Local Seminar (ES1) Overview, Goals and Practices, Resources for Faculty Teaching First-Year Students | Earlham College
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Local Seminar (ES1) Overview, Goals and Practices

The Fall (Local) Seminar, also known as the Earlham Seminar 1 (or ES1), focuses on topics or issues with a compelling local or regional connection. The ES1’s signature experience is an off-campus trip (or trips) that explore some aspect of this topic or issue. 

The ES1 also:

  • Meets during a common time (9:00 MWF, with a lab session at 2:30 on Friday),
  • Is disciplinary (within the instructor’s area of expertise),
  • Includes encounters with regionally-specific material and experts (such as guest speakers),
  • Introduces students to the nature and values of the Earlham community and the values and practices of Liberal Arts education more generally.

An ES1 built around the topic of communicable disease might focus on the history of influenza outbreaks in Richmond/Wayne county and surrounding areas, and use data specific to that region to inform student projects. Its off-campus trip might visit a regional hospital or a public health office.

Requirements, Learning Goals and Expectations

These are the College-approved Earlham Seminar requirements, along with the full text of the guidelines and best practices on which the Earlham Seminar faculty agreed in 2016. 

Each Local Seminar will involve:

  1. The physical exploration of some aspect of Richmond or the surrounding region (roughly bounded by a two-hour travel radius) in connection with the course subject matter;
  2. An encounter with relevant material or expertise from Richmond or the surrounding region with the course instructor; and
  3. Student reflection on their local engagement in a written assignment. 


Local Seminars will also:

  • Begin to develop students’ reading, oral and written communication, analytical, problem-solving, and collaborative skills. 

  • Introduce students to liberal arts education, including what it is, why it matters, and how to take advantage of it. 

  • Explore the nature and values of the Earlham community. 

  • Engage the complexity of identifying and applying a set of values in a particular context (e.g., the course topic, students’ lived values, and/or issues in the Earlham community and beyond). Central texts like Earlham’s “Principles and Practices” and mission statement may provide a way to frame these discussions. 

  • Assist students in beginning to develop knowledge of and habits for lifelong learning and engagement in the Earlham curriculum/intellectual enterprise. 


Local Seminar Faculty also affirmed the following best practices and general guidelines for teaching writing:

  • Students should write often – ideally every week. This writing may be formal or informal, in class or outside of class, and may (or may not) receive formal feedback.
  • Students should write relatively short assignments. Learning writing is an iterative process, and students learn best when they receive frequent feedback.  As a rule, Local Seminars include 3-6 written assignments of about 3-6 pages each, for a nominal writing load of about 15-18 pages of formal, revised work.
  • Students should receive early feedback – generally within the first two weeks of class. Pedagogical benefits aside, early assignments help discern students’ strengths and weaknesses.
  • Students should receive timely feedback. In order to improve their writing effectively, students should receive feedback on each assignment before beginning the next.
  • Students should discuss writing in the classroom. This discussion helps demystify the writing process and allows students to reflect on and analyze their own writing processes in a structured way.
  • Students should revise their work. Different seminars will practice different types of writing and incorporate feedback into the composition process in different ways, but each student should revise their work in response to explicit feedback at least twice during the course.

Finally, each Local Seminar ought to introduce students to the Earlham Libraries, the Writing Center, and the Transition Mentorship Program.

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Earlham College, an independent, residential college, aspires to provide the highest-quality undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences, shaped by the distinctive perspectives of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

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Richmond, Indiana
47374-4095
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