The Common Curriculum

Section 2


Part A: Core:

i) First Year Preceptorial: will remain as it is now; classes are capped at 16, with special 10 person precepts for Union Scholars. The focus is on reading, writing, discussion, and analysis. Professors select their own reading and topics but these classes do not count for the major, and should not be introductions to particular disciplines. Faculty bring texts from different disciplines, eras, cultures and genres to bear on some common issue of importance to the “human condition.”

ii) Sophomore Seminar: these will be small courses, capped at around 20, in the sophomore year. These courses can count for the major but should not be merely an introduction to the discipline in question. They must be open to all students, regardless of background, and can carry no prerequisite. The proposed sophomore seminar should not be an introduction to a particular discipline, both because it must be open to all Union sophomores, regardless of their previous studies or expertise, and because these students will not necessarily go on to major in this discipline.

Instead the instructor or instructors should use their discipline or disciplines to give their students a basic introduction to how to do research. This should include: how to pose a good research question; how to draw upon secondary literature in order to situate this research question in our existing knowledge (and along the way to acquire a familiarity with the research tools available at Union, including JSTOR, etc.); how to use primary sources (depending on the discipline these might be documents, interviews, published data, experimental results, etc.) to create new knowledge.

This research experience will inevitably have to be "scripted research," whereby the instructor or instructors provide a considerable amount of assistance to the student, but will also provide a good foundation for the students' next, more independent research project.

These seminars could be a very productive place in the curriculum for interdisciplinary teaching and research, including, but not limited to CT. Such interdisciplinary team-teaching could be maintained in the following way: two faculty members, ranging from two members of the same department to two representatives of very different disciplines, could teach two sections of the same seminar during the same term, whereby they would have forty students and forty sets of assignments, but only one class preparation per day.

This seminar will be open to any department, with the History Department normally teaching roughly half of the sections, several would be offered by the Classics department and the remaining sections would be open to any department.

Contributions from all disciplines are welcome (but not required) and the GenEd Board will work with any department that wants to offer a sophomore seminar to come up with a plan feasible for that discipline.

Discussion of core:

· Large history/classics surveys are replaced with small courses focusing on skills in reading, writing, discussion, analyzing texts, and reflecting on the process of analysis in moving from primary texts to analysis;

· Sophomores will get early exposure to library and primary research to prepare them for larger research projects later in their academic career.

· The current emphasis in the first year on “Western heritage” is replaced by a focus on key analytical skills and the process of analysis, with a topical focus on a variety of geographical areas, disciplinary approaches, and thematic issues.

· This formulation also fosters greater awareness of the world community by moving away from a binary opposition of “Western” and “non-Western” societies and allowing for greater opportunities to take courses in areas of the world outside of the US and Europe and to focus on common processes/issues affecting people everywhere in our increasingly interconnected world community such as: the relationship of humans and the environment; the impact of the mass media; globalization; the impact of technology on society and the ways that social and cultural values affect technological developments, and so on

· students choose among many options so there are fewer disgruntled “conscripted” students who are predisposed to be disengaged from the subject matter.

· Opens up the core of general education to many disciplines and approaches, thus potentially spreading student enrollments more evenly

· Opens up the first year so students can explore the curriculum; students are encouraged to take a broad array of courses in the first year by the distribution requirements in Part B. This could also push students out of the “check box” mentality, where they take courses just to satisfy requirements, and prompts them to actively engage in their course selection.

· inter-disciplinary sophomore classes would prompt students and faculty to reflect on disciplinary paradigms and on the ways various disciplines contribute to topics of general interest. Team taught sophomore classes would also provide a niche for CT classes in GenEd.

Part B: Distribution Requirements:

This section preserves our existing emphasis on breadth of exposure to the disciplines of the college and prompts students to accumulate a foundation in various disciplines necessary to make inter-disciplinary connections in Part C. A few key changes have been made from our existing requirements:

a) social science requirement:

· history has been added to the menu of options since there is no longer a required history course in the core.

· The category has been broadened to include any social science course instead of being restricted to an introductory level course. This will give the various social sciences autonomy to decide on how best to introduce students to their discipline; E.G. some may choose to develop thematic courses, that introduce key disciplinary ways of knowing but fit with thematic clusters in Part C; others may retain their current structure of requiring an introductory survey courses as a pre-requisite for other courses in the discipline.

b) 2 Humanities courses, one of which must be a literature course:

· broadens the definition of humanities courses that can count for general education by breaking the connection with the history surveys and by no longer requiring surveys.

· allows greater autonomy for departments to define ways of introducing students to their disciplines.

· includes studio and performing arts, which have no place in our current general education program.

· allows students greater breadth in exploring multiple areas of the world, as well as thematic approaches to disciplines, and courses in creative expression.

· includes new faculty doing comparative studies, courses on globalization and post colonialism and thematic courses that do not fit into the existing lit/civ rubric

c) 2 course in Linguistic and Cultural Competency:

· Courses in cross-cultural comparison, in international relations, and in theoretical understandings of cultural and social complexity

· Term Abroad courses are an option here if these courses deal with cultural traditions outside the US. Other term abroad courses can count toward other general education requirements.

· The requirement is reduced to two courses because students can now take courses in cultural complexity in Part A, B and C. This requirement serves the function of making sure that students who take no such courses in other sections take at least one course prompting them to consider social and cultural diversity.

· moves away from the “West” “non-West” formulation in order to prompt reflection on diversity within US society, the interconnected nature of our world community, and complexity/diversity within any cultural tradition.

d) 3 courses in Science, Engineering and Quantitative Reasoning:

· The expanded definition recognizes the importance of understanding the human environment of technology and its impact on the social and natural world and includes engineering and computer science courses

· This also allows for courses prompting students to reflect on the social and cultural forces shaping scientific research.

· Quantitative and mathematical reasoning is defined here in the following way, so as to include certain designated courses outside the mathematics department. These courses will normally be offered within Div 3 and 4 but departments in other divisions can also apply if they are deemed by the GenEd Board to satisfy the following criteria.

Definition: The primary focus of the course should normally include at least three of the following goals for its students:

(1) to be able to reason quantitatively (to be numerate)

(2) to develop an appreciation for the elegance of mathematics and the beauty and utility of math as a language for expressing certain types of problems and their solutions

(3) to be able to think logically, solve problems that require multiple steps, and understand and adapt non-trivial algorithms

(4) to develop the ability to deal with symbolic and abstract representations.

Part C: Interdisciplinary Connections: This section preserves our current emphasis on inter-disciplinary connections but opens up more options for ways of making such connections (and the disciplines included) by moving from the current 3 tracks in Section I to a menu of tracks.

Course clusters encourage students to develop coherence in their general education curriculum instead of taking a hodge-podge of unrelated courses. But the cluster concept recognizes that there are a number of ways of drawing meaningful interdisciplinary connections and moves to make our focus more international by including a range of options that address issues of concern to humans everywhere.

We hope and expect that clusters will encourage students and faculty to discover additional points of coherence and complementarity, within and across disciplines and divisions.

Course clusters help develop key intellectual skills by fostering the ability to bridge disciplines and to understand how various disciplines contribute to the understanding of some larger issue. Such as exercise prompts awareness of the key assumptions and paradigms of various disciplines and thus promotes ability to critically read and assess new information.

Like FYP, clusters should enhance students’ ability to be concerned citizens of the world community by bringing different disciplines to bear on a common topic of importance to understanding our social and natural world. Such topics might include (but not be confined to): the relations between humans and their natural and technological environment; the diversity of religious belief and the impact of religion on society; ways of understanding the mass media and popular culture and their impact on the global community; particular historical traditions, such as that stemming from Ancient Greece and Rome and their continuing impact on our society today ; sources of inequality in society such as gender, class, race; the appreciation of cultural and social difference; an understanding of global relations and the extent to which we belong to an interconnected world community.

The committee has discussed a couple of options (not mutually exclusive):

I) Students could take 3 courses in any of the existing ID programs as long as these courses came from at least 2 different departments (Science, Medicine and Technology in Culture; American Studies; Gender Studies; Religious Studies; Environmental Studies; American Studies; Russian and Eastern Europe Studies; Africana Studies; East Asian Studies; Latin American and Caribbean Studies; Biochemistry; Bioengineering). This both takes advantage of existing programs and encourages faculty, administrative, and student interest in these programs. In some cases, (E.g. SMTC and Environmental Studies), ID programs will have to come up with lists of courses appropriate for students doing a thematic cluster. Faculty involved in a particular cluster may also designate one or more courses as foundational to that cluster and strongly encourage students to take that course before taking other cluster courses. Cluster coordinators are also free to declare some courses to be prerequisites to others if it is strongly felt that students must move through the cluster in a particular order. In such cases, cluster coordinators must ensure that the foundational courses be offered at least once a year. Students majoring in one of the ID programs would have to take a cluster different from their major (e.g. a Biochemistry major would not be able to satisfy this part of GenEd by taking a cluster in Biochemistry). Students can double-count one course between their major and their cluster.

II) Faculty could instead of, or in addition to, the above, propose thematic clusters to be approved by the Gen Ed Board and the AAC, and based on guidelines in the final proposal. Some suggestions that have already been made are: “Ancient studies,” “Globalization,” and “Media Studies.” The onus would be on faculty to propose clusters, and to suggest the courses that would count for the cluster. The list of clusters would be dynamic and could be modified over time.

Members of the faculty wishing to propose clusters will write statements that indicate how the courses will be linked, and how the linkages can be expected to benefit students. These statements will be submitted to the chairs of the relevant departments, who will then submit the statement to the GenEd board and/or AAC. Each cluster should have a cluster coordinator (similar to the chairs of ID programs) who will inform the registrar of offerings in the cluster each term and will work to ensure that courses are offered regularly and do not conflict with each other. In most cases, clusters must demonstrate that there will be at least one offering in that cluster in each term and normally clusters will include at least 8 courses spanning 3 departments; several of these courses should carry no prerequisite.. However, we also envision that some high-level clusters (e.g. bioengineering) may be developed open only to students in appropriate majors who have accumulated the appropriate pre-requisites. In such cases, clusters may consist of fewer courses (3-4), and may involve fewer departments as long as the faculty involved demonstrate that they have consulted with appropriate department chairs to ensure that enough courses will be available for students to complete the cluster. The subcommittee hopes that clusters will be developed across the curriculum; the GenEd board will work with interested groups of faculty to facilitate the development of clusters in science and engineering disciplines that involve fewer courses and where courses in the clusters carry pre-requisites.

Discussion of Clusters:

· Students have greater choice of disciplines within these tracks than under current tracks.

· opens up a broader range of ways of making connections between disciplines, some thematic (e.g. SMTC) and some geographically focused (e.g. EAS).

· fosters greater awareness of the world community as discussed above by moving away from the West/non-West distinction

· requires students to spread general education throughout their college career instead of “getting it out of the way” in their first year. It does this by requiring students to move beyond introductory courses in disciplines (taken as part of the distribution requirements) to upper level courses needed to make thematic connections.

· building ID clusters in to general education requirement would encourage faculty interest in exploring inter-disciplinary connections and administrative support for interdisciplinary studies.

· Clusters provide a place for Converging Technologies in general education through including CT options such as Environmental Studies and SMTC and through encouraging the development of other CT clusters such as Information Technology and Society, and so on.