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Focus courses identify important skills and discourses necessary for living and working in diverse communities. In addition, a course may have more than one Focus designation.

Proposing a course

Please see our Proposal Forms page for information on submitting a Focus Proposal Form and for upcoming deadlines.  

Learning Objectives, Hallmarks, and Explanatory Notes

+ Contemporary Ethical Issues

Student Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

ELO1. Identify ethical issues within a given discipline or context;

ELO2. Use tools/processes/frameworks to deliberate on ethical issues;

ELO3. Express an ethical judgment that informs thinking and actions;

ELO4. Critique and evaluate their own thinking, behavior and ethical identity using ethical tools and reasoning practices.


The faculty on the Contemporary Ethical Issues Focus Board use these Hallmarks when evaluating proposals for the “E” designation.

E1. Contemporary ethical issues will be presented and studied in a manner that is fully integrated into the main course content.
E2. The disciplinary approach(es) used in the class will give students tools for the development of responsible deliberation and ethical judgment.
E3. Students will achieve basic competency in analyzing and deliberating upon contemporary ethical issues to help them make ethically determined judgments.
E4. The equivalent of one semester credit-hour or 30% of a 3-credit course will be devoted to contemporary ethical issues.
E5. A minimum of 8 hours of class time will be spent in discussing contemporary ethical issues.
E6. The course will be numbered at the 300- or 400-level.

Explanatory notes

  • The goal of E courses, at least in part, must be to equip students with some degree of proficiency in ethical deliberation. These courses should not be purely descriptive, merely characterizing, for example, the moral beliefs of person or peoples. Nor is it intended that the pedagogy be value-free, using approaches that maintain an “arms-length” relationship with current ethical issues.
  • Course materials must be pertinent to the ethical issues under review. While well-selected philosophical and literary texts would serve, so would case studies, judicial opinions, statutes, codes of ethics (and commentaries), films, works of art, performances, as well as a broad range of other readings.
  • Different academic approaches and methodologies can be used to give students tools for the development of responsible ethical judgments. Approaches might include small group discussions, formal debate, round-table discussions, Socratic questioning, etc.
  • E courses may be associated with particular disciplines, professions, and larger enterprises (e.g., the ethics of human and animal research, medical ethics, bioethics, biotechnology, business ethics, engineering ethics, ethics in government, and journalistic ethics).  Still others might look at ethical issues that emerge at cultural interfaces, such as war, evangelism, colonialism and multi-cultural societies, etc. Contemporary ethical issues must be fully integrated into the main course content and must be tied to activities that develop students’ proficiency in forming sound ethical judgments.

Alternatives to a single 3-credit “E” class

While typical Contemporary Ethical Issues (E)-designated classes are 3-credits, the Board does consider alternative arrangements to satisfy the requirement. (Alternatives are possible because the E requirement is a class requirement, not a credit requirement.)

One-Credit Seminar

The Chemistry department proposed a one-credit seminar course on contemporary ethical issues in chemistry. As the Hallmark requires that ethical issues and discussion be at least 30% of a 3-credit course, the Board concluded that a 1-credit course devoted exclusively to ethics would qualify. Thus, the Chemistry course was given an E designation.


A third alternative format suggested was a credit/no-credit course. A similar suggestion was made for the Oral Communication designation. The rationale is that CR/NC would allow for (and possibly encourage) free and open discussion. Credit would be given for attendance, participation, and completion of work.

NOTE: The course must be only offered as CR/NC because of grading policies (see the “Minimum Grade Requirements” statement in the General Education section of the Catalog.) To create or modify a course that is CR/NC, a UHM-1 or UHM-2 form is required.

Common misperceptions about ethics-designated courses

Is there a question/issue you would have liked to see on this page? Please email it to and the E Focus Board will create a response. 

1. I am hesitant to propose an E-focus course because I am not a professional ethicist.

If you are aware of, care about, and practice ethical behavior in the context of your own disciplinary expertise, you are in a good position to design and teach an E-focus course. E-focus courses represent a balance between objectifying ethics as a scholarly topic—learning what particular moral philosophers said about ethics, for example—and the skills involved in the practice of ethical decision making.

2. I may have trouble fitting my approach to contemporary ethical issues into the standard format of an E Focus course.

There is no standard approach. So far, a number of distinct types of E course have been proposed, accepted and successfully taught. Here are some of the categories that we have seen as emerging from the proposals:

Code-based E courses take as a central text for the course an explicit code of professional ethics. Successful courses of this type do not simply teach the rules but emphasize the complexities and hard decisions that emerge when the rules are applied in difficult situations.

Community practice-based courses delineate the ethical concerns in a particular community that are not explicitly codified or are only partially codified. An example would be the ethics of scientific research. Here again, pitfalls and potential double-binds force the student to think ethically rather than just follow a rule.

Ethics-in-everyday-life focused courses may not identify a specific community but may point out ethical dimensions of ordinary practices that we all engage in. For example, participation as a consumer or audience member in economic, cultural performance, or political activities in the public sphere may involve ethical choices that are taken for granted.

Critical ethics courses tend to focus on the more intense issues that have become highly polarized and involve criticism of the status quo in economic, political, and cultural life. For example, current and historical practices that involve a strong sense of injustice, exploitation, and abuse have obvious ethical implications. When the ethical choice is obvious and it is clear that one choice is bad and another good, however, complex ethical decision making may not be involved. A good E-focus course will raise ethical awareness of the issue and challenge the student to confront his or her own certainty about the choices involved and create a class atmosphere in which diverse ideas are encouraged.

+ Hawaiian, Asian, & Pacific Issues

Student Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

HLO1. Explain the intersection of Native Hawaiian issues with Asian and/or Pacific Islands issues;

HLO2. Analyze issues using the conceptual and ethical frameworks and practices of the cultural perspectives, values, and world views of the Indigenous peoples of Hawai‘i, and the Pacific and/or Asia;

HLO3. Integrate the histories, cultures, beliefs, arts, social, political, economic, or technological processes in their analysis of Hawai‘i, and the Pacific and/or Asia; and

HLO4. Demonstrate respect and empathy as defined by the Indigenous peoples of Hawai‘i and the Pacific and/or Asia in interpersonal and intergroup relationships.


To fulfill the Hawaiian, Asian, and Pacific Issues Focus requirement, at least two-thirds of a class must satisfy the following Hallmarks:

H1. The content should reflect the intersection of Asian and/or Pacific Island cultures with Native Hawaiian culture.
H2. A course can use any disciplinary or multi-disciplinary approach provided that a component of the course uses assignments or practica that encourage learning that comes from the cultural perspectives, values, and world views rooted in the experience of peoples indigenous to Hawai’i, the Pacific, and Asia.
H3. A course should include at least one topic that is crucial to an understanding of the histories, or cultures, or beliefs, or the arts, or the societal, or political, or economic, or technological processes of these regions; for example, the relationships of societal structures to the natural environment.
H4. A course should involve an in-depth analysis or understanding of the issues being studied in the hope of fostering multi-cultural respect and understanding.

Explanatory notes

  • The course must compare and contrast Native Hawaiian culture1 with Pacific Islander cultures2 and/or Asian cultures3. A course exclusively about Native Hawaiian culture, Pacific Islander cultures, or Asian cultures is not eligible for a HAP Focus designation. A course that does not include intersection with Native Hawaiian culture is not eligible for a HAP Focus designation.
  • The structure, content, and activities of the course should be designed to emphasize the intersection between cultures and can be organized in any format. A significant portion of the course materials must be authored or created by Native Hawaiians, Asians and Pacific Islanders to ensure the inclusion of their voices, values, and perspectives. Proposals should also explain how the course frames the inclusion of perspectives from Native Hawaiians, Asians and Pacific Islanders.
  • It is important that faculty teaching HAP Focus courses ensure Native Hawaiian, Asian and Pacific Islander voices are heard. In doing so, students are introduced to those perspectives, world-views and cultural understandings in the disciplinary topics covered in the course and are encouraged to develop an appreciation for cultural perspectives that might be different from their own.
  • HAP Focus courses should promote self-reflection as well as intercultural knowledge through the analysis of regional issues rooted in Native Hawaiian, Asian, and Pacific Islander perspectives and experiences. Successful proposals have demonstrated that respect and understanding will be fostered through reflection papers/projects, cross-cultural activities, community engagement, service learning opportunities, and attendance at cultural events. Proposals that cite having a diverse student population as evidence of how the course will encourage intercultural knowledge and perspective sharing will be deemed insufficient.
  • The concept of intersection of Native Hawaiian culture with either or both of the other two regions is key. A course exclusively about Hawaii, the Pacific Islands, or Asia is not eligible for a HAP Focus designation. A course that does not include relationships with Native Hawaiian Culture is not eligible for a HAP Focus designation.
  • The course design must include both the Native Hawaiian voice and the native voice from the indigenous people of the area of intersection. These could be represented through publications, videos, guest speakers, or field trips, for example.
  1. The term “Native Hawaiian” is defined in different ways, depending on the context in which it is used. For the purposes of these Explanatory Notes, “Native Hawaiian” refers to the Indigenous population of Hawaiʻi.
  2. The term “Pacific Islander” refers to the peoples Indigenous to Micronesia, Polynesia and Melanesia and the Pacific diaspora.
  3. The “A” in HAP aims to be inclusive, allowing for the intersection of Asian cultures with Native Hawaiian culture and the cultures of Pacific Islanders. Asian perspectives can include Asians, Indigenous Asians, Asian migrants/diasporas/refugees, Asian immigrants/settlers, Asian-Americans, and mixed-race Asians.

Proposal Support

Example of Annotated Syllabus

Example of Annotated Course Outline

List of Native Hawaiian Authors

Selected Bibliography of Native Hawaiian Authors

+ Oral Communication

Student Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

OLO1. Present information orally in an organized manner appropriate for intended a) audience and b) purpose;

OLO2. Demonstrate effective verbal and non-verbal delivery techniques;

OLO3. Select and use appropriate content for oral (presentation) activity/context; and

OLO4. Generate/use/develop visual aids and handouts appropriate to the rhetorical situation that promote clarity, interest, and comprehension.


The faculty on the Oral Communication Focus Board use these Hallmarks when evaluating proposals for the “O” designation.

O1. Each student will conduct or participate in a minimum of three oral communication assignments or a comparable amount of oral communication activity during the class. In addition, at least 40% of the final grade for a 3+ credit course will be a function of the student’s oral communication activities (60% for a 2-credit course; 100% for a 1-credit course).
O2. Each student will receive explicit training, in the context of the class, in oral communication concerns relevant to the assignment or activity.
O3. Each student will receive specific feedback, critiquing, and grading of the oral communication assignments or activities from the instructor.
O4. If instructor feedback primarily involves individual or paired students, enrollment will be limited to 20 students. If instructor feedback primarily involves groups of students, enrollment will be limited to 30 students.
O5. The course will be numbered at the 300- or 400-level.

Explanatory notes

  • Instructors must include the following statement in the syllabus: “Only students who satisfactorily complete the oral communication assignments will be allowed to pass the course with a “D” or better.”
  • It is assumed that O classes will develop assignments responsive to student needs and to the professional demands students will face. Consequently, a variety of assignments can be designed to satisfy the O requirement, which must be viewed and evaluated by the instructor.
  • Simple class attendance does not constitute an oral communication activity and will not be counted toward the required percentage. If class participation is included in an oral activity, syllabi must include a description of how the quality and quantity of participation will be assessed. This includes criteria that differentiates between high and low quality participation, and how students will receive feedback on their participation throughout the semester.
  • For oral communication assignments and activities, at least some of the points allocated must be awarded for oral skills assessment. Assignments and activities that are evaluated only for content may not be counted toward fulfilling the O requirement.
  • Assignment descriptions in the syllabus or supporting materials must include specific skills or behaviors required for a successful performance (e.g., clearly-stated conclusion).
  • Detailed evaluation criteria per oral communication activity should be included in each syllabus. This should make clear how feedback will be provided (e.g., checklist, holistic rubric, analytic rubric) and the foci of this feedback. This may be in the form of a descriptive summary or a fully developed rubric if available.
  • It is possible for online courses to carry an O Focus designation. Successful proposals have included assignments featuring both audio and visual components (i.e., no audio-only recordings or voice-overs) and “one shot” recordings so students can practice “real-time” communication.
  • If the course has five or more credits and the instructor wishes to reduce the grade percentage associated with OC assignments, then a justification must be given in the proposal, and this may be subject to negotiation with the O Board. The minimum allowable percentage is 30%.
  • Instructor feedback is preferred and highly encouraged. While peer and/or self feedback is acceptable, training procedures for such types of feedback should be clearly described in the course syllabus.

A variety of assignments can be designed to satisfy the O requirement, which must be viewed and evaluated by the instructor.

  • Individual creative/aesthetic performances (e.g., storytelling, performance of literature, interpretations and readings)
  • Group presentations– incorporating individual presentations
  • Facilitating/Participating in group discussions and community gatherings
  • Chapter/Section presentations to class
  • Individual presentations/Speeches– formal/informal
  • Panel discussions
  • Engaging in outreach activities that incorporate oral communication skills (e.g., community teaching, coaching, presenting)
  • Various forms of interviews/interrogations
  • Press conference
  • Various persuasion/influence appeals (e.g., sales presentations, solicitations, motivational presentations)
  • Debates (individual and team)
  • Oral critiques of and responses to others’ performance, presentations

+ Writing Intensive

Student Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

WLO1. Adapt writing to a clearly identified purpose and audience, according to disciplinary conventions and genres;

WLO2. Develop and organize appropriate and relevant content;

WLO3. Evaluate and integrate supporting materials from appropriate sources, and credit them appropriately according to the genre and discourse requirements of the field; and

WLO4. Control style and mechanics to communicate effectively.


The faculty on the Writing Focus Board use these Hallmarks when evaluating proposals for the Writing-intensive designation.

W1. The class uses writing to promote the learning of course materials.
W2. The class provides interaction between the instructor and students while students do assigned writing.
W3. Written assignments contribute significantly to each student’s course grade.
W4. The course requires students to do a substantial amount of writing—a minimum of 4,000 words, or about 16 pages.
W5. To allow for meaningful professor-student interaction on each student’s writing, the class is restricted to 20 students.

Explanatory notes

  • Instructors assign formal and informal writing, both in class and out, to increase students’ understanding of course material as well as to improve writing skills.
  • Types of interaction will vary. For example, a professor who requires the completion of one long essay may review sections of the essay, write comments on drafts, and be available for conferences. The professor who requires several short papers may demonstrate techniques for drafting and revising in the classroom, give guidance during the composition of the papers, and consult with students after they complete their papers.
  • Only students who satisfactorily complete the writing assignments should be allowed to pass the course with a “D” or better. Thus, the Board recommends that writing assignments count for at least 40% of the course grade. Alternatively, the Board recommends that if writing assignments count less than 40%, the course instructor state explicitly on the syllabus that “students must adequately complete all writing assignments to pass the course with a ‘D’ or better. Students who do not complete all writing assignments will get a D- or an F and will not earn W Focus credit.”
  • The types of writing assigned will vary and may include formal and “informal” (writing that is not revised) writing. Depending on the course content, students may write analytic essays, critical reviews, journals, lab reports, research reports, reaction papers, etc. Note: In-class quizzes and in-class exams where students do not have the ability to make revisions do not count toward the W component of the course. Take-home exams may qualify if the quality of the writing is assessed.
  • Each section of a W course has an enrollment cap of 20 students. Over-enrollment requests will only be considered in specific circumstances. Please see this Google Form for more details and to submit a request.

Approved UHM Courses

Approved courses appear in the Catalog and Class Availability website.

Focus Status List may be checked for current status of proposals.

Have any questions about the teaching areas listed here? You can review our list of current board members and GEO liaisons.

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