Historical Perspectives Core proposals

Course proposals for the Historical Perspectives Core should describe how your course fits within your Core discipline, and how your Core discipline is situated within the purpose and values of liberal education.

Components of your proposal

Your proposal will include both a narrative description and a syllabus.
As you develop your proposal, you should not assume that the goals of your courses are obvious. It may be helpful to remember that the members of the Council on Liberal Education, like students in liberal education courses, come from units across the University. The council's aim is to ensure that liberal education courses meet the University's goals and that these goals are clear to students and to faculty members.

Narrative proposal

Your narrative proposal should explain how the course meets:

  1. The general requirements of liberal education.
  2. The common goals for all Core courses.
  3. The specific goals for the Historical Perspectives Core.

Effective proposals will provide concrete examples from the course that illustrate how the course meets these goals, e.g., from the course syllabus, detailed outlines, course assignments, laboratory material, student projects, or other instructional materials or methods. Your proposal should also include two brief statements that address:

  1. How your course addresses one or more of the University's Student Learning Outcomes.
  2. How the learning associated with this outcome will be assessed.


Because it is written for students, your syllabus should contain the following elements.

Language to help students understand what liberal education is and how this course fulfills its mission as a liberal education course. A course description at the head of the syllabus followed by a paragraph describing the precise aims according to the guidelines is one efficient way of doing this.

A clear explanation of how the particular course fulfills the Historical Perspectives Core, so that students are aware of how and why the course meets LE requirements. This can be done through the stated course objectives, course topics, writing assignments, and required readings. You may also include supporting materials, such as lab manuals, sample assignments, or handouts.

Information about small group activities (small group discussion, debates, and so on) that will be employed in the course.

A brief paragraph describing the Student Learning Outcome(s) the course addresses, how it addresses these outcomes, and how the learning that is associated with the outcome will be assessed.

Additional syllabus guidelines:

  • For existing courses, the syllabus must be for a term within the past two years.
  • For courses under development, the syllabus may be provisional but still must document how the course will meet the LE requirement(s), as indicated above. A list of lecture topics or discussion topics should be included, with the understanding that dates, schedules, and readings may be tentative.
  • The syllabus needs to conform to the University Senate Syllabi Policy, approved December 6, 2001. It should be in English, or with an English translation provided.
  • Formatting is often lost when material is copied and pasted into the system.  Try to keep formatting simple.


All liberal education courses must:

  • Explicitly help students understand what liberal education is, how the content and the substance of this course enhance a liberal education, and what this means for them as students and as citizens.
  • Meet one or more of the Student Learning Outcomes (SLO). In the syllabus you submit, specify which of the SLO(s) that the course meets, how it addresses the outcome(s), and how the learning that is associated with the outcome(s) will be assessed.
  • Be offered on a regular schedule.
  • Be taught by regular faculty or under exceptional circumstances by instructors on continuing appointments. Departments proposing instructors other than regular faculty must provide documentation of how such instructors will be trained and supervised to ensure consistency and continuity in courses;
  • Be at least 3 credits (or at least 4 credits for biological or physical sciences, which must include a lab or field experience component).

All Core courses must:

  • Employ teaching and learning strategies that engage students with doing the work of the field, not just reading about it.
  • Include small group experiences (such as discussion sections or labs) and use writing as appropriate to the discipline to help students learn and reflect on their learning.
  • Not (except in rare and clearly justified cases) have prerequisites beyond the University's entrance requirements.

To meet more than one requirement:

  • A course may be approved to meet one Core or one Theme or both a Core and a Theme. In the latter case, the Theme must be fully and meaningfully infused into the course (the old standard of "one-third of the course" will no longer be sufficient).
  • Courses may be submitted for both LE and WI designation.

Historical Perspectives Core overview

Courses in the Historical Perspectives core investigate how historical knowledge is produced from artifacts (primary sources) that have remained from the past.  By discerning between "the past" as that which happened and "historical knowledge" as what we know about the past, these courses self-consciously examine the methods and sources people (and not just professional historians) use to produce historical knowledge. A central question in any Historical Perspectives course concerns both the value and the limitations of certain sources, be they written, oral, visual, or material. The incomplete and partial nature of the sources, and the distinctive perspective any given individual brings to them, leads inevitably to multiple and conflicting interpretations of the past.  And yet not all historical analyses and arguments are equally persuasive; there are (changing) rules about what constitutes reliable and trustworthy history. Historical Perspectives courses equip students with a deep understanding of particular approaches to the past and teach them to think critically and in an informed manner about their own and others' assumptions and assertions about the human past.  

Historical Perspectives Core objectives and criteria

Each course admitted to the Historical Perspectives core must have a three-part mission, one related to content, namely past human experience in specific contexts, another to questions of methodology and how historical knowledge is produced, and a third that involves students in analyzing and interpreting primary sources. Not all history or historically informed courses meet the criteria for Historical Perspectives.

First, Historical Perspectives courses examine the human past, studying the beliefs, practices, and relationships that shaped human experience over time.  Historical Perspectives courses must be primarily about people and their changing experiences in particular contexts, whether the sources examined in a course are hieroglyphic political tracts in ancient Egypt, oil paintings depicting gentility in Renaissance Italy, court records from nineteenth-century Brazil, or the artifacts of popular culture that create and perpetuate memories of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in China. Change over time is a fundamental category of analysis in Historical Perspectives courses, and attention to the specific and distinctive historical context is crucial. 

Second, an explicit and significant focus of any Historical Perspectives course must be on the methods and conceptual frameworks with which scholars interpret primary sources. Students will learn about and critically assess methods and concepts employed in producing historical knowledge. 

Third, students must themselves work with primary sources, i.e. materials produced in the time period under investigation, whether written, oral, visual, or material, and either in the original language or in translation. Students will learn how to analyze primary sources and do the interpretive work that makes meaning out of historical material. Students will also evaluate the uses and the limitations of those sources. Historical Perspectives courses should consider how the questions we ask and the sources available to us shape our knowledge of the past and our understanding of its significance. 

To satisfy the Historical Perspectives Core requirement, a course must meet these criteria:

  • The course examines the human past, studying the beliefs, practices, and relationships that shaped human experience over time.
  • The course focuses on change over time, giving attention to specific historical contexts.
  • The course introduces and critically assesses methods and concepts employed in producing historical knowledge. 
  • Students work with primary sources themselves, learning how to do the interpretive work that makes meaning out of historical material.
  • Students evaluate the uses and the limitations of certain primary sources.
  • The course considers how the questions we ask and the sources available to us shape our knowledge of the past and our understanding of its significance.