AII courses provide a significant experience in the use of interpretive or philosophical modes of inquiry to explore and understand cultural objects (such as art, literature, theatrical works, etc.) or the means of their apprehension (via the mind, the senses, belief structures, et al.). By “significant experience,” we mean one that is more than incidental, and sufficient for students to begin to understand both the method and meaning of such inquiry, and the role it plays in human culture.

Common Misconceptions

AII is sometimes confused with CE. AII prioritizes the study of artistic and cultural products through examination, analysis, comparison, and reflection. CE prioritizes learning through the practice of creative expression such as dance, art, acting, writing, design, et al. AII is also sometimes confused with SI, which may deal with the study of culture as a social phenomenon. AII specifically works with artifacts, humanistic texts, objects, media and their particular aesthetic interpretation.

Learning Outcomes

  • appreciate the nature of human responses to meaningful cultural objects, and distinguish among the different methods to interpret those responses
  • acquire techniques of interpretation, close reading, criticism, and analysis of cultural texts, artifacts, and practices
  • demonstrate facility with the analysis of arguments for and against different theories and interpretation
  • understand diverse artistic, literary, and theoretical traditions, their characteristic forms of production, and/or their development across historical time
  • understand how expressive works articulate responses to fundamental human problems and convey important values

Helpful Information to include in statement or syllabus (in addition to guidelines 1-3 above):

  • Course style/methodology (lecture, seminar, etc)
  • Expectations or guidelines for written assignments – not just the length required for a paper.

View examples of AII Ways-Certified Course Syllabi


Applied Quantitative Reasoning (AQR)

AQR courses provide a focused experience in applications of inferential and inductive reasoning. Students actively apply these methods of reasoning through direct manipulation of data, graphics, models, digital material, or simulations using software and quantitative tools.

Common Misconceptions

AQR and FR courses are complementary. While AQR courses focus on quantitative reasoning and numerical analysis, FR courses focus on the formal manipulation of symbols and equations. In AQR courses, students are required to analyze data sets and make computations using software, simulations, spreadsheets, and other quantitative tools. Courses that discuss or interpret the results of such analyses but without active student involvement in the performance of the analysis itself are not suitable. AQR courses can fall in any scholarly discipline (e.g., humanities, business, policy, engineering, physics, biosciences). Data sets can include graphical representations, data visualization, digital humanities, or historical information.

Learning Outcomes

  • transform and analyze data or apply estimation methods to solve relevant problems, guide decision-making, or answer questions of specific or wide concern
  • design experiments that study and/or alter the behavior of a system, device, or process in a purposeful way
  • choose appropriate probabilistic or empirical models to solve a given problem, using information from observed data and knowledge of the system being studied
  • quantitatively model or visualize the behavior or evolution of a system, network, or dataset in the social sciences, humanities, sciences, or engineering
  • visualize numerical results from an experiment, or from a database, or from a data manipulation exercise and interpret the resulting plots

Helpful Information to include in statement or syllabus (in addition to guidelines 1-3 above)

Evidence that a substantial part of the work assigned requires students to use tools for quantitative analysis (e.g., software, simulations, coding). Multiple assignments should focus on statistical, numerical, or graphical computations.

View examples of AQR Ways-Certified Course Syllabi


Creative Expression (CE)

Through a combination of instruction and mentoring, CE courses offer students significant opportunities to acquire and practice skills for creative expression and to study the creative process.

Common Misconceptions

Simply asking students to undertake a creative presentation or project at the course's end does not meet the CE criteria. If the creative component of a course is only optional, it will likely not meet the CE criteria. In a CE course, students should engage with a specific creative medium repeatedly and progressively throughout the quarter while receiving active mentorship by the instructor or another individual who is well-versed in the practice. 

CE can sometimes be confused with AII, and vice-versa. CE focuses primarily on the practice of creative expression (e.g., dance, art, acting, writing, designing, musical performance, etc.). AII focuses on the critical study of creative works and humanistic texts with the aim of learning about and engaging in the critical interpretation of them.

Learning Outcomes

  • explore individual potential to produce original creative projects
  • engage in artistic collaboration and the creative reinterpretation of art made by others
  • take creative risks beyond their comfort zones
  • experience what it is to make the unimagined possible and real
  • appreciate how experimentation, failure, and revision play a valuable role in the creation of successful and innovative works
  • consider multiple and divergent solutions to creative problems
  • explore how to address social issues through art-making 

Helpful Information to include in statement or syllabus (in addition to guidelines 1-3 above)

Examples of how progress is monitored and active mentorship is provided.

View examples of CE Ways-Certified course syllabi


Exploring Difference and Power (EDP)

EDP (previously Engaging Diversity or ED) courses must have, as a central focus, a rigorous analysis of difference and inequality within social, political, and cultural domains. EDP courses study how social groups produce, perpetuate, and challenge structures of difference in the context of power relationships. EDP courses may examine social organization and individual or group experience of difference along multiple intersecting axes, including race, ethnicity, class, religion, gender, sexualities, and abilities. Courses for which difference in this regard is an ancillary theme, or where the student's experience of difference is anecdotal, are not sufficient.

Common Misconceptions

“Exploring Difference and Power” courses examine power relationships and differences between groups. Courses that deal with variety per se, or with “non-western” cultures, do not qualify as EDP courses unless they treat power relationships and differences within those cultures.

Learning Outcomes

  • evaluate how existing social arrangements create and maintain social, political, or economic differences among people
  • acquire an understanding of how structures of difference based on relative advantage and disadvantage between social groups have changed over time 
  • address challenges that emerge in interactions between people with different backgrounds, worldviews, and opportunities
  • explore power relationships (social, political, economic, racial, gendered, and cultural) and how those relationships have changed over time

Helpful Information to include in statement or syllabus (in addition to guidelines 1-3 above)

Brief description of how assignments approach difference and power as an organizing principle.

View examples of EDP Ways-Certified course syllabi


Ethical Reasoning (ER)

ER courses spend a majority of course time understanding ethical theories or frameworks and, in some cases, applying ethical frameworks to politics, political or social theory, or particular policy domains or cases. Whatever the approach, ER courses must present one or more frameworks within which students can analyze ethical questions or dilemmas.

Common Misconceptions

Addressing an issue or topic that has a value component or is ethically important is not sufficient to be an ER course. The majority of the course must be devoted to meeting the key essential feature of ER, namely, enabling students to reason about ethical problems and issues. Courses that include ethics as a part, but not the main focus, do not meet the ER requirement. Analysis of cases, or discussion of ethical questions in the absence of explicit presentation of one or more frameworks, is not sufficient for ER.

Learning Outcomes

  • defend ethical judgments about right and wrong action or policy in the face of competing ethical judgments
  • discern the ethical issues at stake in individual and collective decisions
  • identify, understand, and use multiple normative concepts and arguments
  • evaluate competing ethical perspectives on human problems and actions
  • articulate and critically evaluate distinct ethical perspectives on concrete dilemmas
  • identify ethical issues in political theories and philosophical conceptions of what is a good polity or government, what is virtue in a society, or how should one evaluate what is a good policy

Helpful Information to include in statement or syllabus (in addition to guidelines 1-3 above)


Explain how the assignments teach students how to understand or apply ethical frameworks.

View examples of ER Ways-Certified course syllabi


Formal Reasoning (FR)

FR courses spend a majority of course time on instruction in rigorous logical and deductive reasoning. Active and frequent use of deductive reasoning by students is expected, typically involving manipulations of symbols and/or equations.

Common Misconceptions

Courses which survey work related to formal reasoning, but do not require students to do formal reasoning themselves, are not appropriate. FR courses are not historical overviews of scientific or mathematical topics.  Courses which primarily focus on the application of mathematical tools to large complex problems, via techniques such as modeling, statistical analysis, or probabilistic thinking, will be more appropriate for AQR. Courses in logic or linguistics with a strong component of formal reasoning are a better fit for FR, whereas courses in numerical analyses, computation and simulations align better with AQR.

Learning Outcomes

  • manipulate a system of symbols logically and consistently so as to derive or prove new results or insights of particular interest or utility
  • study complex processes or systems by developing or manipulating theoretical models to predict their outcomes
  • solve equations or optimization problems through translation to a standardized formalism

Helpful Information to include in statement or syllabus (in addition to guidelines 1-3 above)

Demonstrate the rigor of formal reasoning instruction, and the student’s active use of deductive and logical thinking, by describing the course topics and homework assignments. Show how deductive reasoning is correctly used through the study of particular examples in an area of interest at the collegiate level.

View examples of FR Ways-Certified course syllabi


Social Inquiry (SI)

SI courses focus on probing questions that are of a social nature (i.e. pertaining to social arrangements, human behavior and forms of social, political and economic organization). SI encompasses a broad range of disciplinary and methodological approaches; in each case students must engage with social practices, social processes, and/or their history.

Common Misconceptions

Courses which contain limited exploration of social, political, or historical themes will not reach the threshold of intensive inquiry stipulated by SI. SI courses should encourage direct engagement with research methods appropriate for social inquiry, applied systematically to a substantive area.  Some courses explore social themes but focus chiefly on other issues, e.g. the analysis of aesthetic objects, detailed interpretation of texts, or a course that has a social component but is largely about applied quantitative reasoning.

Learning Outcomes

  • apply the methods of research and inquiry from social science to the study of human behavior in social, political, and economic organization, learning what makes a question about human behavior or the behavior of social institutions and structures empirically tractable and significant, and thereby become a capable consumer of research 
  • understand and evaluate historical and social change through empirical investigation
  • analyze the origins of social institutions and social structures, and the effects of one or more kinds of social institutions and social structures on human action and behavior
  • use and evaluate either qualitative evidence or quantitative data in social inquiry
  • critically evaluate research methods appropriate for social and historical inquiry
  • use strategies for basing conclusions about society in data including causal reasoning, historical contextualization, hypothesis testing, modeling, and critical analysis of behavior and institutions

Helpful Information to include in statement or syllabus (in addition to guidelines 1-3 above)

Sufficient information on assignments, readings, and projects to demonstrate intensive, sustained SI analysis.

View examples of SI Ways-Certified course syllabi


Scientific Method and Analysis (SMA)

SMA courses focus on the natural and physical world, how we understand it, and how we gain that understanding. They encompass a wide range of studies and scientific approaches and components of the scientific method. The overall goal is for students to learn how to formulate hypotheses, design experiments to test hypotheses, and understand when evidence can verify or dismiss hypotheses.

Common Misconceptions

While many SMA courses consider the social context, historical development, and/or ethical implications of science, a focus on the actual use of scientific methods or analyses is essential, as well as engagement of natural and physical science principles.  SMA is sometimes confused with SI.  For SMA, the methods and analyses focus on the natural world or on the physical universe, and involve energy or matter (e.g., atoms, chemicals, rocks, neurons, genes, ecosystems).  SI is the appropriate Way for social sciences focusing on social interactions and human behavior.

Learning Outcomes

  • understand the distinction between scientific evidence and theory, and the role of each in scientific inquiry
  • utilize inductive and deductive reasoning, and understand the role of each in scientific inquiry
  • understand and utilize the scientific method in formulating hypotheses and designing experiments to test hypotheses
  • assess and synthesize scientific evidence, concepts, theories, and/or data relating to the natural or physical world, and use this approach to engage in scientific debate
  • refine powers of scientific observation, the essential process by which data are gained for subsequent analysis
  • apply conceptual thinking to solve certain problems, bypassing calculations or rote learning and relying on the fundamental principles behind the laws of nature
  • develop skills in using abstraction to extrapolate beyond what is observed, envisioning what is possible and making scientific predictions

Helpful Information to include in statement or syllabus (in addition to guidelines 1-3 above)

  • Articulate which elements of natural or physical science provide the focus for the course
  • Breakdown of how students are evaluated (e.g., problem sets, exams, projects, and papers)

View examples of SMA Ways-Certified course syllabi