Sample Syllabus

CanadARThistories Course Syllabus
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Instructor: [Name] (pronouns)

Course dates:
Online Orientation Session:
Final Day to Submit Materials:
Other Important Date(s):
Contact Info:
Office Hours:


[Insert Indigenous Territorial Land Acknowledgement here. See for guidance.]

Course Description:

The study of art history in Canada has long relied on chronology and emphasizing artworks that visually extend and reinforce Canada as a nation. This colony-to-nation narrative, evident in texts such as Dennis Reid’s A Concise History of Canadian Painting (1973), remained the definitive account for students and educators for decades. Other voices have intervened since 1973; however, there remains a paucity of textbooks in Canadian art history, and there is a particular absence of work that sketches a broad history of art in Canada while also responding to the pressing concerns of decolonization, and diverse and inclusive representation. As researchers and instructors of Canadian art histories, we know how rich and dynamic the field is, but the teaching of art in Canada has yet to reflect this. Instructors are looking for alternatives beyond course packs and textbooks to break apart and challenge the canonical nature of the discipline in course design and pedagogical practice. CanadARThistories is a new online course with associated open learning objects. It addresses growing concerns around inclusion, regionalism, Indigenization, and internationalization in art history curricula, and is conceived as a response to these ideas. The course will highlight the rich visual and material culture of this land through a series of entries, written by subject experts, that focus on the artistic contributions of Indigenous and settler makers. It can be further shaped and reshaped to challenge and redistribute the traditional, rigid narratives of Canadian art and encourage learners to be co-constructors of knowledge.

Guiding Principles of this Course:

1) This is our class, not my class. During our orientation, we will build our class culture together. If something’s not working, we’ll change it. If you have a great idea for an activity, share it with me.

2) I will give you choice. In each assignment, you’ll have options for how to show your learning. If you’re not interested in any of those options, let’s talk. The more interested you are in this course, the better you’ll do.

3) Community is as important as content. A lot of research shows that a student’s connection with their instructor and their classmates is the #1 predictor of success in a class. Online classes can feel isolating, so I have tried my best to build in community. We’ll decide together what that community looks like.

4) We will be flexible. I’ve tried to build flexibility into this course, but there is room for more. Your timeline might not look like your classmate’s timeline, and that’s okay.

5) We will do work that we’re proud of. I want you to do assignments that you’re excited to show your friends and that you think about after the class is over. I will try to give you a real-life audience. But again, if you have an idea for a project, come and talk to me.

6) We’ll focus on process, not product. To be a good writer, you need to take risks and constantly plan, write, and revise. This course is set up to give you lots of opportunities to try again. You’ll get regular feedback and you can make changes based on what you’ve learned. You can revise and resubmit assignments, for example. I hope to dial down the grade pressure, since grades have been shown to negatively impact learning.

Learning Outcomes:

This course offers you the opportunity to:

  • look at and describe art and material culture using art historical language, terminology, and methodology
  • critically analyze and evaluate Canadian artworks using historical approaches and methods
  • find and interpret primary and secondary sources used in art historical research (exhibition catalogues, exhibition reviews, artist statements, museum and art gallery archives)
  • articulate and support an argument about art and material objects in Canadian contexts
  • make connections between the images and objects viewed in class to the visual culture of their world
  • engage in discussions about Canadian art histories in relation to decolonization, equity, inclusion, regionalism, Indigenization, and internationalization through different modes of communication.

Required Texts:

In addition to the module content, the required readings, viewings, and listenings are interspersed directly throughout weekly modules. The lack of separation between course content and course readings puts them directly in dialogue with one another, but it does mean that it may take you longer than you expect to move through a module (approximately 7-8 hours).

Contacting Me:

Email is the best way to reach me. I will respond to your email as quickly as possible. Please email me at . In general, online courses work best when there’s a lot of communication between student and instructor. We can work together and come up with a solution for nearly every problem.

Office Hours:

[Insert details here including the preferred method to meet (e.g. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, institutional platform, phone, etc.]. We will decide a time that works for most people during our orientation. You don’t have to make an appointment to show up at my office hours.

If you’d like to meet with me outside of my office hours, just email me and we’ll set up a time.

Also, before assignments are due, we will have a group writing session. You can sign on any time during the 2-hour time slot. We’ll just work on our assignments together, and you can ask me questions when you have them as you work.

Course Format:

10 weekly modules [institutional required total hours]

Synchronous/Asynchronous Online, Mixed-Mode, Face-to-Face [describe mode]

[Description for Asynchronous Online] This course is created so that you can work at your own pace. This course is set up into small chunks called modules, which are themed around a topic. The modules will take you one week to complete, and you can work at your own pace.

You can also hand in assignments at your own pace. To improve your writing, you’ll need regular feedback. I’ve set up due dates, but these are flexible. Just make sure that you communicate with me first if you want to hand in work after the due date.

For a recommended schedule see the course map below:

Week Dates Module Assignments
One [enter] Introduction
Two Knowing
Three Encounter
Four Landscape
Five Portraiture
Six Belonging
Seven Abroad
Eight Institutions
Nine Anti/Establishment
Ten Localities
Eleven Activism


These assignments are set up to reward your process, not your product. That means that you’ll have lots of opportunities to try again, and you’ll be rewarded for taking risks, even if those risks don’t pay off. Many assignments are also participation-based. If you do the work, you’ll get the points.  To say it simply, I want you to do well, and there are many opportunities for you to do your best work.

Type Weight Learning Outcomes
Learning Journals 25%
(5%X5; best 5 out of 6)
Visualizing Research 20% 4,5,6
Museum Response 20% 1,3,4,5
Artwork Analysis Part I: Proposal – 5%

Part II: Peer review – 5%

Part III: Submission – 25%

Total: 35%


Submission Policy:

Handing in assignments by the deadlines will help me give you timely feedback. However, life happens. If you need more time, simply ask. You don’t need to tell me why you need an extension. If you have an extension, it may take me a little longer to give you feedback because I might be grading papers for other classes. [You may want to add your own late policy here.]

Academic Integrity Policy:

This class teaches how to use sources, so we’ll talk a lot about academic integrity. I approach most academic integrity violations as opportunities to learn. If I find evidence of improper source use in your work, I will ask to meet with you and you will be required to revise your work. In rare cases, such as when I find evidence of ghostwriting, I may pursue formal plagiarism charges. Please familiarize yourself with [link to your institution’s policy].

Student Conduct Policy:

The University ascribes to the highest standards of conduct. Adhering to these standards of conduct means observing the values on which an academic community must be founded: respect, safety, civility, inclusiveness, and freedom from harassment and discrimination. Students are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with these values. These standards of conduct require that students obey the law, be aware of and abide by University policies, behave in a safe and civil manner, demonstrate respect for members of the University’s community, and demonstrate respect for the University’s and its community members’ property and resources.

To learn more, please read the [link to your institution’s student conduct policy].

Diversity and Inclusion Policy:

We will work hard to build a classroom community that works for everyone. Please familiarize yourself with [link to your institution’s diversity and inclusion policy].

[Other Institution-Specific Policies:]



Note: This syllabus designed by Open Art Histories has been adapted from Resources for a business communications open online course by Arley Cruthers; Melissa Ashman; John Grant; Seanna Takacs; and Petti Fong and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.




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CanadARThistories Copyright © by Alena Buis; Devon Smither; ecavaliere; Jen Kennedy; Johanna Amos; and Sarah E.K. Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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