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Curriculum and Teaching Development


The university will be conducting systematic reviews of its programs to attain continuous improvements in the quality of learning. Two committees are involved in this process: Departmental Curriculum Committee and the University Committee on the Curriculum. All departments will submit to the University Curriculum Committee, once every three years, a report, which will serve as a basis for a review of their curricula.

Each department is to form a curriculum committee. The task of this committee is to review and critically evaluate the current curriculum and propose modifications and recommendations for change, if any. The report prepared by departmental curriculum committee is to be submitted to the Dean/Director. The Dean/Director is to submit this report, along with his/her comments, to the University Committee on the Curriculum. The deadlines for 2001 are the 30th of October and the 15th of November, respectively.


II.1. Departmental Curriculum Committee: at least 3 faculty members appointed by the Chair (reports to the Chair)

The Departmental Curriculum Committee is responsible for designing, developing, working through the details and implementation, and evaluating the ongoing program(s) and the changes. The curriculum should be discussed in the department and revised periodically. Good teaching is teaching that helps students learn something worth learning, without turning the students off the topic or off learning in general. “What is worth learning” is decided in the department and the university based on colleagues’ discussions about course objectives and course design.

The Departmental Curriculum Committee:

  1. Submits triannual curriculum reports to the Dean/Director, to be discussed with the Dean/Director, commented upon, and then forwarded to the University Committee on the Curriculum, even if there are to be no major changes. This report should involve a review of programs, rationales, and future plans and goals.
  2. Undertakes specification of the competencies expected of graduates of the program and provide an indication (argument and evidence, if possible) of how the curriculum develops these competencies – in line with the goals of the university and the department.
  3. Evaluates how the curriculum prepares students for life in a dynamic global world where there are new information and opportunities so that as adults they learn new information and skills by themselves and (re)train themselves for changes in their careers – that is, how the curriculum enhances learning to learn.
  4. Integrates isolated courses into a coherent and meaningful academic experience that introduces students to the connectedness of things. Curriculum and classes/course contents should be consistent and coordinated.
  5. Emphasizes expression of high expectations and ideals in and out of the classroom.
  6. Forms an Advisory Council for the department and holds annual meetings with that Advisory Council to discuss and receive feedback and suggestions. The Advisory Council should consist of at least 1 student representative, 1 alumni representative, and 2 potential employer representatives.

II.2. University Committee on the Curriculum: 2 representatives from the university administration, 6 appointed faculty members

The University Committee on the Curriculum deals with matters of educational policy and strategy, advises the Deans/Directors/Chairs on the undergraduate and graduate curricula of departments, and reviews and suggests improvements in curricula. The University Committee:

  1. Works to improve the general quality of instructional programs, including reviewing new programs, advising, and teaching;
  2. Provides guidelines and purposes about: what the student outcomes should be, what the alumni should be able to do – where we want to see our graduates;
  3. Meets with Departmental Curriculum Committees and advises and coordinates with the departments to define educational and curricular goals at the departmental level (consistent with university goals – see Appendix 1);
  4. Evaluates and provides feedback on the triannual curriculum reports of the departmental committees reviewing their programs, rationales, and future plans and goals;
  5. Reviews the departmental curricula and provides recommendation to the university administration;
  6. Provides recommendations to the university to give funds/resources for curriculum change, course development, and new courses.


The review report entails a critical evaluation of the curriculum, rationales, future plans and objectives, in light of educational goals and involving comparison with three benchmark departments considered to be among the top in the world in the field. This departmental curriculum review report should include, if possible, appended material to support the arguments made about the current curriculum and proposed modifications, if any. The process of preparation of this report is to serve as critical self-evaluation and reveal to the department the strengths and weaknesses of its curriculum and any needed modifications. This report is to be prepared by the Departmental Curriculum Committee, and sent to the University Curriculum Committee through the Chairperson’s and the Dean’s offices, possibly after discussions leading to revisions.

The Departmental Curriculum Committee’s report should contain the following:

1. Departmental education goals

Describe in as much detail as you would like the goals of your department in relation to undergraduate education. In doing that, consider the following questions:

  1. “What do we do”?
  2. “How do we do it”?
  3. “Why do we do it”? (That is, provide rationales for the departmental educational program).

Departmental goals should take into account:

A. Desired student outcomes: “What is worth learning” is decided in the department and the university based on colleagues’ discussions about department and course objectives and course design. Curricula equip the students with competencies that they will use when they graduate. Specify what you want the graduates to be able to know and do: the competencies expected of the graduates of the program. What should the student outcomes be? What should the graduates be able to do? What kinds of skills, capabilities should they be equipped with when they graduate? What should they be competent in? What kinds and depth of knowledge should they have in various areas/domains? Some examples of student outcomes could be sensitivity to different cultures, intellectual curiosity, creativity, ability to develop themselves, problem solving skills, learning to accept criticisms, ethical responsibility, basic research skills, solid knowledge of the basic concepts of the field, the ability to apply basic concepts and models.

B. Educational goals of the university: The goals of a department, obviously, cannot be too different from the goals of the university pertaining to education. Departmental curricula are to be in accordance with the educational goals of the university, listed in Appendix 1. In particular, the courses and the curriculum must a) develop skills and knowledge for the profession and b) contribute to broad, foundational education and improve thinking/learning abilities. That is, both depth and breath are to be provided, to the extent possible given the particularities of the faculties and vocational schools. Generally, for four-year programs in the faculties, the first two years are considered to be foundational, involving basic skills and general knowledge courses, and the last two years involve more “specialization” courses. Indicate the fit between the departmental and the university goals.

C. Special aspects and goals of the particular department: Individual departments themselves may feel that they have additional and complementary aims that are somewhat different than the goals of the university or somewhat special. For example, some departments may want to focus on preparing their students for graduate study; others may want to emphasize vocational training, while still observing the university-wide goals to the extent possible. Indicate such special aspects and goals of your department.

2. Writing-enhanced curriculum with at least one writing-intensive course

Each and every course should strive for as much writing-enhancement as possible. In addition, in all four-year programs, at least one departmental course, preferably in the third year, must be a writing-intensive course. A writing-intensive course is one in which students do extensive writing, in order to practice expressing their ideas and arguments effectively. Students are given feedback on preliminary versions of their written work and a chance to revise and rewrite. Such courses usually involve several short and long papers. The professors typically get some form of help from a writing unit. The nature of that “help” may vary but involves close collaboration with a “tutor” and students meeting weekly with the tutor, preferably in a scheduled class. One format can be a fourth hour for a three-credit hour class, the fourth of which is conducted by the tutor. Or the class can be designed as 6-credit course, three credit hours offered by a tutor in tandem with the departmental class. Various formats are being used in the university; the specific format to be chosen is up to the department. Indicate what your writing-intensive course is and how it is run. Indicate also how writing is enhanced in each of the other courses.

3. Required and elective courses in the curriculum

Electives are depth and breadth requirements. Some electives should provide specialization and depth in a particular area. These are usually the electives offered by the department. Other electives (such as those from other departments) should contribute to breadth and a broader foundation, going beyond the professional topic, to the extent possible, given departmental particularities. While the field of study itself provides depth, fields such as language, mathematics, computation, natural sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities provide breadth. Breadth-providing electives may be more or less applicable in different faculties and vocational schools. One way to organize breadth-type electives is to install “restricted” electives from each of various areas, such as 2 electives in humanities, 2 in arts, 2 in social sciences, 2 in natural sciences, etc. Indicate the types and numbers of electives in your department and explain the rationales for these electives – how the electives support or complement the required courses and serve depth and breadth aims, ultimately serving the educational goals.

4. Course Plans for the Courses in the Curriculum:

The design of the course and curriculum content and the selection of the instructional and assessment materials and methods function to make classes challenging, motivating, and interesting in order to encourage learning. Learning environments are to be designed to be motivating and also to enhance self-confidence and responsibility. E.g., research, creative/design projects, film, video, television, field trips, archives, putting on a play, debates, discussion fora, workshops, active “doing.”

Include a detailed “Course Plan” for each required course in the curriculum of your department. The plan should include:

4.A. a description of the aims of the course (why this particular course is needed: a statement of the objectives for knowledge and skill enhancement and perhaps even attitude and value concerns) and how this course fits into the curriculum (i.e., how this course functions to enhance the aims of other courses in the curriculum).

4.B. “Weekly Outline” which is a weekly plan of the subjects covered over the semester and the name of any textbook and description of any additional instructional material (e.g., books, articles, field trips, audiovisuals, etc.

4.C. Classification and evaluation of the course based on general subjects studied and the abilities and skills developed. Two classification tables will be used: “Course Content Break-up by Subject” and “Contribution of the Assessments to Skills Development.”

4.C.i. The “Course Content Breakup by Subject” table classifies the contents of the course with respect to various subject matters: language, mathematics, computation, natural sciences, social sciences, arts, humanities, and the field of study. This table will provide quantified estimation of each type of subject matter studied, to what degree the course entails these aspects and components. Evaluation of these tables over all of the courses will be useful to find out if the department’s curriculum contains a minimum requirement from the indicated fields/disciplines.In the Excel table provided, enter a number between 0 and 4 :

0 = no such subject content – the course does not involve that subject at all; 1 = very small content – the course involves that subject to a very small extent; 2 = some amount of study of that subject – the course involves that subject to some extent; 3 = subject studied quite a bit – the course involves that subject quite a bit; 4 = subject studied extensively – the course involves that subject to a great extent

Admittedly, there may be some ambiguity in assigning these numbers: A “language” course, for example, may have considerable amount of “social science” or “humanities” content, due to the material used in learning the language. The same may be true for the “math” content in a “natural science” course. The aim here is not to quantify these various types of content very precisely, but to obtain an overall picture.

An instructor who has taught the course recently should preferably do the course content classification. For multi-section courses, information relevant for a “typical” section should be entered, with the assumption that such courses are coordinated sufficiently for uniformity in content.

4.C.ii. The “Contribution of the Assessments to Skills Development” table indicates the methods of assessment used for grading the students and the skills these assessments develop. The courses in the curriculum should develop a range of skills/abilities such as Computer Utilization, Creativity/Design, Communication (written and oral presentation), Verbal Skills, Teamwork, Critical/Analytical abilities, active information finding and Research, and Application/Practice. This table will indicate the extent to which a course develops these abilities and skills. It will quantify the estimated amount of abilities/skills developed by each of the assignments, exams, projects, etc. This table classifies the assessments on the basis of the abilities and skills that are imparted to the student through these assessments. For this classification, use a similar 0-4 point scale, but base your evaluation on the amount of grade assessment using that skill to quantify the course:

0 = no contribution of this skill to performance on that assessment, no reliance on the use of that skill; 1 = a very small amount of reliance on the use of that skill, a very small amount of this skill is required in assessment; 2 = some amount of reliance on the use of that skill; 3 = quite a bit of reliance on the use of that skill; 4 = heavy reliance on the use of that skill

Again, there will be ambiguities that will prohibit a very precise quantification. For example, the contribution of a course’s methods of assessment to the development of the students’ “computer utilization” skill can be estimated by considering the influence to the overall grade (by actual assessment through exams, homework, etc.) of the development and use of this skill. Similarly, a course may be considered to have a “creative/design skill” component only if the development of this skill is assessed through exams, projects, presentations, etc.

The knowledge and skills objectives would be translated into the syllabus structure in terms of specific exercises and expected student performance. Ultimately, both the faculty and the students should be clear about what learning should take place and how that learning is to be evaluated. The assessment activities (such as assignments, projects, exams) should provide positive opportunities to demonstrate what learning has occurred, instead of negative hurdles. Evaluation of students should be designed to be a learning tool for the students. Assignments, exams, projects, etc. should be designed to improve the skills and abilities in Appendix 1; encourage learning of knowledge “worth learning”; encourage reading, writing, applying, thinking, creative engagement with the to-be-learnt material, and design based on knowledge. What is to be avoided, as much as possible, is assessment that invites memorization.

In addition to filling the weekly outline and the two classification tables, specify how the instructional methods and assessments encourage learning.

The numerical factors thus obtained for each course, in the tables mentioned in 4.C.i. and 4.C.ii., will then be used to construct a table in the presentation of the Departmental Curriculum (see “Classification of the Curriculum” section below).

4.D. the numerical average (over 4.00) that corresponds to the final letter grades obtained for the last three years in which that particular course was offered.

The plans for courses that are taught by other departments will be prepared by the departments teaching those courses (see the section below about “Service Courses”). For the elective courses in the curriculum, provide a few plans for some typical courses that are usually taken by the students.

5. Classification of the Curriculum:

The curriculum must develop skills and knowledge for the professional field as well as provide a foundational education and improve general thinking/learning abilities. That is, the courses in the curriculum should be well balanced to cover both the field of study and a wide range of disciplines/fields. Furthermore, the courses should develop a range of skills/abilities.

The curriculum classification table entails assessment of the “Course Content Breakup by Subject” and the “Contribution of the Assessments to Skills Development” tables over all of the courses. It will be used to evaluate if the curriculum as a whole contains a minimum requirement from the indicated fields (language, mathematics, computation, natural sciences, social sciences, arts, humanities, and the field of study) and from the indicated skills/abilities (writing, oral communication, reading, critical/analytical abilities, computer utilization, creativity/design, research, teamwork, and practical/application skills).

The subject and skill information for all the courses are summed up as shown in the sample curriculum table. The Course Plan Excel Sheet automatically generates a set of numbers at the bottom, labeled as the “subject and skills factors”. Copy this line to its appropriate place in the Curriculum Excel Sheet for the curriculum. Note that this table generates a weighted sum of these factors for the department. Although meant to provide a rough measure of subject matter and skill content in the curriculum, these factors could also signal the possible areas of improvement in the program.

6. Comparison to Benchmark Departments

Obtain, through the Internet or otherwise, a description of the curricula of at least three leading departments which provide education in the same area as your department. Universities such as Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Chicago, Columbia, Princeton, University of Illinois, or Cambridge could serve as a guide. Provide a discussion in the report why the particular departments were chosen as benchmarks. Also provide the curricula of the three selected institutions as an addendum to your report.

Compare in detail, the curriculum of your department to those of the benchmark departments. Emphasize differences, and point out the strengths and weaknesses these differences correspond to. For each benchmark curriculum discuss how a student from your department would fit in, and whether he/she would be able to graduate from that department with the courses she/he is taking at Bilkent. What would that particular institution consider as missing in the education at your department?

7. Rationale for the Ongoing Program and any Proposed Changes

Based on the departmental education goals, the course plans, the electives, the curriculum table, and comparison with benchmark departments, provide a rationale for the curriculum as a whole and any future plans and changes. Explain how the contents, instructional methods, and assessments of the courses in the curriculum and their sequencing encourage learning. In doing so,

A) indicate the fit between the departmental curriculum and the departmental educational goals. Evaluate the depth and breadth aspects of the curriculum and how the curriculum provides both a state-of-the-art training for the profession and a broad learning – how the curriculum prepares students for their professions and how it enhances learning to learn.Provide an indication (argument and evidence, if possible) of how the curriculum i) develops the competencies expected of graduates (desired student outcomes), ii) consistent with the goals of both the university and the department, including the special aspects and aims of the department. Indicate those aspects of the curriculum that are relevant to the goals and the special aims of the department. Explain the function of each course and the flow of the curriculum for i) and ii).B) explain and justify the sequencing of the courses over the curriculum. The flow of the curriculum should also represent the integration of the courses across the curriculum. In designing the sequencing of the courses, the “connectedness” of the curriculum as a whole is to be taken into account. Courses that focus on tools, such as mathematics, computer, and statistics, should be taken before the other courses so that the later courses can rely on and use the earlier courses. Conversely, tools and skills that are developed in an earlier course should either be used in a following course or identified as a desired student outcome.



The departments offering and taking service courses have joint responsibility for these service courses. The design and the review of the service courses should involve both of the departments. In fact, the curriculum review process may result in a good opportunity for the two departments to discuss the content and delivery of these courses. The departments taking the course should be in a better position to define the desired student outcomes and the skills the students should acquire through the course. On the other hand, the department giving the course should be better equipped to construct the sequencing of the material and the relative completeness of the subject matter to be taught. The review report and its supporting material for the service courses should be prepared by the department giving the course, preferably after a negotiation and discussion process.


Appendix 1: Goals of the University Pertaining to Education*

Bilkent University aims to develop students with a state-of-the art training for a profession as well as a broad, foundational background so that its graduates are interested in lifelong learning.

Skills Goals

  • To improve active information finding, reading, and writing
  • To improve thinking abilities/skills (learning how to learn and how to think): critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, analytical thinking, problem solving, exploratory/inquiring thinking, and creative thinking
  • To improve communication skills (effective written and oral expression and articulation)
  • Improve computer and technology skills
  • To instill good learning and time management skills such that students learn how to learn and how to take on new tasks
  • To develop skills to work with others whose life experiences are different from the student’s own and flexibility in dealing with people

Content Goals

  • To enhance general knowledge such that students are well informed about the universe and humanity and understand other cultures
  • To stimulate interest in the intellectual and artistic/creative life of humanity and lifelong thinking about the student’s place in the universe, as well as various cultures, societies and values (aesthetic and ethical values)
  • To stimulate sensitivity to the problems of society, the world –human and environmental ecology (a developed sense of personal responsibility, ethics, and societal responsibility)
  • To encourage tolerance, respect for differences, open-mindedness
  • To enhance self-knowledge

Satisfaction Goals: Students’ satisfaction is related to their expectations with the quality of instruction. Students expect

  • The university to prepare them for work
  • The university to make them well-rounded and educated
  • The university to provide stimulation and challenge
  • To learn about themselves and others