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A Common Experience for All Undergraduates

Teaching a Spark Seminar

Spark seminars are taken by students in their first year at UC Merced. The seminars explore the nature of inquiry through multiple disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives and experiences. The Spark seminar is particularly important for our student population, as it provides both an intellectual focus and an introduction to the work and resources of a research university. In addition, such intellectually rigorous small classes (24 students), when properly designed and implemented, have been shown to have significant positive impact on student success. 

The Spark seminar Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs) are:

A. Students take an inquiry-oriented approach to the world that reflects engagement with the mission and values of our research university. 

  1. Student generate questions, identify problems, and formulate answers by applying appropriate theoretical, evidentiary, analytical and ethical frameworks from multiple intellectual perspectives. 
  2. They demonstrate intellectual curiosity and an understanding of the nature of knowledge, discovery, and ambiguity and of themselves as learners, identifying their own values and talents.

B. Students become equipped with multiple tools of analysis to support accepting or formulating an opinion or conclusion. 

  1. Students can identify and use analytical tools from scientific, social scientific, or humanistic disciplines. 
  2. They are able to identify and evaluate sources of information. 

C. Students communicate in a variety of ways to diverse audiences. 

  1. They use written, visual, oral and/or numerical modes of communication to explore and convey ideas, adjusting their communications depending on occasion, purpose and audience.
  2. Students work both independently and collaboratively.

Activities and Assessment

  1. Define a research question: The research question should be related to the section's topic, and the instructor will guide students in developing these questions.
  2. Identify and engage with a campus or community resource: For example, getting books out of the library and writing an annotated bibliography; lab tour or small experiment and written observations or report; vernal pools tour and write-up or graph of collected data and observation; attendance at a theater production or concert and analytical review; visit to UCM art gallery and visual analysis; attendance at a campus lecture and response.
  3. Conduct research: Conducting research can involve finding books and articles and reading them; interviews; social or scientific observation, etc. 
  4. Communicate research in two ways, one of which is written: For example, a lab report and a spreadsheet; an essay and an oral presentation; a written visual analysis and a PowerPoint presentation; a review and a performance; a written analysis and a data graph. 
  5. Reflect on ethical, local, and global issues related to the topic: Students might do this by writing a reflection at the end of the course, or by participating in a roundtable discussion in which they must contribute, for example.
Several documents have been prepared to aid in the development of your Spark proposal:




Spark Seminar Proposal

After determining you are interested in teaching a Spark Seminar in Fall 2018 or Spring 2019, use Curriculog to submit your Spark proposal to the GESC for review. If approved, it will be sent to your School for review and scheduling. Instructions for submitting a Spark Seminar through Curriculog can be found here: 

Spark Seminar Curriculog Instructions (pdf)