Faculty Guide to Teaching in the History Department

Faculty Guide to Teaching in the History Department

Here are some general guidelines on some practical aspects of course management, intended primarily for new, adjunct, and visiting Faculty.  Please contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department if you have any questions or need any advice or information.

We also urge you to become familiar with the Department’s mission statement and learning goals, and with our statement of pedagogical aims and methods, which are available on the Department’s web site.

1. Reserves

You can place both books and articles on Reserves in Lauinger Library.  Forms are available on line, and can be submitted both electronically and on paper.  Please review the copyright information before placing anything on Reserves.  Articles or short excerpts from books can be placed on electronic Reserves as well.  It is advisable to submit materials to the Reserves desk at least a week in advance of when you want it to be available to students.  If a book you wish to place on Reserves is not in Lauinger, you can lend them your own copy, and you can also request that the Library purchase the book, but this may take a considerable amount of time.

2. Bookstore

The bookstore is located in the Leavey Center.  It is run by Barnes and Noble, and they usually contact faculty a few weeks before book orders are due with instructions on how to submit them.

It is a good idea to check whether all your books have arrived a week or so in advance of the start of classes.  At times, if a title has been ordered for more than one class, it may be placed on the wrong shelf, so try to check also under other courses (the bookstore usually has cards on each shelf that inform you of whether a book has also been ordered by other instructors).

You may choose to place your book orders with other neighborhood bookshops, of course, but in this case you are responsible for all arrangements.  New federal law requires however that faculty provide all book order information to the bookstore before pre-registration, so that students may have access to such information as they choose their courses.

For desk copies, see the instructions given by our front desk, which will be circulated each semester.

3. A-V requests

A-V materials are available through the Gelardin Media Center in Lauinger Library (its catalogue is included in the general GEORGE catalogue), and can be checked out for classroom use.  Check with the Gelardin Center for their policies.  The Gelardin Center can also obtain videos and other materials as loans from Consortium Libraries (they will need some time to obtain them).

A-V equipment (slide projectors, tape/CD players, all other classroom equipment) is ordered through the CETS (Classroom Educational Technology Services) office, located on the first floor of ICC.  You can place orders in person and on paper in their office, or electronically.  By now, most rooms will have open A-V cabinets for any class that meets at its regularly scheduled time, so you only need to order special equipment or if you are holding a class meeting outside of regularly scheduled hours.

4. Blackboard

Every instructor is automatically placed in the Blackboard system.  This is a classroom management site that offers various services, from communication to discussion boards to placing course documents on line to management of grading, etc.  It is quite user-friendly.  You can access it with your NetID and password at https://campus.georgetown.edu/

It will list all your classes automatically once you are in the course schedule.  Keep in mind that you need to go to customization (on the left-side menu), then to Properties, and then to course availability, to make the course accessible before the enrolled students can access any of the materials you may place on line.  Blackboard basically functions, among other things, as a course web site, access to which is limited to you and enrolled students.  If you have a TA, you will need to add him/her to the member list yourself (follow the easy prompts under “users and groups” to “enroll user”), so that the TA may also use the site.  If you have problems with the site, contact bbhelp@georgetown.edu

5. MyAccess

Automatically, you are also added to this system, which allows you to access (again with your NetID and password at myaccess.georgetown.edu) your class lists in real time, to send emails to any individual student or group of students, and to do all sorts of other things.  MyAccess is basically the student data system used by the registrar.  You need to familiarize yourself with it, because it is also the main means of submitting your course grades to the Registrar’s office.

6. Explore

The Explore system (explore.georgetown.edu) is a system to make materials about courses (and faculty work generally) available to students and other members of the Georgetown community.  Once an instructor has a NetID and password, s/he can use Explore to post syllabi, as well as a curriculum vitae and other information, which will be accessible to all members of the campus community.  Students use this site as their primary source of information when they choose courses.  Unlike Blackboard and MyAccess, the materials posted on Explore are available to campus members who are not yet enrolled in a particular class.

7. Teaching Assistants

For classes that receive the support of a Teaching Assistant, the expectation in the Department is that the Faculty member will do at least half of the grading and hold at least half of the discussion meetings.

8. Grievances, regions, transfers, advising

The Department has developed policies on student grievances, which are available on our web site.

To fulfill the History major, students need to meet certain regional distribution requirements.  At the front desk and on our web site you may find an explanation and list of all regions and courses (see below for details of our course numbering system).

Students can transfer courses taken abroad or at other institutions.  If a student asks you for help in the matter, please refer him/her to the guidelines (on our web site) and to the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Adjunct and part-time Faculty are not expected to serve as advisors to students for the History major.  If students approach you to be their advisor, please refer them to the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

9. Classrooms

The Department can request specific classrooms, but we can not guarantee that we will get them for you.  At times, the registrar’s office will ask us to change the time for a course, because there are no classrooms available.  Once your course starts, if you have any problems with your classroom, or need to request any extra rooms, please contact the registrar’s office directly: the main contact person is Theresa Meyers at tm53@georgetown.edu or 7-4124.


The Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship is a campus entity that offers various services aimed at pedagogical assistance.  CNDLS runs several workshops every year on different elements of teaching, and can help individual instructors with classroom assessments and review.  Their web site (cndls.georgetown.edu) provides useful information about their resources and various sources of pedagogical help available to all GU instructors.

11. Wait lists and Add/drop

Students pre-register for classes in April for Fall term and November for Spring term, and can make changes to their schedule almost at any time in between semesters.  The first ten days or so of each term also have Add/drop, during which students can add to classes electronically.  If a course is not full, students can add into it without the permission of instructor, unless you ask the registrar’s to close the course (which you should only do in special circumstances, and certainly not in the first few days of Add/drop).  If a class fills up, students can place themselves on a wait list, and then automatically be offered a seat as seats become available.  You should not sign Add/drop paper forms, because these override the class size limit, unless you are willing to let the class size go over the originally set limit.  If you want to assist a particular student get into your class, you can ask the registrar’s office to place him/her at the top of your course’s wait list: the contact person for wait lists is Fely Bunuan at bunuanf@georgetown.edu or 7-4068.

12. Students with special needs

If you have in your class any students with physical or learning disabilities, you will be contacted by the Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) with requests and relevant forms for special needs and/or special conditions for exam-taking.  CAPS will if needed proctor exams for these students.

13. Honor System

Please familiarize yourself with the University’s Honor System and with its procedures, in case you think that any student in your class is engaging in plagiarism or cheating.

14. Grading

Georgetown uses an A/B/C/D grading scale, with plus and minus grades (but there is no D-).  F is the failing grade.  An NR grade is given for incompletes, which have to be agreed to in advance through a form distributed by the deans’ offices.  A student taking a class pass/fail needs a C to gain a “pass”.  Very roughly speaking, the A range is for superior work, the B range for work that goes from low-competent to strong, the C range for mediocre work, and the D range for work that is barely acceptable.  When using a numerical scale, most people consider 60-69 the D range, 70-79 the C range, 80-89 the B range, and 90-100 the A range.

The University requires all Faculty to make graded assignments available to students, and to keep them for at least one year if students fail to retrieve them; therefore, if you hold a temporary appointment, please make sure to leave any unclaimed graded work with the Department when you leave.

15. Syllabi

The University requires that all faculty follow certain procedures regarding course syllabi.  Your course syllabi should include (but need not be limited to) your contact information and office hours; the percentage breakdown of the course grade (between participation, writing assignments, tests, etc.); the assigned readings; a calendar of assignments and other fixed-date responsibilities; a reasonably detailed division of subject matter and readings by week or class day; and a reminder about the University’s Honor System. Please see here for some more detailed suggestions.

It is mandated that all syllabi also include a statement of the course’s learning goals: the Department’s web site includes learning goals for our programs as a whole, and faculty are welcome to adapt some of that statement for the purposes of their own courses.

All faculty members must also develop specific guidelines for writing and other assignments that make clear both the rationale/goals and the structure of each requirement: these can be included in the syllabus or made available as separate handouts.  A statement about the department’s grading policy is on our web site.

All syllabi must be posted on Explore; syllabi and other guidelines should also be posted on Blackboard.

16. Course Levels and Formats

Undergraduate History courses have various levels and formats, reflected in our course numbering system.  What follows are broad parameters and common features for each level, although variations are at the discretion of each instructor.  As the description below make clear, we expect that all History courses will require at least a significant amount of student writing (i.e., students in none of our classes will be assessed solely on the basis of in-class exams, quizzes, tests, and participation).

i. 001-099 are general education courses.  These courses, which fulfill requirements for students in the College and the SFS, are usually capped at 70 students.  Teaching Assistants are regularly assigned to these courses.  These courses aim to present broad introductory coverage of western and world history, as well as to introduce students to history as a discipline.  The general format for these courses is three 50-minute meetings each week; at least one class meeting each week is devoted to class discussion, for which in most cases the class is divided into smaller groups.  Both the TA and the instructor lead these groups.  Usually, in these courses readings focus substantially on primary sources (most often 7-10 readings for the semester, or a variety of shorter ones), though many also include a textbook and secondary sources; it is unrealistic to expect students in these courses to read much more than 100 pages a week.  Many of these courses will have a midterm and a final examination, and will require written work of about 10-15 pages over the course of the term, in any combination of specific assignments.  However, HIST 099 courses often do not require exams but require substantially more written work.

ii. 100-299 are lecture courses: either regional and national surveys or more thematic courses focused on a shorter period or a particular topic (for instance The Renaissance or Labor History).  These courses, as all those above 100, fulfill requirements for the History major in both College and SFS; the surveys of various world regions at this level (but not the US survey) also fulfill general education requirements for COL and SFS students (not all these surveys play this role for both schools).  Teaching Assistants are only assigned to these courses if TA’s are available and if the course reaches high enrollments (usually above 40).  The coverage in these courses is still for the most part broad and introductory.  Most of these courses are capped at 50 to 70 students, though those that can count for general education credit can be capped at 120.  Generally these courses meet for two 75-minute classes each week.  The main format of instruction is still lecturing.  Several instructors hold regular or frequent discussion meetings in these classes (especially in the world region surveys), divided as above in smaller groups, but others only use discussion formats occasionally.  The surveys of Africa, South Asia, Latin America, and Middle East can count for College students’ general education requirement in History, and all these require regular small-group discussion meetings (and are capped at 70 to 120 students).    Readings in these courses vary, but may include more secondary readings than courses at the lower level.  Assignments also vary greatly, but often 15-25 pages of written work per semester may be assigned.  Most of these courses also have examinations.

iii. 300-499 are seminar classes.  These courses are usually capped at 20 students, and count as upper-level courses for the History major (History majors in the College must take a minimum of three courses at this level).  There is no or limited lecturing in these courses, which meet either once a week for two and a half hours or twice-weekly for 75 minutes, at the discretion of the instructor.  The primary form of instruction is in-depth discussion of primary and secondary readings.  Written assignments may be around or above 30 pages over the semester, and there are ordinarily no examinations in these courses.  While most of these courses do not have pre-requisites, students who take them are expected to be capable of more advanced discussion and written work.

17. Course numbering system

In addition to the levels, as explained above, the department also uses each course’s middle digit to indicate the world region in which each course falls (for the History major, students need to fulfill distribution requirements by world region).  This is the formula: -0- courses are global or comparative and can go into different regions; -1- are Africa courses; -2- Asia; -3- and -4- Europe; -5- Latin America; -6- Middle East; -7- Russia/Eastern Europe; -8- and -9- U.S.  You may consult the form on regional distribution (updated each semester) available at the front desk and on line.

18. The undergraduate schools

Georgetown undergraduates enroll in specific schools: the College (COL), the School of Foreign Service (SFS); the McDonough School of Business (MSB), and the School of Nursing and Health Studies (NHS).  The acronyms will appear on your class list.  Each school has its own requirements, so courses may fulfill different goals for different students, but this should not affect faculty’s evaluation of student work.  The only time when school affiliation matters to instructors should be when they need to contact a dean for advice on a particular student.