The purpose of the liberal arts curriculum is to give every student a detailed knowledge of at least one subject and to correlate it with a broad understanding of the liberal arts.
To achieve the scholarship that this objective implies, students work intensively in one or more departments or programs and complete requirements and electives in fields outside their specialization.
The Middlebury College curriculum is rooted in the liberal arts, but it is dynamic and constantly evolving. Ultimately, the Middlebury faculty give shape to the curriculum and academic requirements. They do so via academic departments and programs, the work of ad hoc committees (i.e., the Curriculum Committee and the elected Educational Affairs Committee), and the deliberations of the faculty as a whole. The dean of curriculum is the point person in the presentation of the curriculum to our students.
The course curriculum at Middlebury College is firmly rooted in the liberal arts tradition. It is characterized by a breadth of experience across many fields and disciplines, as well as in-depth study in one area defined by the major. An emphasis on writing across the disciplines sharpens students’ skills in critical thinking and individual expression. Each department has designed its major to ensure that students not only learn key content but also the methodologies, languages, and modes of thinking and expression that characterize that discipline.
The Middlebury curriculum operates on a 4-1-4 academic calendar. Students enroll in four courses in the fall semester, four courses in the spring semester, and a single course during the winter term. Winter term is a four-week term during the month of January when students pursue one discipline intensively from a special catalog of courses offered by expert teachers from within and outside of the Middlebury College faculty. Some course offerings are standard, while others offer unique learning opportunities (e.g., the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training course). First-year language classes exploit winter term for intensive language study. While first-year students must pursue a winter term course of study on campus, subsequent winter terms may be used to pursue independent study under the supervision of a faculty mentor, or internships administered by the Career Services Office.
Learn more about teaching winter term.
In January 2014, the Middlebury faculty endorsed the following learning goals to establish expectations for the learning experiences of all students and to help guide the development of the curriculum.
- Think critically, creatively, and independently.
- Read, listen, and observe discerningly.
- Demonstrate skill and sophistication in oral and written expression.
- Demonstrate skill and sophistication in quantitative reasoning.
- Collaborate effectively.
- Understand and appreciate difference, commonality, and connectedness across and within cultures and societies around the world.
- Explore a field of study in depth.
- Explore a range of disciplines and make connections among them.
- Apply acquired knowledge to solve new problems.
- Engage in independent research, inquiry, and/or creative expression.
- Cultivate intellectual integrity and the capacity for ethical citizenship.
Department chairs and program directors are responsible for distributing teaching workloads equitably among all colleagues, and for ensuring the efficient use of teaching resources that ultimately reflect College-wide, departmental, and/or programmatic curricular needs, including for winter term, the College writing program, and the first-year seminar program.
Please consult the Department Curriculum section of the chairs’ handbook for specific guidance regarding faculty members’ expected share of teaching, enrollment limits, and staffing reports.
See the full teaching expectations guidelines.
Reports in the literature support better learning outcomes when student expectations are outlined and presented prior to the start of a new semester. Understanding the learning goals of a course and the structure that will be used to achieve those goals affords students the opportunity to better plan and manage their workload. A course syllabus provides this essential information to students in advance, which is in keeping with the spirit of existing federal guidance, including Title IX (Higher Education Opportunities Act).
A basic syllabus provides the following information so that students can navigate their semester more effectively:
- Course/instructor information (class meeting times, class location, contact info for instructor, office hours)
- Course description
- Learning outcomes
- Course materials
- Course structure
- Grading information
- Relevant policies (e.g., academic integrity, disability access/accommodation)
- Expectations of students (e.g., attendance, participation, etc.)
- Relevant campus resources (e.g., CTLR, DRC)
- A list of major due dates for projects, papers, and exams
- A detailed schedule for the first three weeks (readings/assignments)
New course proposals must be submitted electronically as Word (.doc) documents on the appropriate form by the published deadline. Proposals will be reviewed by the Curriculum Committee, which is chaired by the dean of the curriculum. Factors contributing to the committee’s deliberations include the quality of the proposed course, the extent to which the course contributes something new to the curriculum (versus duplicating an existing course), whether the course is likely to draw student interest and fill a curricular need, whether the course will help diversify the curriculum within and across disciplinary lines, and practical constraints such as budgetary implications and the availability of specialized teaching spaces such as labs and studios. Thus, the Curriculum Committee evaluates not only each course proposal individually, but also the entire slate of course proposals as a whole. Notifications of proposal disposition will be delivered in a reply email from the dean of the curriculum.