Guidance for Faculty

Course Approval

  • Eligibility: Tenured faculty, tenure-track faculty, and faculty with renewable teaching appointments at Harvard are invited to submit a course title and description to gened@fas.harvard.edu for review by the Standing Committee on General Education.
  • Courses by the same instructor: An instructor may not offer more than two courses (either as the sole instructor or as part of a teaching team) in the Gen Ed program at any given time. Instructors teaching two Gen Ed courses are encouraged to offer them in different years, with no more than one course per instructor each semester.
  • Team teaching: Recognizing that Gen Ed courses are not moored in any specific scholarly discipline, we anticipate that Gen Ed will offer a unique opportunity for cross-divisional and cross-school collaborations in developing and implementing courses. Such interactions are encouraged and can be facilitated by the Gen Ed program; however, we must emphasize that it is essential that co-teaching situations include clear rationale for the joint efforts and that all faculty instructors are engaged in all aspects of the course.
  • Review: Courses will be continuously reviewed and considered for reapproval by the Standing Committee on General Education. Beginning in Fall 2019, faculty will receive feedback from the Committee after the first semester that a course is taught in Gen Ed. After the second offering, the Committee will review the course and consider it for continued inclusion.

Course Design

  • Assessment: Gen Ed courses are meant to be as rigorous as any other in the college, with commensurate expectations for student workload, class time, and grading. Most Gen Ed courses will include synthetic final exams or other cumulative assessments of the assigned materials (this should be in addition to assignments that ask students to take course materials as a point of departure for independent research or creative projects).
  • Class time: Attendance is required (in lecture, section, lab, etc.) with no online substitutes for class time. Gen Ed lectures are usually 75 minutes twice a week, though some courses will have good pedagogical reasons for offering the lecture once a week. In addition, TF-led sections or labs ordinarily meet at least 60 minutes once a week.
  • Prerequisites: Faculty are encouraged to design Gen Ed courses that are accessible to the widest audience possible; however, we recognize that in the same way that we assume a certain degree of literacy for students, some endeavors may require a certain degree of numeracy or other knowledge in order to achieve the course goals. In such cases, prerequisites may be unavoidable; however, they should be kept to the absolute minimum needed and must be limited to courses that are commonly taken by a large fraction of the student population and early in the student’s time at Harvard.
  • Undergraduate focus: Harvard College students should make up the vast majority of students enrolled in any Gen Ed course, and the content and priorities of the course must be primarily for undergraduates. If you intend to cross-list your course in another unit of the University, please let us know.

Course Logistics

  • Class size: Most Gen Ed courses are expected to enroll between 50 and 250 students. If you would like to set an enrollment limit within that range for pedagogical reasons (including the recruitment of qualified teaching fellows, limited lab or library space, etc.), we would be happy to help. Sections generally range between 12 and 15 students, with necessary variations to ensure a robust discussion in each section.
  • Teaching fellows: We are happy to aid faculty in identifying and recruiting appropriate teaching fellows from across the university. We are not able to support undergraduate course assistants for Gen Ed courses.
  • Requirements: Students must take four courses explicitly developed for Gen Ed and listed under a GENED course code. Students can only use a Gen Ed course to count for one of the four perspectives (courses can be tagged for a maximum of two): Aesthetics & Culture; Ethics & Civics; Histories, Societies, Individuals; Science & Technology in Society. Gen Ed courses do not satisfy College requirements in expository writing, language, quantitative reasoning, or the divisional distribution requirement. Departments may elect to count Gen Ed courses for credit in concentrations and secondary fields.
  • Similar courses: If a course approved for Gen Ed grew out of a departmental course or Freshman Seminar, the two courses should not be offered in the same academic year.