Ideas for Curricular Options for students to meet expectations,
and for faculty to help them do so.
There is an unavoidable link between any set of learning expectations and access to them within the curriculum. Many on the DTF believe that access is as important as defining the expectations themselves. The following are options for organizing our work developed in some cases by members of the Gen Ed DTF and in others put forward by other members of the faculty. The options vary in level of detail and specificity. In the interest of promoting as broad a discussion as possible we have included all of the written submissions received by the DTF.
To facilitate your review of these proposals, we have prepared two summary charts. One presents the proposals in relationship to the draft expectations. The other presents them in relationship to elements of the DTF's charge (Implications for Students, Implications for the Faculty, the Role of Student Advising, the Role of the LRC/Library, Faculty Development, Required New Resources, and Assessment). Please note that faculty members not on the DTF did not have access to the current list of expectations or elements of the DTF charge, so additional information will be required for a fuller assessment.
An important test for any of these options is the degree to which they provide greater opportunity for students to meet the College's agreed-upon learning expectations.
Please also feel free to create hybrids choosing elements from any proposal you find attractive. Also feel free to develop an entirely new proposal.
[NOTE: The DTF received a copy of the Program Goals from the current program titled "How can you tell an American?". It is an example of what one team has adopted as statement of learning expectations and how those expectations are addressed in the program. We did not have time to include it in the summary charts but have included it here on pages 11-13.]
The General Education DTF was challenged by the Provost to accomplish four things: 1) To create a model for general education at Evergreen which will facilitate for students better access to the contents, skills, and ways of knowing of the Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences, and Sciences, as well as to quantitative reasoning. 2) To create a baseline of accessible learning outcomes appropriate for all graduating students. 3) To create a vision statement in regard to general education. 4) To reinvent the Learning Resource Center in response to the needs of 1) and 2) above.
In response to the Provost's challenge, the General Education DTF recommends the following, each of which will be addressed in more detail in the pages following:
A) To address the problem of student access to the Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences, and Sciences and to expose students to TESC's most distinctive feature: team-taught, multiple quarter, interdisciplinary programs:
B) To address the problem of student access to fundamental skills, specifically Quantitative Reasoning and Writing:
Please Note Well: Many students may be able to fulfill the two-quarter Cross-divisional program requirement, and either the quantitative requirement and the writing requirement within the same program; some may be able to fulfill both the quantitative reasoning and writing requirements within the same Cross-divisional program. This overlap would minimize our incursion into student responsibility for their own academic choices. Transfer students can fulfill the quantitative reasoning and writing requirements by transfer credits.
C) To protect and reinforce student responsibility for shaping their educations, while aiding them in understanding Evergreen's distinctive approach to education, helping them negotiate the Evergreen curriculum, and encouraging their self-reflective understanding of their choices:
D) To support faculty and students in implementing the changes recommended above:
C. Expectations/Opportunities for Evergreen Students (to be updated based on any new agreed upon set of expectations)
D. College Support for this 5 year General Education Initiative
Here is an alternative proposal that avoids requirements for faculty and students and that accords the issue a period of time appropriate to its seriousness. We could construct a five-year program that will allow us (1) to study carefully the nature of the problem to which the GenEd proposal is one solution, (2) to talk collectively and deliberately about faculty responsibility with regard to that problem, (3) to implement changes in structures, practices, and, perhaps, policies that will address the problem, and (4) to study the effects of those changes.
My biases: (1) The faculty is competent to offer, with sound academic leadership, a good curriculum, one that addresses problems we see and that accrediting agencies see and (2) students are capable, with good faculty and staff advice, of getting a good education here. With Craig Carlson, I want to begin not from a fear of an accrediting agency or anyone's representation of a problem we might have but from a trust in the people here to take care of ourselves.
Elements of the five-year program should include:
> The creation of venues for the faculty to discuss and articulate our expectations of students. We could use the archive of the GenEd DTF as the basis for these discussions. Their internal working documents show they have had rich debates and good disagreements. The faculty would, no doubt, produce a complex set of expectations that would reflect our different views of education. This would be a good exercise for us; it would be educational for students to watch us do this. (I hope we can remain clear about the difference between expectations and requirements. Someone who does not meet a requirement is penalized. Someone who does not meet an expectation can only be disappointing to those who hold the expectations. My disappointment with someone not meeting my expectations might lead me to wonder what happened and, perhaps, to change my behavior. Requirements don't leave room to think.)
> A complementary set of discussions on the responsibility of the faculty. These discussions should aim to articulate responsibility at various structural levels (programs, planning units, the PUCs, administration) and at the level of individual faculty members.
> A study of students. The evidence for the problem is based largely on credit equivalents. It would be good to know students not just in terms of credit equivalents-the broad categories by which we categorize our subject matters-but also in terms of what was actually taught in programs and in terms of what students learned. How many students actually are "dupes" before statisticians or silenced by scientific questions?
> Selecting academic leaders over the five-year period who can best help us make the changes necessary to achieve whatever ends we decide are important.
> Study advising: Is there a lot? Is there a little? Who does it? Is it good or bad? How many students follow the good advice? How many ignore the bad? How many follow the bad advice? How many ignore the good? (You know, a 2x2 table.)
> Study changes in teaching patterns and practices from the start. The GenEd DTF has raised our consciousness and, I suspect, changes will start to happen soon (even if we vote against requirements) because faculty members try to be conscientious in our work. We should closely track changes that happen over the next two years. Then we should watch closely the changes that happen over the next three years in response to the efforts of the faculty to respond well to the concerns we have generated and which have been taken up by the accreditors.
If we are going to take the issues raised by the Gen-Ed DTF seriously, we should do so. Simply to pass a set of requirements does not.
The general education debate is a lot about the right balance between do-I-want-to and do-I-have-to in our curriculum. I agree with those who see significant danger to the college in requirements that emerge impersonally from a disembodied entity called "the college." But let's notice that faculty and students agree about requirements all the time, within programs, because we've found ways to get a reasonable balance between the voluntary and the imposed aspects of the work. We're sophisticated about this at the program level. Doing this balancing at the whole-college level is a lot trickier, so much so that we only do a minuscule amount of it now. But maybe we can help it happen with a version of that program-level device, the covenant.
I propose the following structure:
Yes, there would be lots to work out about what the covenant said, whether it could be individualized somewhat, etc, etc. I'm sure there are ways to do it, and I have some thoughts. But the big question is whether this approach would help us escape from a debate about whether do-I-want-to or do-I-have-to is the sole guiding principle of the college.
I sense that the real problem here is not the expectations of the re-accreditation committee or our ability to provide breadth as well as depth in a liberal arts education. I think the problem is how to stay true to the original vision of the college as we grow and change.
As I understand the history of Evergreen's culture, in the early days there were few faculty, few buildings and FTE was somewhere around 18:1. There were also 2 faculty retreats a year. My sense is that in this smaller community, people had more time for thoughtful planning. The invention of adventurous, truly interdisciplinary programs carried less risk because the logistics of multi-faculty planning were less complicated. Evergreen was centri-focal.
Now we have a significantly larger community; lots more faculty in more disciplines who are lodged in several big scattered buildings and an FTE of 25:1. We have one faculty retreat every year, a few highly structured hours of which is set aside for people to get to know each other and come up with new ideas for the curriculum. The majority of the faculty do not attend the retreat. It seems that many of the rest of us don't have time to follow up on those initial conversations (I have my list of ideas and other interested faculty from the last retreat buried under a pile of work on my desk). There is no center in this big community where faculty from all areas and sub-areas can casually bump into each other on a daily basis to let their ideas cross-pollinate. There is no time built into the work week outside of programs and faculty seminars that allows for thoughtful exchanges of ideas. The energy now is centrifugal.
Rather than introducing requirements, I would like to suggest that we approach the Gen Ed problem by looking at and then re-designing some of the temporal, organizational and spatial structures that shape our daily work routines:
The Library is the administrative and student services center of the campus. It is the center of resources for general education. It could also be the center of interdisciplinary organization and curriculum planning. The LRC functions as a writing center. Perhaps it should also function as a quantitative skills center. Library faculty currently choose to be liasons with programs in the curriculum. They have the most opportunity of any of us to know what different faculty's interests and strengths are. Maybe they could play a pivotal role in bringing together faculty from different areas to develop interdisciplinary teams. If we can create a campus center to which all faculty find themselves inevitably and naturally drawn at some time during their work day, then inter-area affinities and alliances will begin to multiply. The Library re-model DTF has finished the first phase of pre-design, but it seems that if we are given the go ahead for construction, we could revisit the pre-design plans and work in ways to enhance the Library's importance as a center of interdisciplinary education.
Planning units function to design curriculum, set hiring priorities and consolidate disciplinary capital equipment and staffing needs. It makes sense for faculty teaching similar disciplines with similar logistical
needs to get together to talk about these needs, but it doesn't make sense to limit faculty to affiliation with one planning unit when they could be crossing over two or three areas to find teaching partners. At the retreat two years ago, there was a lively discussion about starting an interdisciplinary planning unit. Maybe we could return to that discussion. We could separate out the disciplinary logistical work, which is often building, area or sub-area based, from curriculum planning, which should be college-wide. Time in the academic calendar could be scheduled separately for both sets of concerns.
Currently all our governance hours occur at the end of the work day. A meeting that ends at 5 is affected by the fact that most participants have been on the go since 8 or 9 am and are just counting the minutes until they can go home to unwind. I've noticed that in general, my students would prefer to come to class later in the day, while I'm more focused and ready to work in the morning. I suspect other faculty are the same. If we had governance in the morning one day a week, we could take advantage of that energy. Meetings would frequently end at lunch time. If we made that lunch hour sacred (i.e. no classes or official business), served port and provided a relaxed atmosphere in which people could eat and chat with each other, then we'd be increasing civility and collegiality and providing another opportunity for faculty to cross-pollinate.
I think we'll be better off in the long term if we cultivate the culture of the college so that students and faculty get what they need without having to check off a list of requirements.
I think that a formal portfolio, (I heard that they were red plastic when the College first started) should be distributed to students once again. It could have a guide form for students to keep attuned to the breadth of their program choices. It could include categories of disciplines that make up an exemplary profile of college work that together represent a liberal arts education. Faculty advisors (mutually chosen) could use the portfolio as part of their conversation. Neat and tidy.
The option consists of Student -Originated, Individually Tailored, Access-Oriented, Group-Contracts addressing breadth-deficiencies. (Please note that the idea is presently in an (for me) uncharacteristically brief form. (We can work) to refine it/flush it out.)
The core of this option would be a related cluster of group-contracts focused on developing introductory (or citizen-level) awareness/"expertise" about problems/issues interfacing the students' previous areas of concentration and
bridging to another neglected area of inquiry. Examples: (for an arts-focusing student): "Toxic-Waste Awareness and the Media;" or "Environmental Art;" or (for a natural-sciences focused student) "Gender-Issues in the Teaching of Biology," or "Bridging the Digital Gap." Identifying those lacunae in each student's education-to-date (and certainly before senior year) would be a major focus of the Advising System.
The emphasis of these group contracts would not be on the transmission of already acquired knowledge but on accessing basic-level knowledge, on learning how to do that in any circumstance outside one's area of
concentration/expertise. The mastery of such skills of access in areas outside one's area of expertise would be the TESC definition of general education.
These gen-ed group contracts would be "taught" by a team of inter-area faculty skilled in the tools of access. Those faculty-members who have rotated into the library or those specially trained in ad-hoc summer sessions might be the first to staff these contracts. Ideally, the teaching team would always include a reference librarian and a writing specialist. Senior-level students skilled in one or another relevant area might function as tutors. At an extreme, faculty might be hired specifically to staff these modules on a regular basis.
The content-focus of the group contract would be chosen by the individual students, each bending slightly to form overlapping groups. Public presentations of research-findings to citizen-groups might be built into the requirements of the contract. Students might be enrolled in a particular group for eight or twelve or sixteen credits (with appropriately varying expectations), as his/her distribution-profile suggested.
These Gen-Ed group contracts might be attractive per se (i.e., independent of Gen-Ed concerns) to many students. Other students, advised of distribution-deficiencies, might judge the individually tailored focus as offsetting the required exposure to unfamiliar areas and methodologies. To the extent that other options exist to fulfill Gen-Ed expectations, these contracts might become extremely attractive to senior-level students.
To get students to have a broader background, especially in the areas we deem they are deficient is an easy thing to do. Just team up faculty from very different backgrounds. I think it is up to us as faculty to offer diverse programs, students will flock to them. This does not mean throwing a little of "critical thinking" into a program. This means teaming political scientist with a chemist, a philosopher with a mathematician, an artist with a computer programmer and so on. This requires a lot of work on the faculty part, I know, Marja and I are from different backgrounds and this makes planning sometimes stressful. We are aware of this, some not so pleasant moments, each wanting more of what we know best, but it is OK. It is not personal, just a lot of give and take and hard work on our part. What has materialized is what I think is a meaningful, highly interdisciplinary program we are both extremely happy with. I am not saying all programs need to be this way but the more that are the more all students will have access to all fields of studies.
How you are going to get faculty to do this is not easy. We have an incentive in Evening and Weekend Studies, if we do not offer what students want we do not teach (not really that simple but almost). It is also truly rewarding from my perspective to continue to learn outside of my expertise. Students recognize a good thing, our program is filled with a wait list. The thing that I find difficult to address is prerequisites. See, in the sciences course build on each other, you need this before that and that before something else. Hence to take "something else" you need two years of this and that. I could be specific, INS into M2O into AMR. I just am not sure if other fields are as continuos and if they are you need to look down the road at your offerings.
So, this is what I think about Gen Ed requirements and how to get students more diversity in their education. Offer more programs that are truly interdisciplinary, especially in core.
This option for structural change reconceives the unit of curriculum-delivery for the full-time student from the current 16-credit model to a 12-and-4 model.
The 12-4 model recognizes, even celebrates the educational value of breadth and diversity. It sees potentially valuable outcomes in the opportunity for students to explore unfamiliar areas and/or to acquire necessary skills without the same sort of time-commitment required by the current all-or-nothing packaging of 16-credit programming. To respond to those potential values and continue to affirm the undeniable values of the Coordinated Studies model, the 12-4 model (a) establishes twelve-credit programs as the norm for Coordinated Studies programs; and (b) generates numerous and attractive four-credit modules as supplements to the 12-credit offerings. The 12-4 option, thereby, not only allows but also encourages and facilitates our students' carrying a four-credit addition to their "full-time" Coordinated Studies program.
The 12-4 model has been around at TESC as an option for many years, appealing to some faculty and students in view of the often-unmanageable demands made by a 16-credit program on students with jobs and families. Like Evening and Weekend Studies itself, the rationale for offerings of less than 16-credits makes both educational and humane sense. The 12-4 model thus appears here in this listing of structural alternatives not as a TESC novelty. It appears rather in the context of a proposal to change its status from that of an infrequent option (offered or not offered at the discretion of the program-team) to that of the normal pattern of curricular offerings. Exceptions to the pattern (presumably capped in number) would have to be petitioned.
The 4-credit modules can be more or less integrated with programs or planning areas and/or more or less free-standing. The 4-credit modules could be more or less integrated with the 12-credit program. A module on statistics, for example or a computer-modeling module could be designed specifically for particular 12-credit programs, or for a whole Planning Unit. On the other hand, 4-credit modules could be designed as freestanding modules addressing the most obvious breadth-needs in the areas of the fine arts and the natural sciences. Examples: Nutrition, Astronomy, Earthwatch, Statistics in Everyday Life, Mexican Dance, Ceramics, Photography, Introductory Guitar, and/or Contemporary Cinema.
Even when comparatively freestanding, the 4-credit modules need not be thought of as inherently centrifugal. They could indeed be used to create more-manageable versions of the sustained cross-divisional dialogues sought in the "Spring Festival" option (see below). One such creative use of the four-credit module: a 4-credit module on "Contemporary Art" (or Ecology or Genetics or Philosophy or Urban Planning) conceived as a series of introductory lectures given by state-of-the art practitioners; which lectures would divide into 25-person seminars led by TESC faculty from across the College. These (once-a-week) seminars could be conceived as part of the regular teaching load of the (now 12-credit focused-) faculty or as a faculty-development opportunity or as additional work for additional recompense.
The 12-4 option does not eliminate altogether the possibility of either
Institutional Implications and Adjustments
The general principle would be that currently 16-credit programs should be re-conceived in a fashion that reduces student workload and meeting-requirements in each program by 25%. Without explicit clearance from the Curriculum Dean, no program could require 16-credit enrollment. A cap would be placed on the number of such exemptions that could be granted in each year.
The major administrative problems posed by the 12-4 model would be:
Under this option, each year 40% of the faculty will move away from 16-credit three-quarter programs to 16-credit two-quarter programs. Spring Quarter will become a "Festival of Learning" which provides students with the opportunity to study "a little science, a little math or a little art."
We would like to keep the essence of what is Evergreen: student-driven learning in the context of coordinated studies, cross-divisional programs, etc.
In 1998-1999, 40% of Core Students who were enrolled in the fall had dropped out by spring quarter; 17% had left the college. We need data for full-year retention rates in other programs, but have a hunch they would mirror Core. This begins to build an argument that a two-quarter program is an exciting option for many students.
Curriculum changes: During the Spring Festival, 40% of all programs MUST be cross- or tri-divisional. These programs must accommodate about 600 freshman and 700 other students (20% Core faculty and 20% committed to other programs).
Possible options for faculty include:
B. Multiple options where faculty could
Faculty hiring: Hire more quantitative methods and writing faculty! Continue to hire faculty of high caliber who are interested in teaching, working with freshmen and are willing to work in a cross-disciplinary setting.
Documentation and Narrative Evaluations:
Implications for students:
Downsides to be worked through:
"How Can You Tell an American?"
Educational goals of this program
September 25, 2000
I. The purpose of a liberal arts education is to foster:
- Curiosity, intellectual honesty, fairness, civility, and openness to new and challenging ideas;
- Critical, independent thinking;
- The integration of knowledge across disciplines;
- The ability to function effectively in a society undergoing rapid and often unpredictable change;
- An understanding of the importance of studying the past and present;
- A responsive understanding of the literary, performing and fine arts as elements of human culture;
- An active life as an informed, responsible, democratically-minded citizen and member of the global community;
- Learning as a personal and a collaborative process exercised over a lifetime.
II. Goals of a liberal education:
1. Write and speak effectively
Students develop language skills necessary to function in their own culture and the larger world.
2. Comprehend, evaluate and critique quantitative information; learn to acquire, process and present quantitative information
Students gain the ability to select and use effectively the most appropriate technologies for gathering, analyzing and manipulating, transmitting, storing and presenting information.
3 . Reason critically, both individually and collaboratively, draw sound conclusions from information, ideas, and interpretations gathered from various sources and disciplines, and apply those conclusions to one's life and society
Students learn to reason critically, to distinguish among forms of argumentation, and to derive justified conclusions.
4. Understand the personal and social importance of ethical reflection and moral reasoning
Students develop their capacity for ethical sensitivity, insight, and critical thought in understanding important social issues that confront our society and the larger world.
5. Comprehend mathematical concepts and reason mathematically in both abstract and applied contexts
Students develop a fundamental understanding and competency in the use and interpretation of mathematics for problem-solving and decision-making.
6. Understand the scientific method; forming and testing hypotheses as well as evaluating results
Students understand how data are gathered and organized, how models, theories and laws are constructed and evaluated, and what are the purposes, values and limits of scientific investigation. Students learn to critically evaluate scientific problems and assertions.
7. Critique the evolving interrelationships among science, technology and society
Students understand the impact and changes in society that take place as scientific knowledge deepens and new technologies are developed. Students understand that societal conditions and needs influence and shape progress in science and technology, and vice-versa.
8. Respond critically and sensitively to artistic expression in its multiple forms and contexts
Students develop insight into works of art from a variety of artistic media, how various elements combine to create a whole work; students develop and learn to trust their own authority in responding to artistic works and assessing their significance.
9. Realize one's abilities to live and act creatively
Students develop their capacity for creative work through mastery of technique and the integrity of thought, feeling, expression and act.
10. Understand the relationships between physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being and the quality of life of the individual, the family and the community
Students recognize the interdependent nature of the individual, family, and society in shaping human behavior and the quality of life. They understand that mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being are interconnected, and how to apply this knowledge to their own well-being and that of others.
11. Understand the development of cultures and organizations of human societies and their changing interrelationships
Students comprehend how, over time, various societies have approached the common problems of human existence. They learn that the form of those problems and the solutions to them vary because of tradition, geography, philosophy, religion, economic development, technological change and political organization.
12. Evaluate the impact of theories, events and institutions of the social, economic, legal and political aspects of society
Students develop knowledge of the socio-economic organization, the legal systems, and forms of government that comprise society. They understand how these institutions have functioned, how they have interacted with each other, and how they have evolved in our own society and others.
13. Acknowledge and comprehend the development of diversity in America in all its forms
Students comprehend the historical and political development of the United States - the ideals, rights and institutions associated with this nation and the resulting dynamics of tension, contradiction, and change. In this context, students recognize the diverse characteristics of the populations that comprise American society, and the impact these differences have had in our social and political lives. Diversity includes but is not limited to the characteristics of race, social and economic class, religion, gender, ethnicity, age, disability, sexual orientation and political identity.
14. Understand and value the natural environment and the processes that shape it
Students demonstrate knowledge of the characteristics, processes, and laws that define natural environments. They learn to evaluate the impact of political and social change within these environments.
15. Comprehend the development of justice and equality in American life
Students comprehend the difficult and conflicting demands of realizing a social and cultural order that lives up to the ideals of justice and equality for all.
As the faculty anticipate our work, students in "How Can You Tell an American?" will have an excellent opportunity to address some of these goals directly and consistently throughout the year. We will not address at all other goals, from among this set of fifteen. For another group, students will have some opportunity to develop these elements of their education ï¿½ perhaps extensively if the student emphasizes this in her or his own work ï¿½ but the curriculum will lead toward these goals only in a limited way.
We have developed this statement of the "goals of a liberal education" by modifying a statement adopted by the faculty at Youngstown State University for the "goals of a general education." That statement can be found at http://www.cc.ysu.edu/ger/genedg.html
We have used the YSU statement simply as a beginning point, and assume nothing about whether or not the faculty of that institution understand their statement in the way we understand ours. We welcome any suggestions for clarifying or improving this version, which we are using in "How Can You Tell an American?"