Syllabus Philosophy 189: Senior Seminar

Fall 2014

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 written work.

2.    The general knowledge and skills exit exam provides an indication of the level of knowledge and sophistication the graduating student has achieved.

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. 

4.    The departmental assessment questionnaire 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 two to three times beyond the first class meeting:  midsemester, the last day of class, and the final exam period.  Attendance is required at all three meeting times.


Your grade in this course will be based on your performance on your senior essay, a general knowledge/skills exit exam, 3 colloquium critiques, and the assessment questionnaire.  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 assignment.




Total Possible

Senior essay


40 pts.

40 pts.

General knowledge/skills test


30 pts.

30 pts.

Colloquium critiques


10 pts.

30 pts.

Assessment questionnaire







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.  Final versions of all written material (senior essays, colloquium critiques 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 send an email from it to <>.  The instructor will create a Google Doc for you and share it with you at this account.

2. The senior essay should be approximately 10-15 double-spaced pages.  Each student will be assigned a grading professor who will give you basic feedback and inform you of the grade you would receive from him or her if you did not revise it.  You may also resubmit the revised paper to this professor.  If you do, this professor will assign the grade for the essay.  If you do not, then the instructor of this course sill assign the grade based on the initial grade and the degree of improvement.

At the midterm progress meeting, each student will briefly summarize the aim of their essays and submit a signed agreement with the supervising faculty member.  

3. The colloquium critiques will be no more than 2 double-spaced pages.  These will be written in our standard form for writing analytical essays, which is explained  here .  For each submission students will receive either the full 10 points or 0 points for substandard submissions. These critiques are due within one week after the colloquium for which it is written. No late submissions will be accepted.  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 when they host a speaker.

4. 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

5. The general skills/knowledge test will be taken on the day of the final exam. This test will involve reading a short article and analyzing it using the standard analytical essay format within the final exam period.

Course Materials

There are no specific required course materials. Students will be responsible for acquiring whatever research materials needed to complete the senior essay.

Course Schedule 

Week 1

 Introduction to course.

Week 7

Midterm progress meeting.

Week 15

Complete exit questionnaire.

Week 16

Submit senior essay and take exit exam.

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.

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.