The difference between a standard seminar and a Calderwood is that the former does the discipline it’s in. A Calderwood reflects on and translates the discipline for the layperson.
– TRACY GLEASON, PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY, WELLESLEY COLLEGE
Calderwood Common Denominators describe what is unique about Calderwood Seminars:
Students write blog posts, book and film reviews, op-eds, and profiles, not research papers. This is often the first time students are asked to reach an audience other than the professor.
Assignments are usually 500 to 1,000 words, which facilitates weekly writing and allows students to focus on the value of each word and sentence.
Students tackle each assignment on their own, usually without prior class discussion, encouraging independent learning. Every student is engaged in each week’s assignment as either a writer or editor and comes to class already invested in the material.
NARROW AND BROAD
Each class meeting has a narrow focus—a specific article, book, film, report, etc. With new assignments each week, breadth of coverage is achieved over the quarter/semester.
PEER EDITING OUTSIDE OF CLASS
Peer editing takes place before the class meets. Each week half of the students serve as writers and the other half as editors. Roles reverse each week, with pairings rotating so that students have a chance to work with many members of the class.
WORKSHOPPING IN CLASS
More than half of class time each week is devoted to workshopping student writing. Students learn to give and receive criticism in a collaborative environment rather than a competitive one.
REWRITING AND MULTIPLE DRAFTS
In many college classes, the first draft of a writing assignment a student submits is often the final draft. Calderwood Seminars require multiple drafts (usually three per assignment), which helps students learn how to revise their work, a valuable skill in the workplace.
WASH, RINSE, REPEAT
Each assignment usually has a two-week cycle, permitting students to build a portfolio of written work and to learn by doing.
What is the workload like in a Calderwood Seminar?
Students find the Calderwood Seminars’ workload and weekly deadlines demanding but manageable. They quickly adapt to the basic rhythm, where they are writers one week and editors the next. The professor provides a schedule of assignments the first day of classes so that students are aware of what is expected of them. Students describe the workload as steady, without the peaks and valleys typical of other courses. There are no research papers due at the end of the term nor is there a final exam.
Funding may be available to support a pilot program at your institution.