Social Sciences

Course proposals for the Social Sciences 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 Social Sciences 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 Social Sciences 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.

Social Sciences Core overview

The social sciences comprise a broad range of topics, approaches, and methodologies from the humanistic to the mathematical. Broadly, social scientists focus on individual behavior in the context of society, and explore the many dimensions of human practices including economics, education, politics, cultures, human development, cognition, and space. Knowledge of the social sciences brings students a better understanding of themselves in relation to others; shows how individuals, institutions, events, and ideas are connected; leads students to be more thoughtful and active citizens; and enhances personal capacities and welfare. Through the social sciences students more fully comprehend the patterns and problems of their own and other societies. Social scientists work at multiple spatial and temporal scales, from the individual to the global, and from periods of days to centuries. Social scientists may use advanced computation, models, and empirical research to study markets and market-like behavior; use medical imaging to understand the human mind; deploy experimental and quasi-experimental methods to delineate the cognitive and affective processes that guide human behavior; study public spaces, the concept of "place," and advanced mapping techniques. Social scientists also may undertake ethnographic research to interpret and compare cultures and group practices.

A core course must address questions that are central to social science and relate to current societal themes, such as race and class, environmental equity, economic development, world economies, and local cultures. Courses that fulfill the Social Science Core requirement must expose students to appropriate quantitative and/or qualitative approaches and methods for the collection and analysis of data, including textual analysis, discourse analysis, surveys, interviews, experimental and quasi-experimental methods, focus groups, ethnographic work, statistics, modeling, or spatial analysis. Courses in the Social Science Core are not required to meet pre-defined standards for disciplinary, theoretical, or methodological content.

To satisfy the Social Science Core requirement, a course must meet these criteria:

  • The course demonstrates how social scientists describe and analyze human experiences and behavior.
  • Students manipulate with social science data (primary or secondary) using one or more of the primary quantitative or qualitative methods for collecting and/or analyzing these data.
  • The course identifies key disciplinary resources and evaluates their quality.
  • The course explores the interrelationships among individuals, institutions, structures, events and/or ideas.
  • Students examine the roles that individuals play in their cultural, social, economic, and/or political worlds.
  • The course promotes multidisciplinary ways of thinking that can be used to synthesize and analyze local, national, and global issues, and the connections among these.
  • Students to work collaboratively and individually to construct new knowledge.