Philosophy 189 Senior Seminar

Philosophy 189 Senior Seminar Fall 2016

Catalogue Description

Students complete a senior essay under direction of a faculty member, take a philosophy general knowledge and skills exit exam, attend and submit a written critique of a minimum of 3 philosophy colloquia, and complete a departmental assessment questionnaire. (1 unit)


Students must be senior philosophy majors in their final semester. (Exceptions to the final semester requirement may be made for compelling reasons.)

Learning Objectives

The purpose of this 1 unit course is to provide graduating seniors with a culminating experience that will also facilitate the Department’s ongoing effort to assess and improve its program. 

1.    The senior essay provides an example of the graduating student’s best analytical essay. (Students will also provide written feedback for two of their classmates sernior essays.)

2.    The general knowledge and skills exit exam provides an indication of the level of knowledge and sophistication the graduating student has achieved. (This test will be done in two parts. The first part occurs the last week of the semester, and involves responding to a series of questions in short-essay form. The second part occurs during finals week and involves writing an analytical essay on a short article. Both parts of the test will be done online.)

3.    The philosophy colloquia assignments provide an indication of the graduating student’s ability to grasp and achieve a reasoned critical perspective on presentations made by professional philosophers. They must take the form of the department's analytical essay.

4.    The departmental assessment questionnaire is an exit survey that provides an opportunity for graduating students to provide direct feedback on the quality of instruction and advisement they have received and the way in which they believe the Department could be improved.

Course Requirements


This course will meet physically only once at the beginning of the semester, unless the instructor deems subsequent meetings to be necessary. See schedule below.


Your grade in this course will be computed as follows.  You must do all of the assignments in order to pass the course.  If you fail to submit even one assignment you will not pass the course, regardless of the quality of the other submitted assignments.




Total Possible

Senior essay


25 pts.

 25 pts.

Peer feedback

5 pts.

10 pts.

Exit exam part 1


 15 pts.

 15 pts.

Exit exam part  2

15 pts.

 15  pts.

Colloquium critiques


10 pts.

 30  pts.

Assessment questionnaire


5 pts.

 5 pts.




100 pts.

All assignments will be evaluated by the presentation standards appropriate to an upper-division seminar.  Although the assessment questionnaire is anonymous and ungraded, students who fail to complete it will not pass the course.

Your final grade is based on 100 pts, with the proviso stated above that all assignments must be completed in order to earn a passing grade.  In calculating your final grade fractional point totals are rounded up to the nearest whole point. Grades are assigned on a standard scale with minuses (-) added to scores below 100 ending in 0 and 1 and plusses (+) added to scores ending in 8 or 9.

Submission Requirements

    1. All written material (senior essays, colloquium critiques, peer feedback and exit exam) will be submitted electronically on a single Google Doc.  You will not create a Googe Doc yourself. Rather, you will get a Gmail account and sign  up to receive one at this page during the first week of instruction.  The instructor will create a Google Doc for you and share it with you at this account.

    2. The senior essay should be an example of the student's best work to date, and should ideally be an essay that was previously written for a philosophy class with a course designation of 150 or above. The essay must be written in the department's analytical essay format.  If you choose an essay that was not written in that form, you must rewrite it in that form prior to submission. The essay should be about 3-6 single-spaced pages in length. It is permissible to write an essay specifically to fulfill this requirement, but students are neither required nor advised to do so. Students will revise their essays in accord with peer feedback.

    3. Each student will be assigned two senior essays to read and critique. The critiques will evaluate each section of the essay with suggestions for improvement. The critiques will be entered into the student's own Google Doc,and will themselves be evaluated according to their degree of care and helpfulness.

    4. Part 1 of the exit exam will be a list of short essay questions. It will be administered online. It will last one hour and will be held during the last regularly scheduled class meeting of the semester. Students will compose answers to these questions in their Google Docs.

    5. Part 2 of the exit exam will be taken during finals week on the day of the final exam. This test will involve reading a short article and analyzing it using the department's standard analytical essay format within the final exam period.  It will be administered online. Students will compose the essay in their Google Doc.

    6. The colloquium critiques will be no more than 1 single-spaced page.  These will be also be written in the department's analytical essay format.  All critiques are due within one week after the colloquium for which it is written. Students are responsible for monitoring philosophy department  announcements of colloquiums.  Colloquiums given on other campuses (e.g., UCD, UCB or at professional conferences) are acceptable. You may also use one philosophy club meeting on a day the club is hosting a speaker.

    7. The assessment questionnaire will be taken online at the end of the semester.  As indicated above, the questionnaire is anonymous, but completing it is a requirement of passing the course

Course Materials

        All material will be distributed online.. Students will be responsible for acquiring whatever research materials needed to complete the senior essay.

Course Schedule 

Week 1

Orientation.  Friday September 2 noon in Philosophy Department conference room.

Week 10

Submit senior essay.  November 20th, midnight, or before.

Week 12

Submit peer feedback. November 28th, midnight, or before. 

Week 15

Exit exam part 1.  December 9th, noon.

Week 16
Exit exam part 2. December 16th noon.
Week 16
Revisions to senior essay and assessment questionnaire. December 18th midnight.

*Please note that colloquium analyses are due within one week of the date of the presentation for which it is submitted.

Academic Honesty

Plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty as adumbrated in the academic honesty policy statement (link below) will be dealt with by immediate failure in the course and referral to the Office of Student Affairs for    disciplinary action.  Academic Honesty Policy & Procedures

Students with Special Needs

        Students who have special learning or testing needs must notify the instructor with the appropriate documentation by the end of the second week of the semester.