Mini-Course Assignment for Advanced Students

The following is an assignment that I’ve used as a final project in my graduate-level Intro to Literary Criticism courses. I think it could be a useful template for upper-division undergraduates as well, since it not only prepares students for later teaching experiences, but also provides a new angle for students to research and explore a topic. 

I generally give my grad students the choice between the mini-course assignment below and writing a traditional research paper for their final project; I’ve been surprised to find that an overwhelming majority of my students choose this option.

Final Project

Option B: 4-week Mini-Course

Design a 4-week course on a topic in literary criticism. This may be an introduction to literary criticism, or a course on a particular topic in literary criticism (e.g. third-wave feminism, postcolonialism, structuralist psychoanalysis, etc.).

You may choose to organize your course with a focus on a particular genre of literature, but your course should also engage with a literary critical approach, or set of literary critical approaches (at least at the conceptual/planning level). Your course should engage with literature, but may be interdisciplinary in nature.

Create and turn in an electronic portfolio for this course, including the following 4 components:

  1. Course Proposal (4 – 6pp) – Should include each of the following aspects:
    • Address proposal to an audience of academic colleagues.
    • Elaborate the course topic, discussing major concepts, theoretical framework, and methods of the critical tradition(s) that serves as the conceptual framework for the course, and drawing on appropriate research to do so (include at least 2-3 sources beyond the assigned course materials).
    • Present course objectives and pedagogical rationale – clarify who the class is intended for, what skills/knowledge they will gain from the course, and why these outcomes are important and relevant (in an academic, professional, or cultural context)
  1. Course Syllabus, including:
    • Course description – brief statement describing the course topic for students
    • Learning outcomes – articulate to students what skills/knowledge they will gain from the course
  1. Breakdown of course sessions, with page breaks between each course session. You may choose how you would like to organize your course into sessions, but the class should meet at least once per week. For each session, provide an outline including the following sections (see example at end of document):
    • Session topic – a few sentences articulating the focus of the session, discussing where applicable its relationship to other sessions
    • Assignments – the homework students are expected to complete for the session. In designing your assignments, you should think about how to help your students process and retain the material from any reading assignments, for example by providing them with questions they should prepare for class discussion or respond to in writing, or by having them complete an activity linked to the reading. Feel free to be creative.List all parts of assignment, including written or other work students are expected to complete, as well as reading assignments. Reading assignments should list author and title of work; should you choose to have students read an excerpt from a larger work, you do not need to specify the exact excerpt. Any materials you will create for students, or have students utilize should be indicated or included.
    • Lesson Plan for class session – should include major activities you envision for the class. This does not have to be extremely detailed, but there should be some structure articulated. For example, if you want the class to function as a seminar, and mostly comprise student discussion, clarify how you intend to start or direct discussion (by introducing key questions, having students prepare presentations, using homework assignments as discussion starters, etc.)
    • Teaching materials – any materials you plan to use in the class session or as part of homework, such as handouts, Powerpoint slides, audio-visual resources, etc.
  1. Bibliography of Works Consulted (MLA Format)
    • Include all sources consulted for proposal and lesson plans.

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