Hispanic Studies PhD Requirements

2. Course Designs and Defenses

The two required course designs and oral defenses replace traditional comprehensive examinations. The objectives of the course design and defense requirement are for the student to demonstrate depth and breadth of knowledge as an emerging specialist in the field, and for the student to improve their teaching capacities through the development of unique courses and materials that can be useful tools towards professionalization and the job market.

Completion of this requirement is an essential program milestone, and successful completion of the course design, examination, and defense requirement in a timely manner may be used to determine the candidate’s eligibility to continue with his/her program.

The first course is examined and defended towards the completion of Year 2, Term 4 (fall semester, usually in December, with the specific date(s) to be determined by the department). The second course is examined and defended towards the completion of Year 2, Term 6 (summer semester, usually in September, with the specific date(s) to be determined by the department).

Both courses are developed under the supervision of a professor. At the end of Year 1, Term 2, the student selects a supervisor for the first course and a Ph.D. thesis supervisor. The supervisor for the first course must be someone other than the proposed supervisor for the Ph.D. thesis. The Ph.D. thesis supervisor will direct the second course design and defense.


Year in Program:

Ph.D. 1

Term 1 (Fall)

Term 2 (Winter)

Term 3 (Summer)

Course Design


Name supervisor for course design #1.


Begin work on course design #1.



Year in Program:

Ph.D. 2

Term 4 (Fall)

Term 5 (Winter)

Term 6 (Summer)

Course Design

Complete course design #1.


Course defense #1 (usually in December –date to be determined by department).



Begin work on course design #2.



Complete course design #2.


Course defense #2 (usually in September –date to be determined by department).



The first course should be developed at the introductory level. The focus of the course is broad and panoramic, and the student must demonstrate the breath of their knowledge, alongside their creativity, innovation, and unique contribution to the course of study.

The second course should be developed at the advanced level. The course topic should be related to the Ph.D. thesis and the student must demonstrate the depth of their knowledge, alongside their creativity, innovation, and unique contribution to the course of study.

Each course design must include:

a)      Detailed Syllabus: course description, objectives and outcomes, reading list, grading scale and methods of evaluation, calendar of readings and activities, and relevant university policies. The calendar must cover twenty-five to twenty-six classes, taught over a period of thirteen weeks.

b)     Teaching Philosophy: a written statement expressing views on teaching and learning, and which methods or approaches the instructor proposes to practice. The best statements are specific and unique (avoid overgeneralizations and empty declarations). Discuss how you propose to put your beliefs on teaching into practice and give concrete examples of what you anticipate doing and achieving in the classroom. Please note that there are many resources both online and in print on how to write an effective Teaching Philosophy Statement. The Teaching Support Center at Western is also invaluable. http://www.uwo.ca/tsc/index.html

TSC How to Develop a Teaching Philosophy (article): http://www.uwo.ca/tsc/resources/publications/newsletter/selected_articles/your_teaching_philosophy.html

TSC How to Develop a Teaching Philosophy (presentation slides): http://www.uwo.ca/tsc/resources/pdf/Teaching%20Philosophy%20Stmt.pdf

c)      Justification or Proposed Contribution and Relevance of Course. Some questions you may choose to address in this statement are: What is the connection between the teaching of the course and other areas, such as your research or community engagement? How does this course “fill a gap” in how Hispanic literature and culture or linguistics is currently taught? Why is this course “needed”? How is your course original, innovative, creative, and unique? What is the relationship between course objectives and course content? What is the relationship between course content and assessment? 

d)     Ten Detailed Class Lesson Plans: with well-developed objectives, discussion points, activities, lists of materials and required class readings, audiovisual materials, and presentations for each of the ten classes.

e)      Online Teaching Platform (OWL) with audio-visual material and lectures for the course.

f)       Reading List or Works Consulted: A detailed bibliography in correct bibliographic style that shows the complete and comprehensive list of readings the student used to prepare their knowledge base for the course.

g)      Sample Materials for review, such as exams, essay topics and instructions, creative assignments, rubrics etc.

Please note that it is up to the supervisor to determine if any further materials are required.

*A new option for the second course is that a student develops a unique project of his or her own design. Some examples may be a database that could complement an archival system of a research center, an app or computer software designed to help perform a specific activity, or a creative project such as a documentary film. For Hispanic linguistics, a qualifying paper may also be an option. Please note that the student must seek approval from 1) his or her supervisor and 2) the graduate committee to proceed with this option. A project description and justification are required as part of the approval process. Decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis. Specific requirements will be drawn up in consultation with the graduate committee. The project would proceed to oral defense just as the course design.

Students must work closely with their supervisors throughout the entire process of developing the courses (or course + project) and prepare all materials in a timely manner in accordance with the dates set by their supervisor and the department. Failure to progress and proceed in the course design and defense may be grounds to dismiss the student from the program.

Once the supervisor approves the materials, the student must submit the course to the designated examiners at least two weeks before the date of defense.

At the public defense, the student will first be asked to present a brief ten-minute overview of his or her course or project. After the presentation, the examination will proceed and the student will be expected to successfully answer examiners’ questions related to both pedagogy and content. Please note that the majority of the questions (around 75%) will pertain to content or knowledge of the subject matter the student is proposing to teach.

After completion of the questioning rounds, the committee will determine whether the student 1) passes with distinction, 2) passes, 3) passes with changes, revisions, or additional work, or 4) fails the course design or defense. Through the examination process, students may be asked to revise any or all course materials, write clarifying essays, and/or repeat the defense. The chair of the exam will determine the dates and timelines for any changes, revisions, further work or re-examinations (typically two-four weeks for revisions). The examiners will review the revisions and submit their final report no later then four weeks after the re-submission. If a student fails a second time, they may be asked to withdraw from the program.