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A Common Experience for All Undergraduates

Resources for Teaching Spark Seminars

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.

Spark seminars are offered in the following formats:

Spark 001 - Traditional Spark Seminar

Addresses minimum of GE Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs) 1-3: Research, Critical Thinking and Communication.

Additional GE PLOs may be addressed.

May be offered for:

a) 3 credits for 3 contact hours; or

b) 4 credits for 3 or 4 contact hours.

Spark 010 - New Spark Seminar

Addresses minimum of GE PLO 1: Research.

Additional GE or program PLOs may be addressed.

May be offered for

a) 2 credits for 2 contact hours;

b) 3 credits for 3 contact hours; or

c) 4 credits for 3 or 4 contact hours.

 

The number of credits should be commensurate with learning expectations.

 

Further information on each type of seminar and how to submit a Spark proposal is given below.

Spark 001 Seminar

Spark 001 Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs)

Spark 001 Course Learning Outcomes can be framed uniquely for each seminar to align with the proposed seminar topic but should specifically address the below GE PLO elements.

1. Life at the Research University:  Asking Questions

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

  • Students generate questions, identify problems, and formulate answers by applying appropriate theoretical, evidentiary, analytical and ethical frameworks from multiple intellectual perspectives.

  • 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.

2. Reasoning:  Thinking Critically

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

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

3. Communication:  Explaining and Persuading

Students communicate in a variety of ways to diverse audiences.

  • 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.
  • Students work both independently and collaboratively.

Students should also be provided an opportunity to reflect on ethical, local, and global issues related to the topic.

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; conduct and document research using that resource:  Examples include library research, lab research, field research, cultural research and social science research.
  3. 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.
  4. Increase student academic engagement, sense of belonging, and community. Together these can be defined as students’ psychological effort and investment toward learning; feeling accepted, valued, included, and encouraged by others (teachers and peers) and an important part of classroom activities and university life; and feeling connected academically and socially to the university and at-large community.
  5. An assignment should be identified that can be used for learning outcomes assessment.

Submitting a Spark 001 Seminar Proposal in Curriculog

After determining you are interested in teaching a Spark 001 seminar, use Curriculog to submit your Spark proposal to the GE Executive Committee for review. If approved, it will be sent to your School for review and scheduling. Instructions for submitting a Spark 001 Seminar through Curriculog can be found below.

The Curriculog Spark 001 seminar proposal template is available for viewing here:

Spark 001 Seminar Proposal Template (pdf)

  1. Log into Curriculog at https://ucmerced.curriculog.com/ by selecting the “Login” link in the top right corner.
  2. Login using your UC Merced credentials.
  3. Select  located underneath My Tasks.
  4. Choose “Spark 001 Seminar Proposal (New)” by hovering over the row and selecting  “Start Proposal.”
  5. Enter information required on the Spark Seminar Proposal form. You can save your changes and come back to the form at any time.
  6. Select “Validate and Launch Proposal,” to the right of the Save button.
  7. Choose “Launch Proposal.”
  8. The final step is to approve the launch of your proposal. Select the “Decision”  button in the Proposal Toolbox.
  9. Select “Approve,” add a comment if you choose, and press “Make my Decision.”
  10. Congratulations! You’ve submitted your Spark seminar proposal. It has been sent to GE Executive Committee for review.

 

Spark 010 Seminar

Spark 010 Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs)

Spark 010 Course Learning Outcomes can be framed uniquely for each seminar to align with the proposed seminar topic but should specifically address the below GE PLO elements.

1. Life at the Research University:  Asking Questions

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

  • Students generate questions, identify problems, and formulate answers by applying appropriate theoretical, evidentiary, analytical and ethical frameworks from multiple intellectual perspectives.
  • 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.

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; conduct and document research using that resource:  Examples include library research, lab research, field research, cultural research and social science research.
  3. Increase student academic engagement, sense of belonging, and community. Together these can be defined as students’ psychological effort and investment toward learning; feeling accepted, valued, included, and encouraged by others (teachers and peers) and an important part of classroom activities and university life; and feeling connected academically and socially to the university and at-large community.
  4. An assignment should be identified that can be used for learning outcomes assessment.

Submitting a Spark 010 Seminar Proposal in Curriculog

After determining you are interested in teaching a Spark 010 seminar, use Curriculog to submit your Spark proposal to the GE Executive Committee 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 below.

The Curriculog Spark 010 seminar proposal template is available for viewing here:

Spark 010 Seminar Proposal Template (pdf)

  1. Log into Curriculog at https://ucmerced.curriculog.com/ by selecting the “Login” link in the top right corner.
  2. Login using your UC Merced credentials.
  3. Select  located underneath My Tasks.
  4. Choose “Spark 010 Seminar Proposal (New)” by hovering over the row and selecting  “Start Proposal.”
  5. Enter information required on the Spark Seminar Proposal form. You can save your changes and come back to the form at any time.
  6. Select “Validate and Launch Proposal,” to the right of the Save button.
  7. Choose “Launch Proposal.”
  8. The final step is to approve the launch of your proposal. Select the “Decision”  button in the Proposal Toolbox.
  9. Select “Approve,” add a comment if you choose, and press “Make my Decision.”
  10. Congratulations! You’ve submitted your Spark seminar proposal. It has been sent to GE Executive Committee for review.